In the Sanctuary of Revision

I am just writing down some free thoughts about my upcoming exams, and the last days of revision. Since I returned in Cambridge last week, I could clearly feel a different aura throughout the city. Less students strolling through the streets, a strangely tensed atmosphere, and a vague sensation of nervous happiness in the daily discussions with my fellow art historians. Exams are indeed approaching, and everybody seeks refuge in the silent rooms of the library, which becomes some sort of primordial hut. There is nothing strange or upsetting in exams per se, but the fact that we all take part in this communal ritual at about the same time synchronises our feelings and our anxieties, which are definitely emphasised.

Personally, I find my solace in a well-arranged routine. I start everyday at the same time, waking up at 7.30. I work in the library for about four hours before going to lunch, then I return to the library and study for roughly the same time. Dinner is the second pause of the day, followed by a couple of hours of work, this time in my room. I go to bed just before midnight. The process repeats continuously, with little variations such as shopping, revision sessions at the department and so on. Though dull, the repetitiveness of my schedule gives me a solid grasp over my time. It is efficient, but first of all reassuring.

My last year of high school was not particularly different, but I also had to attend lectures. Ironically, I could be more relaxed now, sleep a couple of hours more per day, and still perform well. Yet, the college environment prevents you from being satisfied with an average performance. Living with other students means that you will always see somebody studying around you. In truth, everybody works more or less the same (much), but noticing that the library is constantly full fosters an irrational desire to work and succeed yourself. In the end, it is a virtuous circle.

Regarding my subject, I am definitely having more time than last term to appreciate the subletities of each topic. The first year of art history at Cambridge is a wide survey of Western visual culture, a wide curriculum where it seems at first difficult to focus and specialise. In fact, revision time in Easter term provides with the necessary tranquillity to grasp the details, the lovely sparks of beauty scattered throughout the discipline. I am currently working on Eighteenth-century architecture, and I am amazed by the conceptual links with the Renaissance classicism, and the parallels in the way they both approached Antiquity. Often, revision is not about learning you things, but understanding how what you know is deeply interconnected.


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Alessandro M. Rubin Written by:

Cambridge History of Art alumnus. Passionate early-modernist, curious about contemporary art and aesthetic theory.

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