In the Fall of 2011 I will take a four hour written exam which will cover such works as The Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost, To the Lighthouse, and Song of Solomon, just to name a few. Two days after that, I will be sitting in front of a panel of three of UTSA’s English professors. The first one will be an expert in literature before the 1700s, the next, literature from 1700-1900, and the last, literature from 1900 and after. They will continue asking me questions about the required texts, but they will also ask about the works I chose to be tested over-works such as Doctor Faustus, Gulliver’s Travels, Pride and Prejudice, and The Sound and the Fury. One of the three professors will also be my chair: the professor I asked to be the one to help me through the entire M.A. exam process.
This second oral part of the exam will last an hour, and after that hour it will be decided whether or not I pass or fail. In order to pass I’ll need a majority vote in my favor. If I don’t get that, I fail and have to take the exam again another semester if I want to receive my Master of Arts degree in English from The University of Texas at San Antonio.
I have watched a few of my peers go through this process, and it seems that they more worried and anxious they were, the more they studied, and the better they did. It will probably be one of those things I will be overly stressed about, but because of that, I will be so much more prepared and feel better while taking the exam, as well as do better.
So, all of that was just the extremely long-winded way of me saying that I have created this blog as a study guide. I needed a way to keep myself focused and motivated to not only read books that are on the M.A. list, but also study them and take notes on them that will help me on the exam. I chose a blog because I realize the value in studying with others, but at the same time, I don’t like studying with others. So I figure I could put my thoughts out there, and anyone who wishes to get involved and comment, or offer so of their own insight would be welcome to do. Plus, if there are other students who are currently going through this same process and they can at all benefit from this, even better. Also, a blog is a great place to store my notes for easy referencing. And this will be one area in which my current pace of one class a semester will prove helpful. Because I have about a year and a half before I will take my exam, I have plenty of time (which includes two full summers) to thoroughly go over all of my reading and do as much research as possible.
In the next few weeks, I will be posting the books I chose, and a very preliminary schedule of what books I will be posting notes on during the summer. Most of my posts will be on books on the M.A. list, but I will also include reviews on books I will be reading for fun (so as to not lose my mind); good M.A. exam questions that either I myself came up with, or that other students and possibly some professors have proposed; charts or graphs that maybe map out family/relationship trees for those books with a lot of characters; and sometimes (probably a lot of times actually) I will need to revisit books I have already noted because I am either taking a class that has required me to read them again, or there has been something new pointed out about a work that is worth mentioning for the exam.
But wait, there is more!
If there is a book that is on the list but I have not chosen, or a book I have chosen but I have not covered yet, and you would like for me to go ahead and cover it for whatever reason (got a big paper on it, test on it, or you are taking the exam before me), feel free to let me know and I will do my best to accommodate you. Also, I not only welcome requests, but I also welcome guest bloggers, especially anyone who has been through the process before, or who knows particular works really well and can shed some light. The more ideas and insight we can get on some of these monster novels (Moby Dick, I am looking in your direction), the better prepared we can be.
Hopefully, this blog will be as helpful to someone out there as it will be to me. And I wish I could say that none of my future posts will be as long as this one, but as I glance at the copy of Bleak House that sits on my desk, I know I would just be lying.