Semester in Review – Fall 2009

The first semester of graduate school is over. I made friends, broke hearts and took names, or something like that. More to the point I learned a lot about departmental and academic politics, nuances to writing and methodology, a good bit about Greek, and even a little bit about history.

Most of all, the lesson that Grad school is a marathon and not a sprint, has been hammered home. I put in the work and enjoyed some of it, but much of the time it was slogging through.

Not having been in any other graduate program, I cannot speak for how it is elsewhere, but on the whole the class-work was disappointing. I learned a lot, at least for Greek and Greek history, but in the latter case it was the product of extensive reading on my own in preparation for class, rather than class discussion that was the genesis of this learning. Both of my history courses required a term paper, the Greek history seminar being the more intensive of the two and an actual progression and leap from work I did at Brandeis, but the Roman history paper was not really any different from something I could or would have done there.

During the classes themselves, I felt that the language was useful, but the other two were superficial and really beneficial. Roman history this was a product of an undergraduate focus, where many issues I would have loved to discuss outside of class came up, but were only touched upon. In Greek history there was the potential to delve deeper, but more than once I was told by the professor that an issue I wanted to raise or discuss would result in just the two of us talking, and thus defeated the purpose of a discussion based seminar. I have not yet gotten everything I can out of this program (which is well, since I am just a semester in), and Ian Worthington is one of the best in the field, but it is this type of isolation amidst literary classicists, and non-ancient historians that makes me wonder if I would be better off milking it for everything I can, but then changing schools for the PhD to somewhere where I would have colleagues—both positive and negative implications of that word intended.

But that is for the future. What matters in the present is that I am back studying what I love, and have successfully completed my first semester of graduate school.

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