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Road to the Orals: Part One

Road to the Orals: Part One
Preparation – A word from the field
By Mary Anne Davis, Cohort ’11

Late April, early May of 2014 marked the end of three years of course work for Cohort ’11. Yippee! Oh, wait one sec, now we have to embark on an equally arduous journey, the road to perdition, ahem, I mean, The Orals…

For the Dialogic Utopians, (a study group formed in 2011), it began in La Jolla, CA the second weekend in May. Study groups are an incredible opportunity for the IDSVA community to create a deeper and richer experience of this course of study. Linda Brown, Kathe Albrecht and yours truly gathered to study and chat daily for 7 days at La Casita Grande, the Albrecht’s seaside estate in Southern California. Nobody said we had to be miserable!  As at the formal residencies, during this self-hosted residency we talked philosophy over lunch in the garden, during walks along the coast, and after dinner, too. Total immersion! Joining us via Skype were Jennifer Ford and Maria Labarge. We actually reviewed 3 years of course work, albeit in a sort of dense spasm, in one week. Afterward, we created an 8-week syllabus and are currently reviewing the course work methodically together and speaking on Skype once or twice a week.

The Dialogic Utopians have been meeting weekly via Skype almost since the start of our time together at Spannochia in 2011, our first year residency. Preparation for the orals, or qualifying exam, is a sometimes ominous review of our proficiency in Kant, Hegel, Heidegger et al as well as a chance to discuss our dissertation proposals.

The orals are a 2- 2 ½ hour verbal exam and we are starting to see that an intense period of preparation for this milestone toward the PhD is an opportunity on a couple of fronts. Almost halfway through, I am discerning the real fruits of this course of study begin to bear in the review period. Deepening and testing our off-the-cuff knowledge of the various thinkers’ expertise and focus, we are intertextualizing what we have learned in ways that may one day emerge as new ways of thinking, building on the knowledge of philosophical thought since, Democritus and intertwining thinking with the doing of practicing studio arts.

Next, Providence and a hopeful tale….