So, when they admit you to a PhD program in the humanities, they tell you up front that there are some pretty universal requirements:
  • Coursework - typically one to two years
  • Qualifying Examinations - typically less than one year
  • Dissertation - typically 3-5 chapters, taking two-three years
So that coursework and that dissertation seem like the real meat and potatoes, right?  Right - until you get assigned the reading list for your 16+ hour written and oral examination and realize that you have to read an impossible amount if you are going to schedule that baby in under a year.

But, since people interested in vintagey things are often also interested in history; and since it will be useful to me; I thought it might be neat to share some of the more interesting things I learn in the form of a few choice quotes.

First up, from:
Marvelous Possessions by Stephen Greenblatt
Greenblatt's text discusses the narratives of New World exploration in the context of their European audience.  One of his main arguments is that these narrative forms were both products of and producers of their cultures.  He has a lot to say about how the early explorers used bureaucracy to legitimize their military conquests, and he develops a theory of "blockage" - which is the psychological tool that allows the explorer to refuse to see similarities between themselves and the natives they encounter.  Blockage is aided by wonder - if the entire new world is wonderful, it is also strange, and therefore in need of European assistance (for its own good).

Here's one of my favorite quotes describing how this sense of wonder was then used to validate the explorer's experiences to the wider audience of their texts:

"His work can only be believed if he arouses in his readers something of the wonder that he himself has felt, for that wonder will link whatever is out there with inward conviction.  For the early voyagers, wonder not only marked the new but mediated between outside and inside. .. Hence the ease with which the very words marvel and wonder shift between the designation of a material object and the designation of a response to the object, between intense, almost phantasmagorical inward states and thoroughly externalized objects that can, after the initial moments of astonishment have passed, be touched, cataloged, inventoried, possessed" (22).

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.

Leave a Reply.