Thursday, April 30, 2009


ABD. Three letters. Just three letters. Three measly letters that mean *so* much.

Over a year and a half of readings for comps.
Four years of doctoral studies.
Six years of graduate work - including a Master's Thesis.
Ten years of undergraduate and graduate work.
Twenty-two and a half years of being a student.

And more prayer, tears, stress, and doubt than I ever thought possible.

But ABD now belongs after my name. I had my PhD oral exams today. Three hours with five professors in one small room. I had no idea what to expect, or how to prepare, and so... I didn't. Last night I made K go get ice cream with me after my advisor told me I wasn't allowed to study. :-) The only thing I did was skim over my written exams this morning once I got to work. And prayed a lot.

It was actually enjoyable. I had a few times where I honestly had no idea what to say, and floundered on a few questions, but overall it was fairly easy to answer their questions. One of the other profs in the department, Dr. M (whom I love; it's hard not to love her, honestly) had seen me before and after the orals, and said she was impressed with how calm I had been. (So not like me normally... I can only speculate that all the prayers I had coming my way were being answered.)

After the three hours, they signed everything, my advisor gave me a huge hug, and we went to lunch. And I got at least two more hugs. :-)

And, finally, I am ABD. It feels kind of good.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I have finally finished grading all of my students' papers and midterms. In fact, despite the fact that I was out of commission for 2.5 weeks taking my written doctoral exams, I have finished grading exams ahead of 3 of my coworkers. Hm.

Anyway, today I'm taking the day off from work. The only thing I need to do is plan for my class tomorrow, but I needed a day away from the office. Unfortunately, by 8 a.m. I was already fretting over finances and the future. This next year after June is all completely uncertain right now. Here's what I know:

1. My lease is up at the end of June.
2. My paychecks stop as of the middle of July, once my summer course is over.
3. I have no grants so far and need to fund dissertation research in Spain on my own.
4. The likelihood of getting any substantial support from my university is slim to none.

I have estimated the likely costs that I'll incur over the next year, between tuition/registration/fees at the university, health insurance (not counting my $20 per pill prescriptions), living costs in the US for six months, and living costs in Spain for six months. My not-so-scientific estimate is that all of this combined might add up to around $28,000.

Keep in mind that I have never made more than $13,000 per year, and after July I will have no paychecks coming.

The very sketchy plan is that I would head to Spain for up to 90 days sometime after July, come back to the States and work through the spring (at least for another 90 days, until I can return on a new visa, but also will have to find more money to go back), and then return to Spain in the late spring or summer for another 90 days, then come back for good.

Problems with this plan:
1. As of right now, I don't have the money to do any of this. Even with loans, I'm not sure how to get up to $28,000...
2. I would have to either move out of my apartment or get my landlord to extend my lease after June until I can leave for Spain.
3. When I would return from Spain, I would have no place to live.
4. I have absolutely NO idea what to do with my cat for these 12 months. One negative of being constantly alone and having virtually no support system in town is that there is no one who can take care of him here, and shipping him off to live with my parents is less than ideal for many reasons. But I have no other real options right now.
5. When I would return from Spain, I have no idea if there would be any job available. Because my department is 97% dependent on state funds, they're cutting GTA funds, and since I have already had 4 years of funding, it is possible that they will be unable to give me any financial support (in employment or otherwise) for the rest of my doctoral program. The economy stinks here right now, and I am not sure what, if anything, would be available for a 28-year old, A.B.D. European history expert who has been in academia for the last 23 years and has a number of physical limitations on the kind of work she can do.
6. When I would return from Spain, I am not sure if I would have to rent an apartment for more than 3 months - would I have to be paying rent on an apartment while also paying for research in Spain in the summer? I am not sure if it would be easier or harder to do it this way.
7. If I send my cat off to my parents' apartment in the fall, could I bring him back to live with me in the spring? If so, would I have to ship him away again in the summer? That seems awfully traumatic for such a scared and untrusting creature. But could I live for 12 months completely without him? He's my baby. He's my only companion many days.

I'm sure there are more problems that I'm not thinking about. Things like dealing with my medicine, trying to apply for grants while in Spain, trying to *find* new grants to apply for that haven't already rejected me twice, etc.

Everything is just so uncertain. It's awful, but for a brief minute I wished I were married. Most of these problems would either not exist or would at least be lessened if I weren't having to do it all alone. I wouldn't have to worry about a place to live, wouldn't have to try to fund everything myself despite no job, wouldn't have to worry about Dominic... I know that's awful. Married couples have just as many if not more concerns. But sometimes it gets very old being one of the only single people in my office. Almost everyone I work with has a partner to go through all of this with, while I... I have to deal with chronic migraines and fatigue and all the physical crap, plus the work, and the funding issues, and everything else alone.

So yeah, with all of this (which I worked through between about 7:30 and 10:30 this morning), I'm taking the day off. I'm stressed out.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Comps questions

Comps are over. I finished all 9 exams and submitted them at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. (And no, I haven't been resting, since I came home to my Fulbright rejection letter and now that my plans for the fall are utterly crushed, I'm reeling. But that's another post.)

I thought, just for posterity's sake, that I'd share what my questions were. Here are the 9 exams that I answered:

1. Describe what a social, cultural, AND intellectual history of the Enlightenment could offer a 21st century student who seeks an ethical compass for the future. How have these modes of historical inquiry segregated and unified components of ‘the Enlightenment’? How might Kant’s notion that ‘Do we live in an enlightened age? … ‘No, but we do live an age of enlightenment’ transcend the 18th century and be relevant today?

2. What defines “lieux de mémoire”? Choose three specific ‘sites of memory’ and discuss how they have figured into the political, social and/or cultural discourses surrounding collective memory in the twentieth century.

3. Write an essay identifying six works on your reading list that make particularly large or substantive contributions to the historiography of comparative women’s and gender historiography. Search widely for these books within your reading list, including theory, and with emphasis on Latin America and Imperial Spain, and drawing texts from a range of subfields. Then, place each book within its proper historiographical context, explain precisely why it is of such importance. In what way has it shifted or influenced scholarly debate? In what way is or was it new at the time of its publication? How have subsequent works built upon or diverged from this text? Finally, using these texts as markers or signposts of historiographical change, assess major trends in this scholarship. Where has the field come from, where is it going, and how have your chosen texts facilitated that transition?

4. Most of Europe underwent a movement of intellectual examination and secularization of thought known as the Enlightenment that was prompted, in part at least, by the so-called Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. General histories of Europe focus primarily on the achievements of Scottish, English, German, and particularly French contributions to the cosmopolitan nature of the Enlightenment. Spain is, curiously but not surprisingly, left out of this history. Discuss the Spanish Enlightenment. How is it similar to Enlightenment elsewhere in Europe and how is it uniquely Spanish? What is the chronology of the Spanish Enlightenment compared to Enlightenment chronology elsewhere in Europe? Why should the Spanish Enlightenment be brought into the broader discussion and historiography of Enlightenment in Europe?

5. Revised in 1982, Raymond Carr’s Spain 1808-1975 remains a touchstone text in Modern Spanish history owing to the variety and depth of issues he raises about the ‘problems’ associated with Spain’s development during the nineteenth century that, in his narrative, led Spanish history directly to its problematic encounter with representative democracy (The Second Republic), a thoroughly tragic and modernization-retarding internal conflict (Spanish Civil War), and a long, brutally authoritarian dictatorship (the Franco Regime). Use your knowledge of the historiography of modern Spain to deconstruct Carr’s position and the relationship of his work to the current hypotheses about Spanish history. Be sure to point out where Carr is still relevant and where his formulations have been superseded by more recent work.

6. Historians and economists continue debating European women’s diverse experiences of industrialization. How have different scholars approached and interpreted these experiences over the course of the twentieth century? Which works marked major departures or revisions in scholars’ understanding of women’s roles and experiences? How have these works changed our view of the relationships among class, gender, and work?

7. Based on your readings, discuss the ways in which agricultural systems (choice of crops, techniques, labor systems) reflect the larger societies of which they are a part. In what ways are agricultural systems the front lines of political contests? Discuss moments when agricultural/land-use systems have changed radically. What are their causes and implications? What works speak to this question?

8. Many readings in world and environmental history try to address and answer the question, “How did ‘the West’ (Europe and its buds – the ‘neo-Europes,’ the ‘North,’ etc.) attain political and economic domination over ‘the rest’ (‘the South,’ ‘the Third World’)? Think back over your readings and discuss the crucial benchmarks and mechanisms of this process as identified by various authors. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these various explanations?

9. Design a syllabus for an undergraduate course in Modern European women's history. Specify and justify your chronology. What major themes would you emphasize and why? Which readings would be most appropriate for your students and why? Which themes would you omit and why?

After 14 days, 110 pages, and over 300 footnotes, I answered all nine questions and somehow am still alive. Now on to orals, grading, planning my summer class, and trying to figure out how to stay in school now that I have no real prospects for funding past July.