Comprehensive Exams

Oh, and for those of you who are curious, these were my comprehensive exam questions.  I had one six hour period on each of three separate days within one week to answer each in essay form, without reference materials.  Each questions was formulated by a different professor on my advising committee:

The distinction between religion and magic is as old as the discipline itself.  What kinds of concerns and anxieties does this distinction reveal?  How have authors both reinforced and challenged the distinction (Durkheim, Douglas, Smith)? Using witchcraft as an example, show how the distinction between religion and magic is used to exclude/marginalize certain kinds of practices and bodies?

You have been asked to be Editor in Chief of an academic journal titled Witchcraft Past and Present.  The editorial policy explicitly requires that all four articles in each quarterly edition represent a mix of academic and “first person” interpretations and that each edition should focus on a common theme.   In a world where you can snap your fingers and make authors appear out of the air, map out a plan for the types of articles you would like to see in the journal’s first year.  Explain your plan in an introductory essay that would appear in the first edition.  Note in that essay some of the debates or tensions that the journal might entertain and how it will contribute to the understanding of “witchcraft” (which you might just have to define).

One issue in the study of contemporary revival movements is how relatively new traditions create and legitimate themselves as authentic.  For this question, pick two of the following contemporary witches and detail how each constructs their tradition as “authentic.”  Be sure to detail what constitutes “authenticity” for each: Raven Grimassi, Christian Day, Christopher Penczak, Michael Howard, Peter Paddon.

A bunch of girls heard random stuff somewhere in New York state and some guy was pressed to death at some point somewhere else.  Discuss.

That last one was a joke from our resident historian.


2 thoughts on “Comprehensive Exams

  1. The second question regarding the quarterly journal would be fun to answer, while the third about authenticity would be annoying. I wince at the idea of authentic religion. The first seems the most academic-y. And I could answer not a one unless it was between the hours of 2am and 8am, nine cups of coffee coursing through my system and lots of help from my friend Google. Lots and lots of help.

    I do hope it went well for you and you didn’t suffer writer’s cramp.

  2. And those were my exact reactions. The journal question I got to have some fun with (fabricating fake articles written by friends, “discovering” previously unpublished material from Doreen Valiente). I think I could have come up with a better title, though. Hmm.

    I did well! Got my results a couple of days ago, and good marks all around. Even if I still have no idea what “authentic” means. 🙂

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