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?
About the author:
The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.