September 16th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

Latin

Like many other people, I've been trying for years to pass the Centre for Medieval Studies PhD Latin exam. Well, two years anyways, which is apparently about average time-to-pass for Centre PhD students anyways, which I am not.

The Centre has a bumper crop of new MAs this year, far more than expected, and thus was especially eager to have as many students as possible pass the PhD exam to get them out of the Latin program, out of the Latin classes, and off to doing other things, like reading more Latin in literature classes. That desire, however, conflicts with their greater desire to maintain the long-term standards to maintain the rigorousness of the PhD Latin exam, to retain its status as a "license to practice Latin".

Fifty-five or so of us took the exam last Friday. Only one person passed.

I didn't, nor did any of the Centre PhD students who have to pass this exam in order to schedule their major field exams. Nor did any of the history PhD candidates who are now required to pass the PhD Latin exam in order to schedule their defenses and receive their PhDs.

The exam was easier than usual. The last time the exam was this easy, no one passed at all. The easier the exam, the higher the standards required to ensure competent latinity amongst their Latin students.

This means that, in order to submit my dissertation and schedule my defense for sometime this school year, I will need to drop the Latin class. I can keep taking this exam for years to come, if I choose to. After I finish this degree, it'll cost me about $50 a shot. Also, my chances at passing are reduced if I stop studying Latin for any substantial length of time. I won't be in the class this fall but, if for whatever reason I'm still around in the spring, and have submitted already, I could always study more then. At this point, I'm not sure what I'll do, but regardless, I'll continue to read Latin at some level or other: my profession requires it.