From 200 books to 200 registers

August 6, 2006 at 5:36 am 6 comments

On Friday, March 3rd I passed my comprehensive exams. Aimed at providing a solid background for future research and teaching, the ‘comps’, as they are fondly called, involve reading about 200 books over a period of 9 months. I averaged one and a half books a day towards the last few weeks of reading. While I had a healthy attitude towards the exams in the beginning, towards the end I totally freaked out and reached rock bottom somewhere at the end of January. I couldn’t eat or sleep properly, I cried for no reason, I was convinced my academic carreer was over before it even started. They would finally discover what a big fraud I am… “If I can pass this” I thought “research and writing my thesis will be no problem”.

Maybe I spoke too soon. Or maybe things haven’t changed that much. Or maybe we need to convince ourselves, in a graduate program, that the next stage will be easier in order to move on.

I’m now doing my research. Instead of two hundred typed books I need to read two hundred manuscript books (chancery registers). Instead of modern English, French or Spanish I now have to read highly abbreviated Latin and medieval Catalan and Aragonese.

Suddenly, I miss the comps…

Entry filed under: Archives, History, PhD.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan  |  August 6, 2006 at 6:17 am

    At least you’re not suddenly bursting into tears yet. I know you’ll get over this hurdle like you did the comps. I just wonder at what point will you realize you’re not a fraud.

  • 2. HD  |  August 6, 2006 at 7:29 am

    I can imagine it is a pain to read these documents sometimes, but the handwriting looks very nice. How many years ago were these written? I hope your search for the right information is succesful? Just keep going Alex!

    Best, HD.

  • 3. Alexandra  |  August 6, 2006 at 8:22 am

    Both documents are from the 1380s… It is quite cool to read documents that are over 700 years old!!

  • 4. Dana  |  August 6, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Yes, but isn’t this more fun??? 🙂

  • 5. Alex  |  August 7, 2006 at 1:12 am

    I have to admit it is way more fun than reading books for the comps but it’s also more unnerving. I really don’t know what I’ll do with all of these docs when I get back… I guess that’s what writing is all about 😉

  • 6. Leonie Ebert  |  August 9, 2006 at 3:37 am

    Congratulations Alex. You are now set to breeze through those fascinating old documents. Have a clara or cava from me to celebrate.


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