Summer Academic Goals

This summer promises to be a heady time for me. I’ve been setting aside money for some time, so that I might be able to live this summer without having to work. I’m doing so because I’m taking my preliminary exams at the end of July. I can’t believe coursework has come and gone so quickly. Here’s some of the ways in which I intend to spend my time this summer.

  • Pass my exams! Naturally. We have a 24 hour exam and a 7 day exam. The 24 hour exam consists of answering five essay prompts of 1,200 words or less. Each prompt corresponds to one of our five core courses: Rhetoric of the Classical Period, Rhetoric of the Modern Period, Rhetoric of the Postmodern Period, History and Theory of Composition, and Empirical Approaches to Composition. Then, the 7 week exam consists of writing a ~20 page essay on a question we each choose from a set of possible prompts. The exam process is, obviously, a nerve-wracking time, but many have gone through it in the past. My program has a “pass with distinction” designation, but honestly, I just want to get them done.
  • Develop French reading and translation skills. I have yet to pass my language requirement, and hope to do so by taking (and passing!) a translation test in the fall. I am purchasing a French reading book and a French-English dictionary, and I have access to some French language learning software. The language test is something of a hoop to jump through, but I love the French language and I can’t wait to take a deeper dive into it. Plus, my goal is to do some translating of Simone de Beauvoir as practice.
  • Submit, submit, submit. I have a number of articles that I’ve been poking away on that I need to continue to develop. I really feel like I have something with several of these ideas, and I’m not the type to be overconfident about such things. The trouble is knowing what to prioritize, what to work on first and to be most aggressive about sending out. One way or the other, I am writing, polishing, and submitting at least three articles this summer.
  • Deepen my understanding of computational linguistics. Although I am not a linguist, and computational linguistics is just one of the many areas of interest of mine, I’ve been looking for a chance to learn more about various software packages for computerized analysis of corpora. I am particularly intrigued by CLAN from the Child Language Data Exchange System. I am working with it now as I put the finishing touches on one of my final projects for this semester, but my application is quite limited. This summer, I would like to have a chance to really dive into the manual, and to play.
  • Read, read, read…. I have such a long reading list that I know I won’t get to half of it. Orality & Literacy by Walter Ong for sure. Rereading Parmenides by Heidegger. Reading V by Thomas Pynchon. Definitely reading Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill. And countless academic articles, and inevitable blog posts, and essays….

So much to read, so much to learn, so much to know.


  1. If I can give some advice that I wish I’d heard back in the summer of 2007, when I was taking my doctoral language exams for French — mainly focus on the idioms. I literally made a giant pile of flash cards just for idioms, and this helped me quite a bit more than Sandberg or Stack. French has more idioms than any other language I’ve worked with – and especially complex idioms, at that (be especially wary when you see any variant of “faire” in a phrase). Also, be careful about words like “on,” which can have literally 8-10 meanings depending on sentence placement and etc.

  2. Isn’t it possible to just do these commendable things, rather than advertise them? I guess puritanism lives on — book keeping for God, supposedly private but not really — and I have mixed feelings about it. Good luck w/ your endeavors.

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