Monday, August 3, 2009


Well, my two months of cramming combined with the three preceding years of classes paid off! On July 18 I finished my comprehensive exams, and within a few days after that my professors read them and determined that I knew enough. So I passed! In my mental categorization of things, this exam was the most daunting part of my doctoral program. I am very thankful to have passed it. Now it's on to the more fun part: writing my dissertation.

I am not being facetious when I say the dissertation is more fun. I enjoy writing, particularly about things I am interested in and knowledgeable about. I will be writing about the syntax of the stanzas of madrashe poems of Ephrem of Nisibis, one of the most talented poets the human race has ever produced. Now that's fun!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Studying for comps

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything new. I recently finished a very packed semester. I then had to finish a couple of translation jobs. Since then--for several weeks now--I have been studying like mad for my doctoral comprehensive examinations in Syriac and Coptic, which will come in July. I have lengthy reading lists for each language. Some of each list is primary literature (i.e., literature written in the languages). The rest is secondary literature (i.e., what scholars have written about related to these languages: literature, theology, history, linguistics). Some of it I have already read, some I am familiar with by reputation, and some is just plain new.

I feel pretty overwhelmed but I am forging ahead and making some appreciable progress. Since I started out with two months to prepare for comps, I decided to devote a month to each language. The division will not be razor sharp, but close enough. I decided to take on the Syriac list first.
I certainly have a lot of Syriac-related thoughts roiling in my brain! Everything from the Holy Spirit milking the breasts of God the Father (Odes of Solomon, number 19, a text of the first century A.D.) to the fortunes of East Syriac Christianity in China in the Middle Ages. Next up: the famous school of theology in Nisibis that flourished in the 6th and 7th centuries.

And in a few days I'll be diving into Coptic dialects, early Egyptian monasticism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism and other fun stuff.