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jrockford27 last won the day on July 12

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About jrockford27

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  1. I think the best way to figure out if you need a PhD to do the kind of work you want to do is to look at people who have the job you want and see what their educational background is. There are MFA holders who have tenure/tenure track positions in English programs at major universities. If your goal is to teach creative writing then maybe your best bet is to continue adjuncting while you work on building your profile? If your goal is to teach rhetoric/composition at the university level, then you'd certainly want to get a PhD if you want to be able to do that and have any security or a decent salary. If your approach, however, is that you aren't especially interested in research (the phrase, "I do honestly have some research interests" raised my eyebrow to this) you might want to really REALLY think about whether a PhD program is for you. Research is essentially the only thing you will be doing. While I have no doubt that some PhD students find time for creative pursuits, none of the MFAs I know who pursued a PhD (I know several) were able to continue their creative writing as anything more than a hobby during their program. That's not to say you shouldn't have hobbies, you absolutely should. But if your goal is to continue your path as a non-scholarly author while pursuing your PhD, you will find yourself threading a needle with a very small head. I've never wanted to be one of those grad students who tries to scare people away from doing a PhD, because they can be very rewarding, and I'm not trying to do that here. But a PhD program is essentially five-to-eight years of research, and then writing in genres that are oriented toward disseminating that research more than anything else.
  2. jrockford27

    My 2019 PhD in English Application

    Your friends were both right and wrong to send you here. Depending on the day and your state of mind it can be a fount of good advice, comaraderie, and helpful data; or an anxiety inducing hell-hole where you feel sentenced to an eternity of comparing yourself to imaginary others and feeling irredeemably second rate! I just had my coffee and I'm disposed toward being helpful! GRE: No, it's not too late. I think I retook the GRE in October, that said, you may be cutting in close on the few schools with November deadlines (at least back when I took the GRE in ye olde 2011, it took a few weeks to get official scores). While GRE scores don't matter much, my impression is that 153 is a pretty low verbal score for an English applicant. Buy the Princeton Review study book. Unfortunately, the GRE - like so much of the application process - is a crapshoot (my four weeks of studying alone can't account for the fact that my second quant score was an order of magnitude better than my first [though still not very good!]). Letters of rec: this is really the only area where your gap time will be a disadvantage, because the less your profs remember you, the less able they will be to write you a standout letter. I'd say emphasize your MA professors if you can get ahold of them. Publications: No one expects students to have a publication before they've begun their PhD program. I don't know a single person in my program that had a peer reviewed publication before they started, even those that came from their MA (though I know a couple who had an article in process when they started). GPA: Can't do much better than a 4.0, eh? Teaching: My impression is that programs don't really care much whether or not you have prior teaching experience. My cohort had students who had as much as 4 years of community college teaching experience and they were still required to take the program teaching workshops and pedagogy (much to their chagrin). Every school wants you to do it their way, and they think their way is special and unique. That said, I think you can absolutely put an adjunct position on your CV that you've been hired for but haven't started yet. Hell, people put articles they've submitted but that haven't even been accepted or rejected on their C.V. with [submitted] in brackets. One notable thing I don't see in your post is a mention of your writing sample, which is arguably the most important aspect of your application. Do you have a (relatively) recent seminar paper from your desired field of study that you can easily shorten to 15 pages or lengthen to 25-30 depending on the requirements of the schools you're applying for? I generally found this to be the range of pages asked for, I actually think it was more than one school that asked for 'no more than 15 pages.' It may also be that recommenders will want to see the sample in order to refresh your memory, since you're several years removed from school. In fact, you should offer this to them.
  3. I didn't reach out to too many. In the case of the school I got into, at the time our English department had different "tracks," and I was confused about which one I should apply for given my split interests at the time. I e-mailed another to ask about their advertised "soft" GRE score cutoff. Formal questions, procedural questions. I think if you go beyond those, you're just putting people in a difficult position, and people hate being put in difficult positions. Examples of things not to ask would be, "what are my chances of getting in with [x] GPA?" "do you think the program would be interested in a project involving [ x ]" or [really more a comment than a question] "i just wanted to let you know that I really feel like I was born to study literature at Yale, and I just think you all are fabulous." My first time around, when I was totally shut out, I e-mailed a few professors asking if they thought my project was interesting. Only one replied, and it was a very boilerplate, "I look forward to reading your application" type thing. I cringe whenever my memory of doing that pops into my head.
  4. I was told, e-mail if you actually have a worthwhile question. Don't e-mail just to introduce yourself. I think worthwhile questions would be things like, are you taking advisees, what is the status of subfield [x] in the grad program right now, etc. The same goes for emailing a DGS. As a general rule, e-mailing to introduce yourself probably wont help. In my experience, you probably won't get a reply to e-mails with legit questions, much less introductions. Most people have a hard time getting e-mail responses from professors who are actually on their committee, much less professors who are total strangers. The only e-mail introduction I sent was to a school I didn't get into. I only got into schools where I didn't contact any professors, except the DGS.
  5. jrockford27

    Best Credit Card?

    Yeah. I mean, it's not like I would have racked up enough to go globe trotting, but my guess is I would have earned enough miles maybe for an extra free trip home. It's a fair point about being restricted to one. Personally, as I've entered my mid 30s and started having old person problems (back pain, for example), and also being quite tall, I've started being more choosy about my airline. Delta and Southwest tend to be the most pleasant and comfortable of the domestic carriers in my experience, and Delta is usually among the cheapest to my most frequent destinations, so I went with them. Delta also offers a free checked bag on every flight to card members, which I didn't think I'd care about, as I've never been a bag checker in the past, but it really makes flying easier. That's a $50 value per round trip, which usually makes up for the price difference for most flights if Delta isn't the cheapest to begin with. They also treat you better when you're a card member, you get prioritized for bumps, I've found it much easier to get seat changes, and you get zone 1 boarding. The Zone 1 boarding matters because on Delta's basic economy rate, the only disadvantage is that you board last and thus might have to check your carry-on. If you book basic economy with your Delta card, you get Zone 1; that is, you get the basic economy rate without the risk of checking your carry-on. While you don't get a seat until you're at the gate with basic economy, I've found it very easy to get a fine seat by talking to the gate agent about 85% of the time. If you happen to be a short person you probably don't care what seat you're in anyway. So while the versatility of a non-airline specific card is definitely a plus, you might miss out on some things. I wouldn't sweat the one star reviews. Remember, the type of people inclined to leave reviews for their credit card probably skews toward the unusually disgruntled. Here I am, a freakin' walking commercial for Delta. No I don't work for them. I used to never fly (I had to overcome a phobia) and had no opinions about this stuff. When I became a grad student, moved away from home, and became romantically involved with someone whose family lived on the opposite side of the country I started (surprise) developing strong feelings about air travel.
  6. jrockford27

    Best Credit Card?

    Get a miles card early, I lament how many miles I could have been earning on trips that were ultimately reimbursed by my department. I personally use a Delta American Express, because it's convenient to my school, as well as to my home and my fiancé's home, and the free checked bag on every flight is the tops, and more than pays for the annual fee.
  7. jrockford27

    Favorite podcasts ?

    Somebody beat me to Hidden Brain! But also 99% Invisible (about design), The Side Door (the Smithsonian's podcast) and Radio Lab (which is on NPR in most markets, but is so good.
  8. I actually did not take a single course that would have outrightly identified me as a scholar of film/media. I came to the study of film/media through my study of English literature, so in my Literary Theory Class I found myself writing about popular film, ditto textual analysis (though, for better or worse, my Chaucer papers were straightforward literary analysis! ) My personal statement and writing sample identified me unambiguously as a film/media scholar (working within the context of English studies). Obviously I have never been on a graduate admissions committee, but based on what I've gleaned from my conversations over the last five years I have a hard time believing they spend too much time trying to read the tea leaves of your transcripts as long as your substantive materials are compelling and show promise. The primary reason for this may be that when you get to a PhD program you're going to end up specializing so narrowly that your undergraduate work isn't really going to do a whole lot to prepare you for your specialty anyway apart from providing a little bit of fertile topsoil (that's my experience, anyway). The exception might be if you say, changed majors after you were well underway, or are applying to an English PhD and only did an English minor, or majored in something else altogether.
  9. No, you do not need to justify it, not at all. I applied to grad school with an SoP that said I wanted to study popular media during the late cold war. My transcript included such lovely diversions as "Chaucer," "Transatlantic Modernism," and "Daily Life in Early Modern Europe." If I were on the adcom I'd be more suspicious of a transcript that showed no desire to experiment.
  10. jrockford27

    New Program Anxiety

    You're not nuts, this is all - unfortunately - very typical and natural. When I first started, I was convinced that I was the stupidest person in the room at all times, and that the admissions committee must have made some grievous error. Fortunately, my program spares us the anxiety of first year teaching on top of all the other first year anxieties, but nevertheless, things were daunting as hell. You're adjusting to new experiences, a new position, and a new way of being in the world and in academia. It's going to feel overwhelming, and there are going to be growing pains. It never becomes easy, but as you become more familiar with the lay of the land, and a new body of expectations, things will become much easier to handle. If it helps at all, most graduate students I know also manage to have vibrant personal and social lives if they want them; and, likewise, grad school is isolating but also offers remedies to isolation. You're going to figure out how to make your life work. Everything is going to be okay.
  11. jrockford27

    Dealing with Uncertainty

    It's very hard for you to know, for sure. I did not begin to have a real handle on reputation until I was in grad school for awhile. Which is why reputation isn't really a great litmus test for determining whether to apply to a school. I will tell you, my first time around I was focused much much more on prestige than fit in putting together my list, which is one of many explanations of why I was shut out. I'll tell you what I did the second time around. Maybe this sounds super tedious, but this is a major process and must involve some tedium: I went to the U.S. news rankings, and I just started going down the list, looking at the faculty in the programs, skimming their publication titles or their listed interests. Some schools make this exceptionally easy. If I could find 2-3 professors who really seemed to interest me, I put the department on the "long list." I stuck in the top 50. Then, my "long list" established, I started looking a little deeper, actually skimming book chapters and articles, reading the department's grad handbook (if it was available), and that was how I constructed my short list. It contained programs from across the top 40. After I'd conducted this process, in fact it emerged that all things being equal, my favorite two programs on the list were in the 20s and 30s. Indeed, in my first time around I had my head so far up my ass about prestige that I didn't even realize there were programs so well attuned to the type of work I wanted to do. Those programs weren't even on my radar the first time around. In determining fit, too, I'll go back to something I said in another thread last week, that no department is likely to contain a "dream team" of faculty working and actively publishing in your area. My committee's work has very very little to do with the content of my dissertation. Instead, I chose them based on a combination of how well I worked with them (which you wont know until you get there) but also how interested I was in their work, and if I sensed it had methodological or theoretical kinship with mine. Actually, I picked my chair in part because her work differs so wildly from my own inclinations, and that I knew she could keep me honest and make sure I don't drift too far afield ("fit" is very complicated!).
  12. jrockford27

    Dealing with Uncertainty

    A few things. 1. Your in major GPA isn't bad. People have gotten accepted to good programs with worse, I'm sure. In any case, GPA doesn't even really rate in the top three most important aspects of an application. While you correctly cite that this board is filled with people who have 3.9 or even 4.0 GPAs, some of those folks get shut out (for example, I had a 4.0 and I was totally shut out my first time around). 2. You should consider all schools that genuinely interest you after thoroughly researching the subject (this number should be between 8 and 13). There are people doing absolutely fascinating work at schools who aren't household names. Off the top of my head, none of the major citations in my dissertation work at "Ivy/Ivy Equivalent" schools. If you are casting a truly wide net, and really being diligent about picking schools that are a good fit, your list will likely contain a healthy mix of schools whose names will impress your aunts and uncles, and schools whose names contain "State" or at least are named after states. As you are likely to learn, the academic job market is largely a crap shoot, and a scholar's level of brilliance does not necessarily correlate with the prestige of their workplace. 3. Relatedly to #2, If your goal is to be a university literature professor, that should be the uncertainty that really terrifies you! However, specific prestige of school - I think - matters less in getting a job, than who your advisor is and whether you can make the case that your dissertation is compelling through your cover letter and a strong publication. People in the field are aware for example, that some schools lack a general prestige but have excellent reputations in sub-disciplines. This is not always apparent to outsiders or undergrads, but is (naturally) common knowledge within sub-disciplines. I attend an English program that is top 40 on USNews but well regarded in a pair of subdisciplines that don't get ranked, we've recently placed people at Stanford, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Cornell, among others. 4. Nothing is likely to cut down on uncertainty. I can honestly say that applying to graduate school was one of the top three most anxiety inducing and miserable experiences of my life. I spent most of that time attempting to struggle against uncertainty, the best thing is to find some way to embrace it. 5. One way to embrace the uncertainty is to realize that you have almost no control over the most important aspects of the application process (the makeup of the committee, their current needs/desires, the composition of graduate students already attending, and the pool of other applicants) and that your admissions results have nothing to do with your level of brilliance or worth as a human being (I say this because I wish somebody had been there to tell me this when my shiny 4.0 failed to secure me any admissions my first time around). 6. Contained in all of this, is that the most important thing is to think really hard about the schools you apply to, cast aside all biases and preconceptions about the names of schools and the rankings of their department. If your list only contains "Ivy or Ivy equivalent," go back to the drawing board and look harder.
  13. No need to apologize, and I think my post contains some generalizations (I apologize, I'm flipping between browser windows and my dissertation and that doesn't lend itself well to giving ironclad advice). You should be asking lots of questions, and this is a place to ask them. Your questions are good and worthwhile. I didn't know any of these things when I was an undergrad. Some departments have working groups around things like ecocrit, childrens lit, etc., but within those you're likely to find a lot of diversity in theories and approaches. My bit about the SoP may be a little over the top. If you aren't interested in Marxism as a subject, there is absolutely no reason to include Marxism in your SoP. On the other hand, (and I'm being reductive again for the sake of ease and time) it is hard to imagine a strong statement of purpose that does not engage with prevailing discourses in some way. As bumblebea said, a good scholarly project is going to have at least a little theory behind it. You show that you're potentially conversant in theory/scholarship by identifying what authors/critics/theorists influence your approach to close reading, and why you think that this approach is important. A statement of purpose, I think, is (among other things) where you propose a starting point for inquiry. What questions drive you? What contribution do you want to make? Why do you think [school x] is a good place to do it? It's hard to imagine forming a substantial inquiry without placing your work into dialogue with prevailing theories (be they cultural studies, critical theory, or aesthetic theory). I apologize to you, actually, because this is probably very confusing. Unfortunately, grad school applications are a very confusing process, and (speaking of relativism) you're going to get a lot of potentially conflicting advice!
  14. I'll start by saying that there is really no lack of current and ongoing humanities scholarship that does not address questions of social-justice, cultural studies, relativism, etc. With regard to relativism, there is actually a growing sentiment that "postmodernism" is "over," whatever that might mean. What can be said is that projects revolving around the critical theories of the experience of marginalized groups is very "hot" right now because we're in a cultural moment where marginalized groups are increasingly gaining footholds within established structures, giving them a platform to critique those structures in ways that have not traditionally been done (or even allowed). Those kinds of projects get a lot of attention because they respond to current events and changes in academia and culture at large in very important ways. However, that does not mean that aesthetes and formalists are unwelcome in English departments, there are tons of them, and they're publishing all the time! This board gets a lot of threads that ask questions about programs that emphasize this or that. I think there was a thread last year where the OP asked people to recommend programs that had an "emphasis on psychoanalysis." While there is something really romantic and intriguing about the idea of a department full of like minded Frankfurt School Marxists, or Lacanians, Deleuzians, or even formalists, regularly gathering in smoke filled chambers to hash out the specifics of their shared discipline, for better or worse the economics of the University prevent this from happening. The important thing to remember about academic departments when determining whether one is a good fit for you or not is that most (if not all) English departments strive for broad coverage. That means that you're unlikely to find departments where you have a ton of professors whose interests contain a lot of overlapping concerns. They may have particular areas of strength (for example, the Center for Psychoanalysis at Buffalo, or the Children's Lit concentration at Pitt), but will generally strive to incorporate a broad range of approaches, genres, time periods, etc. All of which is to say, you're not going to find departments that are totally eschewing one approach or another, especially, as @Bumblebea says, approaches that are central to the discipline. If you're a strict aesthete or formalist, you'll probably be in a department with Marxists or Lacanians or whatever who will find problems with your methods, and the opposite is true as well. I'm a cultural studies scholar, and I had a graduate colleague who found the whole backbone of cultural studies based criticism to be of questionable worth. We still get along, and we both have professors in the department who supported our work. Your concerns about the application process are valid, since (this is becoming my catchphrase on this board) the most important aspect of the admissions process is the one over which you have the least control: the composition of the admissions committee. @Bumblebea's advice is sage here, a successful application statement - I think - needs to have at least some theoretical and/or historical undergirding. Striking a balance between a statement that is narrow enough to show strength, and broad enough to show flexibility, is one of the biggest challenges of your application. You will want to show that you can become conversant in relevant issues of critical theory (you will be expected to do this) even if they don't find their way into your dissertation, because a well rounded scholar must be conversant in the major issues of the field. I had to read Kant and Cavell, and my aesthete colleagues had to read Adorno and Althusser!
  15. I asked a non-tenure faculty member from my undergrad who was a major mentor of mine for a letter of rec, he told me that he wouldn't write me one unless I'd first exhausted all possible options to get one from a member of the tenured faculty, which I did. It wasn't that he wouldn't write me a glowing letter, it was that he didn't feel like it would hold as much weight, no matter how glowing it was, and wanted to give me the best chance.

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