Some introductory reflections on the comps process

As I begin to hammer out my first response(s) to comps readings I would like to take a moment to address some of my early feelings/concerns regarding the comps process itself.

WORRY #1What if my final product – because what I need to be thinking about five days in is the final product (?) – doesn’t look like what it’s “supposed” to look like?

In transitioning from a “lit” background to a “cultural studies” area of research, “not getting it” is probably my greatest concern, and nothing exposes a lack of comprehension/knowledge more than being tasked to intelligently and thoroughly articulate what for me is a (largely) new field. Here I am with a page (several pages, actually) of “comprehensive” cultural studies dots that I must connect to form some kind of passable picture by February of next year and I can’t help but feel as if there are bound to be numerous incorrect ways I might connect them. What if I draw the wrong picture? (I know, the metaphor quickly wears thin, but I think it does work to highlight my anxiety, as well as some of the absurdity of the project itself.)

To help with this, I plan to reference various cultural studies overviews (read: undergraduate/”intro to” cultural studies textbooks/guidebooks) like the novice I am (right now I have Storey’s An Introduction to Cultural Theory & Popular Culture).

WORRY #2 – What if my final product looks exactly like what it’s “supposed” to look like?

The inverse concern of #1 – and a potential by-product of reading the kinds of books I describe above – is the risk of not allowing my specific background and research framework to influence the way I read these texts. I certainly hope I have new, interesting and even challenging things to say about the works on my list, otherwise why am I bothering to read them?

In other words, the end result/connected-dot picture that will be my field and topic papers must resemble those pictures that have come before it, while also appearing a new, fresh, reinterpretative image- a tricky task, especially since I don’t feel entirely confident that I could recognize a standard image from a unique one.

WORRY #3 – WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK? or, How does one mask imposter syndrome online?

This concern is certainly caught up in the previous two. People read this blog (or at least they do or could in theory). My committee (the three faculty members supervising my comps) has definitely been provided with the url. If I am “wrong” about the things I read, or if I am just too blandly and straightforwardly “right,” people will know. They might even comment on it! I could pretend that the fear of interrogation has never crossed my mind but that would be a lie. I certainly haven’t made any attempt thus far to mask my experience of “imposter syndrome” (in fact, I’ve done quite the opposite).

The only solution to this almost overwhelming anxiety is to ‘man up’ (pardon the incredibly problematic expression). I’m bound to have lots of things to say (actually, I have to have lots of things to say) and the best outcome, really, would be for readers to question, challenge and discuss my interpretations. Not only will that help me prepare for the comps defense, it is, in fact, the whole purpose of communicating my work via a blog as opposed to a private journal. So, please, do not let my worries discourage you from entering the conversation.


Expect my first content blog post sometime this weekend (early next week at the latest). I have completed the readings for the first (now slightly altered) section of Theoretical Foundations (i.e. Unit 1.1):

Hoggart, Richard. “Unbending the Springs of Action.” Uses of Literacy. 141-70. (30pp)

Williams, Raymond. “The Analysis of Culture” (32pp)

Hall, Stuart. “The Emergence of Cultural Studies and the Crisis of the Humanities” (13pp)


~ by pamelaingleton on 5 June 2010.

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