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.

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