Preparation of Preliminary Fields
The American Studies faculty believe there are several forms preliminary examinations might take, according to the pedagogical aims of the examiner, the disciplinary conventions of the field, and the interests of the student. Below, we have outlined three different possibilities. Students will prepare fields with three faculty advisors and they and their advisors may choose from the options below, combine the options, or come up with an entirely new method. Each field could have a different format
Option 1: Building Out
- Students and advisors agree on a topic and series of questions to explore.
- Students and advisors begin with five to ten texts and then expand the list as they continue to meet. Field lists may eventually include a range of different kinds of texts, in addition to scholarly monographs, including, but not limited to: films, broadcasts, exhibits, websites, fiction, poetry and plays.
- Students and faculty will meet several times to select the beginning books and to draft an essay that explains the questions to be considered and how this reading will prepare students to teach, do research, and present public projects in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. When the field list and field essay have been approved by the faculty of the Department of American Studies, the student and faculty will continue to meet to prepare for the exam.
Option 2: Traditional Lists
- Students and advisors meet several times to discuss the field as the advisor outlines it and as the student modifies it to meet his or her interests. Together they come up with a list of books to be read. The student prepares a field essay, attaches the list, and submits it to the faculty of the Department of American Studies for approval.
- The student and the advisor meet regularly, often as the student finishes reading a subset of the list of books. Sometimes the advisor asks the student to prepare questions, essays, or a syllabus, based on the books on the list, and these writings serve as the basis of the discussion, both before and during the exam.
Option 3: Essay/Project Based
- Students and advisors choose a scholarly paper or project previously completed by the student and base their reading and discussions on a revision of the paper or project.
- Students might read contextually, as they consider how to revise the paper for publication or exhibition; might consult new primary sources; might consider a theoretical framework for the research; or all three, as they prepare their reading list. Students and faculty meet several times to select the beginning books and to draft an essay that explains the questions to be considered and how this reading will prepare students to revise the paper. This essay, including an abstract of the paper or project to be revised, and a beginning list of books to be read, will be submitted to the faculty of the Department of American Studies for approval.
- Students and advisors will continue to meet as the reading and revisions go forward. At the exam, the student will present the thesis, evidence, and method of the proposed scholarly paper or project, how it enters the existing scholarly conversation and/or addresses the public, and discuss with the advisor further possible revisions and publication or presentation plans.
The field essays may differ somewhat depending on which exam option students choose, but each student will prepare either a short list of beginning texts or a complete list of texts to be read; an essay (1-2 pages) about each of the three fields; and an overview essay. Each field essay and list of books will be signed off on by the individual field advisor. The overview essay will explain how the fields fit together, how they are interdisciplinary and fit into the field of American Studies, and how they prepare students as scholar/teachers, able to teach introductory courses, conduct research and/or make public presentations. The field essays will state the questions that will guide or have guided the building of the field list and discuss how the list was designed (which option was chosen). We believe that providing options for designing the fields will push students to express how and why their learning is taking place, giving them more insight into questions of methodology important for an interdisciplinary scholar. The overview essay, the field essays, the beginning lists of books, and the signed cover pages will be reviewed by the faculty of the Department of American Studies to ensure that students are making good progress and finding the advisors they need. The DGS will inform students of the process for receiving approval for the preliminary exam proposals.
With each option, students will present the field essays, as signed by advisors, plus an overview essay, for review by the Department of American Studies faculty by February 28th of Year 2. They will take the exam by October 30th of Year 3.