In my post last week about advice for undergraduates, Katie Weakland shared a comment that I thought was particularly apt:
I suggest meeting your major professors early in your career – your first semester – and asking them to mentor you and/or let you do research with them. The early you can get your feet wet with research the better. I also suggest reading the primary literature in your field as soon as possible.
Meeting your professors and starting research early are both very important (I have stories I could share for each), but for the moment, I’m going to focus on primary literature.
Last week, one of the undergraduates I met is an undergraduate English major (a junior) who is thinking about graduate school. [Digression: her professors have given her a copy of Thomas H. Benton’s “Just Don’t Go.” Benton make some good points, and I recommend undergrads read it, but I also recommend looking at the responses (and responses, and responses) from other Christian humanities faculty that we’ve posted at the main ESN page. /digression]
We got to talking about reading lists, which were a passion of mine as an undergraduate, and turned out to be a passion for her, too. I was an English major as an undergrad, too, so I pointed her to some of the reading lists that had helped me over the years:
- David Lyle Jeffrey’s Beginners’ Christian Bookshelf, which ranges from classics of theology to contemporary poetry
- Stanford’s reading list for qualifying exams for the English PhD
- The ESN Core Bibliography
- GFM’s general bibliography for Christian academics
- Two reading lists from my time at Regent: a biblio (PDF, 54 kb) for new students and a biblio (PDF, 158 kb) for a course they offered called “The Christian Life” which was, at that time, organized around 6 very important questions
(On those last two, both of those are PDF scans of my personal copies, so you might get some “value-added” insight, like the price for a new copy, in Canadian dollars, in 2000. If I become famous, feel free to use the scans in your biography of me. :)
Katie’s comment got me to thinking: because I was an English major and later did a master’s degree in theology and poetry, I have a pretty good idea of the primary literature in those areas. But I’m pretty ignorant elsewhere. I have no idea what the primary literature in, say, history, or chemistry, or sociology might be. I also wonder how well undergraduate programs communicate the importance of primary literature. So, here’s my question for the week:
What is the primary literature in your field? Are there readings lists (online or that you’ve assembled yourself) that undergraduates ought to read deeply before or during their graduate programs?