Explanation and Guidelines: MA comprehensive/PhD preliminary exams


The graduate exams that take place in mid-March of the fourth semester of the program (the M.A. comprehensive/Ph.D. preliminary exams are organized to fit in two days: a first day with questions from the departmental list of forty works, and a second day with questions from the two lists of twenty works each student chooses as fields. Students will answer three questions (two shorter, one longer) on the first day (for a total of 40% of the exam), and two questions the second day (another 40%); a revised seminar paper will be evaluated as part of the exam, as at present (20%). The rationale for basing half of the written exam on the list is to establish a manageable program of reading for all students in the program; the other half of the exam, described below, would allow for a variety of individual interests.

The first day of the exams

The questions on the first day of the exam will be about the departmental list of forty works. The list, ranging across the different periods of Spanish American and Brazilian literature (in the broadest sense), strives to be representative, not definitive. As such, it will be in place for three-year periods; some changes and some continuity with the current list are expected each time the list is revised. You can find samples of old and lists, as well as the current one, in the web page of the Department. The graduate administrator and the departmental administrator will randomly choose six items from this list by lot; the DGS will then have appropriate faculty write questions.

Four questions will be written on individual works for the morning part of the exam day, and two questions will be comparative in nature (e.g., representation of race and ethnicity in María and Aves sin nido, experiments with narrative form in Pedro Páramo, Rayuela and Yo el Supremo, etc.) for the afternoon part of the exam day. For the morning, students will choose two of the four questions, and answer them in 90 minutes each. For the afternoon, students will choose one of the two questions, and answer them in 180 minutes.

The second day of the exams

The second day of the exams will be two days after the first day, and will focus on the individual student’s two lists of twenty works. Students will answer one question out of two in one of their chosen areas in the morning, and in the afternoon one out of two in the second area. By the end of their second semester in the program, students will have chosen two areas of specialization. For each area of specialization, they will produce a list of twenty representative works.

The definitive list for each of the two areas chosen (consisting of twenty titles, including primary, secondary, and theoretical works) will be proposed by the student no later than the last day of September of the fall term prior to the exams, and must be approved by the adviser and the graduate committee. Please note that no changes can be made to the lists once they have been approved by the graduate committee.

There are four possible criteria students have to use to organize an area of specialization or grouping: genre, chronological period, region, or theme. While the areas or groupings can be related, and are expected to be so, the two lists should not overlap.

Examples of possible sub-areas of specialization or groupings are as follows: Genre: poetry, narrative, theater, essay, cinema Chronological period: colonial, nineteenth century, twentieth century through 1960, twentieth and twenty-first century from 1960 to the present Region: Caribbean, Mesoamerica, Andean, Brazilian, Southern Cone, peninsular, trans-Atlantic, trans-Pacific, US Latino Thematic: gender and sexuality; cultural studies, post-colonial and/or subaltern studies; race and ethnicity; national identity