Greetings, Grand Army Blog followers.
There will be a brief hiatus in posting this week as I make some final preparations for my Ph.D. qualifying exams. Next Tuesday, April 17, I will take the two-hour oral exam with advisors David Blight, Joanne Freeman, and Bruno Cabanes, covering about 250 titles and three centuries of U.S. history and historiography. This is a ritual that is at once arcane and eminently useful. Learning how to synthesize huge chunks of material into two or three minute sound bytes is, unfortunately, so much of what we do in this profession. Semester long surveys of U.S. history, for example, might allow the instructor to discuss Reconstruction in one or two lectures. The qualifying exam is as much a test of one’s ability to craft a convincing meta-narrative as it is an exercise in mastering dates, arguments, and interpretive impasses.
Once the exam is behind me, I will be back to regular posts and will be able to think about Union veterans and Civil War memory full time. Thank you for your understanding.