Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Spring Semester

The spring semester at school started this past week, rather late in the year actually. Fortunately, I am done with all my coursework. Most of my energy this semester will be focused on intense studying for my Oral Examination, which has been scheduled for the morning of April 22nd. This exam is the last major requirement of our program. Upon passing you receive an M.Phil. degree, which establishes your official candidacy as a doctoral candidate and acknowledges you are at the dissertation stage. While it is also my goal to turn my dissertation proposal in this semester, I need to focus first on passing this test. The exam is set up like this: 3 faculty members sit in a room with me for 2 hours and show me numerous pairings of works of art which I'm supposed to identify, compare and contrast, and discuss in the context of the major art historical literature on them. I could be shown anything within my areas. If one of the pairs is something like David's Oath of the Horatii (1785) and Couture's Romans of the Decadence (1847), I would be okay with that. If they show me a German Biedermeier painting, however, I'm screwed. My study partner KZ and I have been working dilligently on the 4-page bibliography for our major area: European Art, 1750-1900. There is also a focus area, which is a specialized component in which one is supposed to demonstrate advanced knowledge. Mine is Classicism in British Painting & Sculpture, 1785-1900. If that wasn't enough, I also will be tested in my minor area: American Art, 1750-1945.

All that said, I couldn't resist auditing a seminar this semester, which means I sit in on the lectures, but since I'm not getting a grade I don't have to do the assignments. My advisor, Patricia Mainardi, is co-teaching with Martina Droth from the Yale Center for British Art a great seminar called "The Artist's Studio in the 19th Century," which will focus on both practical issues like artists' education and training, and theoretical issues like images of artists in their studios as performative representations of the self (hence the 1905 image above taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin in his studio with assistants, from the Library of Congress).

So wish me luck: between working at my job and studying, it's going to be an important and busy semester!

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