Alright, Kids – I’m Out of Here

I’ve packed a ton of books to go with me to Texas, and goodness gracious do I not feel prepared. At the same time, I really do wonder what they could ask me that wouldn’t destroy other students. That’s not to brag – I live, breathe, eat, sleep this stuff. The fact that there are gaps in my knowledge is purposeful: I don’t go out of my way to do shoddy work; I speculate so that when credible secondary sources can be engaged, I have something to talk with those sources about.

I’m going to try and sneak in an exam on Greek right before the three comprehensive exams, and yeah, I’m aware of the risk. The exams are hard enough. For each of the exams covers a different aspect of my coursework so far: they are 4 hours each, and given on three separate days. The first exam covers the “core” texts that all liberal arts grad students in my school cover – therefore, the relevant texts are Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey; Virgil’s Aeneid; Plato’s Republic; Aristotle’s Ethics; Augustine’s Confessions; Excerpts from the Summa Theologica; Dante’s Divine Comedia; Milton’s Paradise Lost; Hobbes’ Leviathan; Rousseau, Nietzsche, Hegel, and Dostoyevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov.” (I should read Emile again, but please. There is no time). The second exam covers the texts I need to know for the study of Politics. So add to that list Thucydides, Aristotle’s Politics, Plutarch, Augustine’s City of God, Locke, Rousseau’s Discourses, Federalist Papers, Hegel’s Philosophy of History, Tocqueville, Lincoln, and Marx. The third is on a text I’ve picked, and I’m picking the Republic.

Now obviously I don’t know all this stuff cold, and quite frankly, I’d be an idiot to try and read it all again, especially since every book I’ve ever read whole I’ve pretty much managed to forget and mangle the detail of. But I’m going to try to cover the primary sources where absolutely essential again: I want epic and Plato and Aristotle down cold, and I want to add Machiavelli’s Prince and maybe some Spinoza in there. So my primary source reading list is probably going to be both Homeric epics, Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, and Locke and Hobbes. The rest I’m going to cover via secondary sources and short essays I know are around; I’m taking a copy of Dante’s Monarchy with me to see where that goes.

There are going to be students that answer spectacularly: one thing I’ve found is that students generally have a remarkable ability to make moments brilliant. I think one reason why I love blogging is that I’ve proved to myself that speculation over time, unprescribed, isn’t idle: I’m always willing to be wrong – I just want to keep thinking, keep pushing myself, so I can truly appreciate the answers when I get them.

I’m nervous about these exams – it isn’t a place to show off original thought – but I know after the preparation that I’m going to be on another level in terms of scholarship, hopefully.

See you all the 24th, will keep this updated when I can.

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