tiltedsideways (tiltedsideways) wrote in antiacademia,

Fear... no, terror

I'm not sure if this community does introductions, but that's where I'll begin! I'm starting my fourth (and, hopefully, last) year of my Ph.D. in English Literature. I'll have finished all my required coursework by the end of the summer, and I'm scheduled to take my comprehensive exams in the fall. If I can get through those, I get to write my dissertation- which I am actually looking forward to. I can't say the same for my comp exams.

Comp exams. Three areas of specialization, three days, three hours each day, three essays each day.

Reasons I am terrified:

I am a slow thinker. I come up with great things to say given enough time, but things come to me in the shower, when I've just woken from a nap, when I least expect it. Writing on the spot is not one of my skills.

The three professors I would have chosen for my committee are gone. Two retired and the other passed away. I have had to choose three new people- only one of whom I've done extensive work with. When I met with one of them to discuss the writers I should study, he rejected my suggestions. His list included people I've never even read, much less studied. Why have I been taking classes for the last three years if the authors I've studied won't be on my exams? I don't know how I'm going to learn all this new material in the next four months (on top of studying for my other two areas, and taking and teaching classes).

I feel at a disadvantage compared to other students at my level. Unlike most of my classmates, I don't have any previous degrees in English, so I don't have the same background of knowledge to build on. My previous degrees and areas of study (music, fine art, and education) are a strength in many ways, but when it comes to being prepared for these exams, they are a weakness.

I really don't know how I'm going to make it through this.
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