Thursday, September 27, 2012


It's been almost a week, and it's just starting to sink in- I passed my PhD comprehensive exams, and I'm now ABD (all but dissertation).

So, what does this mean?

First off, it means that I completed all required coursework for the PhD- in my department this means courses for a major area and two minor areas, about two years worth. It also means that I have shown proficiency in two research languages relevant to my area of study, for me Japanese and French, and have been in residence at KU for at least a year.

Second, it means I passed my comprehensive exams. We have to pass exams in a major area, for me Japanese Visual Culture 1850-present, and two minor areas, mine were Japanese Buddhist Sculpture of the 9-14th centuries, and Transnational Contemporary Art. Each area was examined through written and oral tests. The writtens were the tough part. For the major, I received eight questions organized in two groups of four and had to select one from each group. I had exactly one calendar week (Sunday at noon to Sunday at noon) to write a twelve page research paper on the two questions, plus footnotes and illustrations. After 24 hours off, I then had 72 hours to select one question out of two to complete another twelve page research paper for one minor area, another 24 hours off, and then the final question for the second minor. In the end, I wrote on the state of the field of modern and contemporary Japanese art history as related to gender, nationalism and national identity in late nineteenth century Japanese art, honji-sukjaku theory (which links Shinto and Buddhism) in Japanese art, and globalism in contemporary transnational art. To study I spent a good deal of the spring and summer preparing annotated bibliographies on hundreds of books and journal articles, allowing me to be prepared for whatever questions might drop into my in-box on exam day.

So writtens by the numbers:
15 days
4 essays
53 pages of text
203 footnotes
27 illustrations
2 bottles of wine
15 cupcakes
untold gallons of coffee
too many books on the bibliographies to warrant counting

One week after I turned in my last essay, I received the e-mail that said I passed. Relief. But only temporary. A few weeks later, along came orals. This wasn't as stressful- it was a two hour exam with my five committee members. They asked about my essays, challenged some points that I had to defend, and questioned me on images that they brought in that were related to my areas. I took the oral exam last Friday and after a five minute break at the end, wherein the committee discussed my fate, I found out that I passed. True relief! I'm now ABD!

It took a few days to sink in, but I'm starting to recover from the lengthy exam process. Yesterday I returned about 200 books to the library, which is what the above photo is- a car trunk full of books which filled up the book return to the point that I clogged the box.

Now, on to the dissertation!

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