MAPH Week 21: A Sprint at the End

Mortal Edukation!  Finish It! Yeah, its kind of like that.

Let’s get something straight: University of Chicago’s MAPH program is a race and the each quarter ends with a sprint.  As I alluded to in my last post–a week ago, sigh–I’ve done my dead-level best to get my seminar papers done early this quarter so as to avoid a final crunch.  By and large the attempt worked: two of the papers were completed with tons of time to spare.  Now, as I also mentioned, one of the paper was less forthcoming.

I can honestly say that my paper for “Heidegger and Christianity” is probably the best piece of Continental Philosophy I’ve ever written–and after a meeting with the class’s instructor, I can add that I’m not delusional in thinking so.  However, that paper came at a high cost–probably representing about eighty hours of very intensive writing and countless hours reading the course’s ten! required texts.  The moral of the story is that even the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft agley–even taking every precaution against a final desperate lunge toward this quarter’s finish line–and’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain.  So what is the alternative?  Should my fellow MAPHers and I plug along at a moderate pace throughout the quarters knowing that the last couple weeks of every course are going to be nausea inducing grinds to produce satisfactory final papers or exams?

My–not surprising–claim is that, while frequently undergraduate students–even those at prestigious and rigorous institutions–can get away this taking that tack, graduate work at a place like U of C doesn’t allow for anything less than a rigorous–and sometimes brutal–pace all the way through.  At this is a topic I’ve addressed at length from a view different angles in this blog, I’m going to leave my discussion here as little more than bullet points and let the comments sections hash things out should someone object.  So, without further introduction:

1)  The discourse at University of Chicago demands a knowledge–if not necessarily a mastery–of the assigned readings.  Sure, certain courses more so than others and certain classes in those courses more so than others, but in general showing up to class without having done the required reading and engaged with it at a fairly high level  is suicide.

2) Writing at the University of Chicago demands something new and notable have been gleaned from your time in class.  Some of the undergraduate classes I’ve taken might have allowed a “summarizing reading” to be replicated on a final exam, but not if you are a graduate student in those undergraduate courses.  The TAs grade the undergrad papers and exams and the instructors grade the graduate students’ submissions, so there is a real difference between the low bar of paraphrase and the high bar of engagement.

3) The timetable at University of Chicago demands a high level of organization and self-motivation.  This is especially true of the MAPH program–and its sister programs in the sciences–as the degree is awarded after only nine months.  That means that students will have to write a minimum of 27 major papers–or their equivalents–at an average rate of three papers a month or three-quarters of a paper a week–and that writing on top of reading an average of approximately 400 pages of assigned reading a week–although the amount of reading varies considerably from class to class.  Oh, and did I forget to mention that you will start writing your thesis in the second week of the second quarter?

If that is all a MAPHer has to look forward to, why submit yourself to this lunacy in the first place?  Well, because in only nine months you’re job-hunting or Ph.D. scouting or just plain getting on with your life…  The race is brutal and the sprint is agonizing–but the victory is sweet.

Up tomorrow, MAPHmatically Yours will answer another reader-submitted question about the MAPH experience!  To get your question answered, submit it to the address located in the “About Me” tab above.  We look forward to hearing from you.


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