I did it! I completed (for now) my comprehensive exam. It really felt and feels like a huge step for me. And I know you're all dying for a play-by-play.
Ok, maybe not. So, that's the short story. But just in case anybody wants the long version, this is how it worked:
Over the last year or so I put together my dissertation committee (one director and two readers) and in company with them I compiled reading lists for a primary and a secondary area (for me, 19C British lit and 18C British lit). The lists covered works both from the time periods (so, novels, poetry, essays) as well as scholarship written about it. All-in-all I had probably 300 or so texts. Once every semester the department offers a chance to take the comprehensive exam and I decided to go for it this time around. My committee was then notified and they made up a list of 6-8 essay questions for each area (my director had the final say, though, on what questions went to me). The exam stretched over three days. So, on Wednesday morning I showed up at my department office and the graduate secretary gave those of us taking the exam our list questions for the primary area. I then had five and half hours to choose and answer two of them. By 2:30 sharp I had to turn in my answers to the grad secretary. Thursday was a break. And then Friday I did the same routine for my secondary area. I wrote my answers in our office and my fantastic office mates had put up little signs cheering me on and had put a diet coke for me in the office fridge. And Brooke, my roomie, made me a bag of treats to get me through. I was super, super nervous both days. However, I felt like I had answers for the questions that I chose and that I learned some things as I thought about how to synthesize the stuff I had studied. On Friday it took about five hours to come down off the adrenaline. I couldn't focus for very long on any one thing, my heart was racing, I was jittery. It felt so weird. But, I feel great to be done. I should know by the Oct. 11th if I passed. Three professors (presumably my committee members) will read my answers and I need to get at least 2 passes out of 3 on each of my questions to pass. So, big step. And hopefully I move forward to the dissertation!