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Glasperlenspieler last won the day on November 12 2019

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  1. I second everything @philosopuppy says about MA programs. Don't underestimate how attached you will become to the idea of an academic career over the course of a PhD program. The ecosystem of PhD programs acculturates you into thinking that a tenure track position is the only valid metric of success. This is bullshit but it's very hard to escape this way of thinking at a certain point in your graduate career. And once you become attached to an academic career, if you're in a program that doesn't actually set you up with high odds to attain one, it's a recipe for misery. So, even if you're convinced that it's the opportunity to study that you want and not merely a certain professional trajectory, it behooves you to attend the best PhD program you can. An MA is great way to enable you to do that. It also allows for an easy exit, if you decide academic philosophy isn't for you. In general, I think it's wise to think about PhD programs in the humanities as a peculiar sort of vocational school, because that really is how they function and operate. I don't necessarily mean to endorse this model, but I think it's important to recognize that that's the way things are. I'm as attracted to the idea of the life of the mind as much as the next person. But the idea of it can be very different from the realities of university life. This doesn't begin to capture the way things are. When I applied to PhD programs the first time (the fall 2014 season), I got waitlisted at a school then ranked in the 40s. They received well over 200 applications and were looking to have a matriculating class of 6-8.
  2. This is mostly seconding what other people have said, but I wouldn't worry too much about being a "non-traditional" students. While there are certainly students who go straight from their BA to a PhD program, I know plenty of people who had more circuitous journeys to grad school. I don't think this should make too much of a difference regarding admissions and I often find that people who had a few years (or more) off before grad school are better off in terms of maturity, motivation, etc. I do think the low-tier undergrad degree will make it hard to get into top PhD programs. The best route for you is almost certainly to pursue a funded terminal MA, after which you can reasonably apply to even top-tier programs (NYU and Rutgers will still be very tough to get into, but there's no reason, in principle, why a Tufts/NIU/Brandeis/UWM/etc MA can't compete for those spots).
  3. I'm a little confused by what you're going for since your questions seem much more directed towards the role of publishing in the academic job market for literary studies than they do with actually publishing in literary studies. If you're thinking of trying to get a job in an English/literature department with a social psychology PhD, that's extremely unlikely. With that caveat aside, here's some answers to your questions. This depends. Going on the market without any publications isn't great (but is done). More than, say, three articles would probably be pretty unusual for someone coming out of a PhD program (though again, it happens). Single authorship is the norm. This may be slowly changing and there are increasinly initiatives encouraging various forms of research collaboration. The vast majotiry of articles published in literary studies are single-authored. I have no idea on the comparative. Conferences matter but more for networking than your CV (though the lack of any conferences probably isn't good). Generally people read a paper at a conference. Sometimes slides with relevant quotes are provided. It's pretty rare for someone to speak extemporaneously for a conference presentations (though it happens). Again, can't help you with the comparative. PhD students don't normally publish books. To get tenure, many departments require that your first book be (at minimum) accepted for publication. They don't count for nothing but they're not as important as articles. They can be a relatively easy way to get a publications since they're usually pretty short. Most reviews consist of a summary with a handful of critical/laudatory comments. They allow scholars to determine if a book's worth reading and sometimes function as a sort of accreditation. More extensive "response papers" are sometimes published by journals, but those are usually by more senior scholars. What counts as a contribution to the field is sort of like asking what the field does. You'll get lots of different answers to that. The only way to really get a sense of it though it to become acculturated in the discipline. A starting point for this is reading lots of academic articles in the field and trying to figure out what they do. Depends on the department/professor/student. General rules. Publishing is good/necessary for professional success. Don't publish sub-par work. Don't focus on publishing to the detriment of your dissertation. Don't publish in sub-par journals. As a grad student, you probably shouldn't submit something to a journal without consulting an advsor. At least one article is probably good. If not an article, then definitely try for a book review. More is better as long as it doesn't extend time-to-degree, or take time away from your dissertation. You also don't want to publish too much though, since things published before getting hired generally won't count towards your tenure review. Book chapters count less than articles but more than book reviews. But that also depends on the book.
  4. How did you get this from the OP? What makes you think that? I really don't think this is always the case. And even if it's true that all instances of a B+ are ones in which the professor did a poor job (which again, I really don't think is the case), then it's certainly not the case that "people know" this. This seems right.
  5. As someone who doesn't think the term "continental philosophy" is very helpful, I suspect that you can probably get more personalized recommendations by specifying what philosophers, topics, and questions you're interested in.
  6. I'm in the middle of a multi-year hiatus from Proust because I got bogged down in the part scene of Sodom and Gomorrah. I still think parts of In Search of Lost Time are the best things I've ever read though.
  7. A few more thoughts and then I'm probably out: I see know that there are at least two senses of 'relevant' that pertinent to this discussion, and I may have latched onto one mistakenly, when the other is actually what is being discussed: 1. Literary scholarship is relevant because there are many people in the general public that are interested in related matters. 2. Literary scholarship is relevant because it has a meaningful impact on the contemporary world. If we're talking about relevance in the first sense, then I certainly agree that literary scholarship is relevant to the general public. I still think that I would rather see more of an emphasis on having academics write for more popular venues. In some ways, the sciences are a good model for this in which researchers publish very technical studies in academic journals and then there are other venues like Popular Science or Popular mechanics specifically designed for communicating these developments to a broad audience. In philosophy, things like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Richard Marshall's interviews are good examples of similar sorts of venues. For literary scholarship and cultural studies, literary magazines like the LA Review of Books also play an important role here. I prefer this approach for several reasons. 1) I really do think that academic writing is a different sort of writing than writing for general venues. And I think that writing for a general audience is very hard and that many academics can't do it well. So it may make sense for the people who are skilled at it to be focusing on it rather than have academics do a poor job of it. 2) I really don't think every article published in an academic journal is that valuable. (I tend to think that as a result of career pressures academics publish too much). So rather than writing a summary for every article, having people who have a in depth knowledge of the field could write essays covering the field more broadly and communicating its important insights. This also helps prevent us from simply maintaining the academic article and mongoraph as the necessary building blocks of scholarship. 3) Finally, it's important to remember that most people don't have access to these articles anyways because they are behind a paywall. If the goal is the democratization of knowledge, then the first order of business is a complete overhaul of academic publishing. Regarding relevance in the second sense, I really wish I believed it was true, but I'm increasingly skeptical. Full disclosure, I'm midway through a PhD program in literary studies and am increasingly plagued by doubts about the relevance of my own scholarship and that of fields I am familiar with, especially in a world in which right-wing populism doesn't seem to be going away and climate change is apt to fundamentally change the face of the earth in a very short period of time. So this is the position I was coming from in writing the above. Maybe this is just graduate school depression talking, but I do think it's a mistake to simply assume that what we do is relevant in the second sense, with out critical engaging that assumption. On a final note, I'll reiterate my support for academics writing as clearly and simply as possible (but, as Einstein tells us, not any simpler). In that vein, I find it deeply ironic that scholars like Judith Butler and Stanley Cavell (who I find infuriating to read) are both ostensibly influenced by J.L. Austin, who was probably one of the clearest writers of academic prose in the English language.
  8. I have two cynically (and probably overly snarky responses) and two more serious responses. However, I think the serious responses are really just more elaborate articulations of the cynical responses, so feel free to read whichever suits you: Cynical take #1: This conversation seems to assume that academic writing already is relevant to a general audience and is merely being communicated poorly. But it's far from obvious that most academic writing is relevant to a general audience even if it were communicated perfectly. Cynical take #2: One wonders if these summaries wouldn't end up being longer than the article/book itself. Serious take #1: @politics 'n prose's point about considering the reader when writing is very important. However, this conversation seems to take for granted that the reader in academic writing should conceivably include anyone. But it's not at all clear to me why that should be the case. All writing has an audience. When I write a letter to a friend, I write it with the assumption of his particular background knowledge, perspective, etc. When I write an Op-Ed, I write it with a particular newspaper reading public in mind. Presumably a NY Times Op-Ed is going to look different than an Op-Ed in the local paper of a small town. And there are good reasons for that. Why should academic writing be any different? This is why I think the point about writing for public venues is extremely important. We live in a world in which it's not only increasingly important to justify the existence of the humanities, but also one in which certain aspects of humanistic inquiry are undoubtedly important to contemporary society. Yet I think it would be a mistake to think that those sorts of writings would or should have the exact same content as articles that get published in academic journals. They are not merely ideas expressed differently, but fundamentally different sorts of writing addressed to very different audiences. The importance of engaging in public discourse, however, also needn't imply that all humanistic research be pertinent to a general public (and I would contend that most of it is not). That's not necessarily a bad thing though. The pursuit of knowledge and the application of that knowledge are different goals, albeit both important and frequently intersecting. Serious take #2: As a literary scholar with a background in analytic philosophy, I'm certainly no fan of jargon. I think it's use should be limited to when it's necessary. However, it's interesting to me that this discussion of summaries has focused primarily on the articulation of jargon. But isn't that what dictionaries of literary terms are for? I don't quite see why the author of an academic article needs to duplicate that job. Certainly, if a new theoretical concept is being introduced, that should be articulated clearly, but I would hold that standard should always be in place (which is not to say that it also is and maybe these reference materials need to be updated more frequently and written in a more accessible fashion). I also think it's fair to assume a certain amount of knowledge (or ability to use reference materials) on the part of the reader. Doing otherwise, seems to needlessly increase the length of the works in question (which also isn't going to do much to attract a general audience). Consider a recent abstract from New Literary History: This essay advances several overlapping claims about how to conceptualize fiction within the density of historical time. First, I show that fictionality is entangled with ideologies of disenchantment and secularization. There is a long tradition in the West of both distinguishing and deriving fictionality from categories of bad belief; within the framework of the secularization thesis, possessing fiction—which is to say, having the literary infrastructure for a "willing suspension of disbelief"—becomes the mark of an achieved secular modernity. That history suggests the need to reconsider, in turn, what Catherine Gallagher excludes from her well-known account in "The Rise of Fictionality." The present essay seeks to theorize fictionality otherwise, in a manner that is hermeneutic and comparative. To do so, the second section addresses the archive of medieval literature and advocates for a shift in analytic focus, away from contemporary theorizations of literature and toward literary practice. "Commonplaces" of fictionality—or the shared motifs, genres, and contexts for semantic unearnestness—offer one strategy for doing so. The essay's final section then contends that these arguments are related to an important trend in medieval studies, a trend of arguably anachronistic scholarship on topics like medieval disability and medieval race, which deploys modern constructs in nonmodern archives. On the model of such undertakings, a comparative poetics of fiction stands to pluralize the literary-critical concept by returning it to its volatile interface with language's capacity to depict what is nonactual and the reinventions that result. (Source: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/731674) All in all this seems to be a pretty good abstract for what appears to be an interesting essay. Some terms are probably needlessly obscure ("the density of historical time"). Others are certainly jargon in some sense of the term: ideology, disenchantment, secularization. Book (and very large ones at that) have been written on each of these topics. I would certainly expect that the author will situate her use of these terms in the broader discourses. But the abstract actually seems to function as a pretty good summary of what the essay is doing. To entirely remove all of the theoretical terminology would seem to require making the summary much longer than it currently is (plausibly to the length of the article itself). And I'm just not entirely sure what is to be gained by that. Again, I'm all for academics writing clearly and using less unnecessary jargon. Additional summaries, however, seem to be a fairly artificial bandage for making humanistic scholarship more relevant to a wider public.
  9. This ^^^^^^ You have limited space in an SOP. Don't waste it talking about your pre-undergraduate educational experiences when you could be further articulating your research interests, who you are as a scholar, and where you hope to go with your research.
  10. @politics 'n prose, I'm not familiar with either of the programs you mention, so I can't comment too intelligently there. I don't think the distinction between literary studies and cultural studies is particularly relevant in today's academy, so I wouldn't worry too much, especially if those programs are housed in strong English departments. I do however know that say, people with PhDs from American Studies departments often struggle in comparison to their colleagues in "traditional" English departments, though the job market is awful for everyone. I can also say with relative certainly, that you will not be hired as a junior hire in a philosophy departments with a degree like Purdue's Philosophy and Literature. Philosophy departments are arguably a lot more parochial than English departments, but I'm not sure English departments are immune from that sort of criticism.For instance, journals like Philosophy and Literature are often looked down upon by people in literary studies as being too "traditional." I happen to like the journal, but these are the sorts of things it's important to beware of. I think in general that in the job market it's important to be able to fit yourself into a well-defined box. As I said above, Chicago's Committee on Social Thought is a program that I'm very sympathetic too, but despite the Chicago pedigree and the reputation of the program, it really doesn't do a good job of placing its graduates. Many people, myself included, are very attracted to out of the box approaches to scholarship, which cover a large territory. But if you look at those sorts of studies, I think you will often find that they are written by scholars who *already* have tenure and that their first books were often much more clearly situated in their home discipline. In regard to @UndergradDad's comment about the reconfiguration of the humanities, I think it's important to distinguish between the sort of interdisciplinary done for intellectual reasons and the merging of departments for budgetary reasons. The latter is a reality and it will only put more pressure on the job market, which I do not think will be favorable to applicants who do work that is hard to define. I hope I'm wrong, but that's my general outlook. For what it's worth, this is the best think I'm aware on the topic of interdisciplinary:
  11. Graduates from interdisciplinary PhD programs generally have a tough time finding jobs. This is true even for very prestigious programs like Chicago's Committee on Social Thought. I imagine that would be an even bigger issue at an institution that is not particularly well ranked in English OR Philosophy. Interdisciplinary is and will probably continue to be a hot buzz word, but at the end of the day, you usually get hired by a department in a standard discipline and you need to demonstrate your disciplinary chops in order to stand a chance.
  12. Once you're in a PhD program, grades don't matter until they do. Here's a pretty common (unwritten) attitude towards grades during the coursework phase of a PhD program: A = you're doing fine work A- = this clearly isn't your best work, but I don't have any serious concerns about your capabilities as a grad student B+ = there are serious concerns about your ability to be a successful graduate student. In most PhD programs, anything less than an A- is a very bad sign and is being given as a sort of warning. Even if there aren't explicit GPA requirements, there are GPA requirements.
  13. Yes and no. Having read an ungodly number of articles in literary studies, I would say that a good essay on a literary text does both. The key is perhaps not to "engage" with a large number of secondary literature, but to clearly situate your reading in the context of the existing scholarship. For the body of the article it's common to structure it around a close reading, but the footnotes and brief framing comments make it clear where this reading converges and diverges with other readings. In this way, you may not be directly arguing for or against existing scholarship, but you are making it clear where this arguments fits into what's already out there. You might directly engage with only one or two other critics at key points, but you can easily make reference to 10, 20, 30 other scholarly works by briefly commenting on them in the footnotes in a 20 page essay. The merit of this style of argumentation is that it keeps front and center what's really important: your (hopefully original and compelling) reading of the text, while also doing due scholarly diligence and making clear that your reading is rooted in but also going beyond existing scholarship. NB: This would be a paradigm for an article in a good peer-reviewed journal. A writing sample may not need to fully fulfill this, but the closer you can come to approximating it, the more successful you're likely to be. There are, of course, other ways to go about writing an essay in literary studies, but I would say that the above is an important form that one will have to become accustomed to in order to succeed in academia.
  14. If we're talking about PhD programs, then I don't think it's really necessary to talk about your career goals. A PhD in the humanities is essentially a vocational degree and the admissions committee will probably just assume that if you're applying, it's because you want to be a professor. And if you have alternate career goals, that might actually be something that makes an admissions committee look on your application less favorably (for all the talk about alt-ac, professors often look down upon non-academic jobs). Use those few lines of your SOP to more fully articulate your interests, your project, or your fit for the program.
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