Sentence-coaster Rides, Screaming Prose


Flickr photo ReneS.

I jogged out the major qualifying exam yesterday, writing one answer in a
three-hour morning session and a second answer in a three-hour afternoon
session. I’m still a little bit groggy-headed about the whole of the
performance. I’m fairly sure that I did a better job of answering the first
question than the second. By the afternoon stint what was a heap of kicky
ideas in the A.M. was reduced to a wash of once-kicky ideas wanting for a nap.
I’m encouraged, still: I’m not embarrassed about the answers I wrote (okay, so
maybe I’d take back a couple of sentences, if I could), and I feel fairly
confident that I can defend my choices, explain why I did what I did, and
convince my calmmittee that I executed the two major exams well enough that I
deserve, more or less, to move on to what’s next. I was thinking about
including a note here about how much I wrote, about word and page counts,
since I’ve been prone to a fascination with such trivia throughout the duress
of preparation. But no, for now I will withhold those factoids. Today I’m
leaving out those details in protest (a protest of relief, to be sure) of word
and page counts. Let’s just say I wrote all that I possibly could in three
hours, twice.

Starting today (last night, technically), I’m squaring off with a take-home
question for the first of two minor exams. I have the question for six days
before I return to campus next Thursday for a three-hour on-site writing
session. I don’t have my response plotted out yet, but I have read the
question and picked up the new materials that the question asks me to glance.
Basically, it involves reading some of Heskett’s stuff on design in tandem
with selected texts (I choose) that make use of ecologies or ecological
perspectives/frameworks (for media, information, composition, psychology,
child development). The anchoring concepts, then, are design and ecology, and
so far this morning I’ve just been etching out a couple of pre-ideas about
niches, aggregation, emergence, and orchestration. My gut-level forecast for
the ecologies-answer draft looks like this: 1. Gibson, 2. Bruner, 3. Fuller,
4. Nardi and O’Day, 5. Cooper, 6. Syverson, 7. Heidegger, 8. Latour. Other
maybes: Norman, Bronfenbrenner, Polanyi, and Spinuzzi. It’s all a swirl of
abstractions that will come clearer, because it must, in the days ahead.

I thought up the title to this entry during halftime of the major exams
yesterday. It gave me a momentary chuckle to think about high-speed prose and
thrill-seeking: the strange exhilaration in dashing out something so intensely
wrought, so hazard-filled and messy, so alive with rawness and pulsation.
Because some sentences were long and winding (even looping) and because the
ride was over before I knew it, I now think of my major qualifying exams as
back-to-back sentence-coaster rides–and few small jilts of pleasure both in
having done it and in not having to do it again (I can get on with fetishizing

Nothing more to add for now besides that this is yet one more hiatus from
my exam-stretch postponement. And if there’s other blog-itch, I’ll scratch it.


  1. Man, the sentence-coaster is it exactly! I found the first five exams to be strangely exhilerating, but the last 24-hour one like to killed me.

    Sounds like you’re kicking ass. Good luck with the next round!

  2. Thanks, Krista. So far the next round is, well, uh, let me just say that it’s four days from over.

    And Chris, I’ll be finished with all of it in just over a week (from today, eleven days). Sounds like you’re not far off, either, judging by what you’ve been sharing at the blog.

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