Comprehensive Exam Reading List

Well, I’m finally done with coursework & it’s time to get to work on good old comprehensive exam readings!

As I’ve worked to create my own comprehensive exam lists, I haven’t really felt like I had a whole lot to build from. Several friends and colleagues have been kind enough to share their materials with me, but the internet has yielded relatively sparse results (cue the imposter syndrome and the never-ending fear that I’m doing it wrong). At the risk of shouting into the void, I’m sharing my list here to hopefully help anyone who happens upon it (or, at the very least, to help me to keep track of my own readings).

These lists and their titles are in flux; I will update and readjust as the lists firm up. (Also, I’m not opposed to suggestions!)

Primary List: nonlinear nonfiction/Convergences

  • Alexievich, Svetlana. Voices from Chernobyl
  • Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home
  • Carson, Anne. Nox
  • Fusselman, Amy. The Pharmacist’s Mate
  • Machado, Carmen Maria.
  • Nelson, Maggie. Bluets
  • —.—. Jane: A Murder
  • —.—. The Red Parts
  • Sebald, W. G. The Emigrants

Secondary List: nonlinear fiction/Convergences

  • Machado, Carmen Maria. Her Body and Other Parties
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. What is Not Yours is Not Yours
  • Perec

Theory List: Assemblage/Convergences

  • Hutcheon, Linda.
  • Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language
  • Singer, ed. Bending Genre
  • Weschler, Lawrence. Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences

Bonus List (Might not make the comps cut, but are important to the dissertation)

  • Bachelard. The Poetics of Space
  • Haraway, Donna. Staying with the Trouble

The Puppet Course

So I’ve been a little obsessed by the idea of puppets ever since I read Helen Oyeyemi’s story, “is your blood as red as this?,” for Read Weird’s inaugural book club.  “is your blood as red as this?” was such a weird, engrossing story, that it kicked off a fascination with puppets in literature.  I found myself ordering every intriguing puppet-related book I came across.  I’m waiting for one more book to arrive in the mail; once it does, I’ll submerge myself in this realm of inanimate life.  I imagine strangeness will ensue.

My reading list is as follows:

Kenneth Gross’ Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life

In her acknowledgements, Oyeyemi noted one text, and one text only: Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life.  Since I still can’t/don’t want to shake “is your blood as red as this?,” I figured I’d (re)trace Oyeyemi’s steps to perhaps determine how Puppet influenced her work.

Aimee Parkison’s The Petals of Your Eyes

Here’s real life proof that one sentence can sell a novel.  I bought this book based on its description alone:

“Kidnapped girls trapped in a remote theater surrounded by mountains and jungle are forced into illegal performances, displayed in cabinets with curiosities, delicate limbs bound by straps, accompanied by dancing puppets fashioned of dead children’s bones.”

If I could, I’d stuff that sentence in my mouth and eat it. I can’t WAIT to read this book.

The Grimscribe’s Puppets

I’m not sure whether to expect literal or metaphorical puppets in this anthology devoted to Thomas Ligotti’s “eerie and essential nightmares.”  Even so, I’m fascinated to see how these stories position themselves in relation to Ligotti’s work.  Also, doesn’t this cover have wonderful visual resonance with Parkison’s!?

Thomas Ligotti’s Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe

Of course, to appreciate the ways in which the stories in the above anthology reflect puppeteering in its literal or metaphorical forms, I have to turn to the original Grimscribe text.  What the heck is a Grimscribe?  I guess I’ll find out.

Also, I love this idea of a dead dreamer: is such a being not, in fact, a puppet himself?  An inanimate being motivated by some consciousness?


And that’s the list, for now!  I’m incredibly eager to see where this dark spiral of a reading course will take me.  If you’ve got any suggestions for seminal puppet texts, please share!