In the fabled words of Henry V: let there be sung Non Nobis and Te Deum. I realize that the comprehensive exams are the Harfleur rather than the Agincourt of the doctoral process, but I am determined to enjoy this victory nonetheless. Please help yourself to a cigar.
In retrospect, I over-prepared. I read all but 10 or so items on my lists. I can't speak to how much I remember. The orals component did not go quite so smoothly as did the written, for which part I enjoyed a full week of remarkable lucidity, but nor did they bring down heaps of criticism on my head. After a minor but somewhat mortifying scheduling mishap that delayed the start by 45 minutes, we were underway.
Et sic per gradus, ad mia tenditur.
I believe my best answers in orals were in response to questions about the development of poetic authority in the Early Modern period. In the essay, I started with Sidney's Defence of Poesy and managed to incorporate, in order, Spenser, Shakespeare, Marvell, Donne, and Milton -- not quite chronological, but not bad for 2988 words. Questions were mostly directed towards my reading of Milton as a dis-integrated author in Paradise Lost. Milton , I claimed, deliberately put recognizable elements of his personal and political identities in the mouths of multiple and oppositional characters in the poem in an effort to prevent a unified "Milton" emerging from the text -- a Milton whose reputation would yoke the epic to the limiting context of his role as a Cromwellian. In order to maximize his poetic authority -- something that, keeping in line with notions of sola scriptura, had to derive from the poem rather than the poet -- he had to rise above the personal and political.
My best essay explored the relationship of generic durability with respect to The Dunciad, Chambers' Cyclopaedia, and Tristram Shandy. As I have already written, my thoughts in this area are at the foundation of my nascent dissertation proposal, so it was nice to hear that they were very well received. My answers in orals, however, were not as well delivered. I did not fare so well in responding to a change in the angle of attack. I dithered over questions of technodeterminism and its relation to the durability of knowledge despite having spent ample time with the texts or actual persons of Marshall McLuhan and Cliff Siskin. My interviewer distinguished between technodeterminism and the generic or classificatory approach I took in the essay, and I did not make the transition gracefully. I think I too well convinced myself of the merits of my own agument, and resisted alternate approaches. A bad habit, to be sure.
At any rate, I was congratulated, told that it sounded like I was well on my way to a dissertation proposal, and advised to take a week or two off before I returned to tackle it properly.
So -- smoke if you got'em.