The second year of doctoral studies at UBC English encompasses the student choosing the field of study and compiling four reading lists, with the advice of the committee, that reflect the important texts for that particular field. After these lists are compiled and approved by the supervisory committee, the student gets to work reading all the books on the list in preparation for writing two qualifying papers which answer two questions decided upon by the supervisory committee. The whole thing is written much more clearly here. Other programs call this process field or competency exams. I fluctuate between comps and qualifying exams. Other programs also vary in the way they execute the final product; that is, at UBC and most other Canadian institutions, you write two papers at home and then defend them orally in front of your committee. I have heard tell of places that lock you in a room for a few hours and you write a paper you then have to defend. I am glad we don’t do it this way because I am easily frightened by situations like this.
At the end of the day, the papers the student writes are drawn from the general period of specialization (in my case, Victorian English literature) and the sub-specialty (in my case, late nineteenth-century obscene literature). I plan on being as open as possible regarding this process because I have heard from others that it is a Twilight Zone-esque endeavour and if my slog through it is of any benefit to anyone else out there, then maybe I’ll get an extra Christmas card this year or something.
So, this is the first draft of my first reading list which is the general Victorian period with a focus on the novel. It is the roughest of rough drafts but still represents multiple hours of work and research. I anticipate the second draft will look much different, but the drafting process is an important part of any writing exercise. I welcome you to look at this draft as well as to critique or make suggestions. In the document you will find my very basic rationales for each section.
I will also be live tweeting the comps/quals process using the hashtag #livecomps.