Bumblebea

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Bumblebea last won the day on May 31

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About Bumblebea

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    Visiting Assistant Professor
  1. Schools and Controversies

    Almost every school has had a major controversy or ties to controversial figures, so where to even begin? I don't think you'll ever find a university that's "pure" or "unproblematic." I could understand not applying to a certain school out of a need for self-preservation--like if they had a reputation for being unwelcoming of people of my identity. But beyond that, my mileage would vary by the situation. Obviously you don't want the name attached to your PhD to be one that people associate with massive scandal ... but I can say that in higher ed circles no one looks askance at someone with a PhD from Penn State because of Jerry Sandusky, and no one looking to hire you is going to be turned off by your PhD from Penn because Trump graduated from there. When it comes to applying for jobs, I'm picky. I do not apply for jobs at schools with discriminatory practices informed by religion ... and there are actually a lot out there. Every year, several schools post ads where they specify that if you take a job at their university you must sign their "faith statement," and those faith statements often use exclusionary language against LGBT people or non-Christians. Some even prohibit drinking. I don't apply to those jobs and don't give them a second thought.
  2. Just an FYI: If you're applying mainly to English literature PhD programs (and not theater, film, or women's/gender studies programs), you will have to specify the time period you're focusing on. So based on what you've said here, you'd be interested in post-1900 (maybe post-1945???) US Literature, with a more specific focus in gender/sexuality and film/drama. PhD programs sort applications by time periods.
  3. Seriously! I'm trying not to take @Eigen's jab at VAPs personally. After all, I don't want to add to the mountains of projection that are already going on in this thread--especially since the OP did indeed have a valid and interesting question. And one I hope to help them with. I don't want OP to end up in VAP-ville, after all!
  4. Really? Are we really going to go the "appeal to authority" angle? If we are, well, I'm a prof and I understand what @EmmaJava is saying, even if I don't agree that calling oneself "professor" when one has not been appointed as such is an act of fraud. It's clearly not. I do think, though, that we need to be as honest as possible about how universities are functioning, and who is doing the teaching. When I did not have a PhD and was teaching a ton of undergrad courses as a TA, I was always very clear to explain to the students that I was not a professor. I felt it was in their best interest that they have as much information as possible about how the university saw fit to handle their instruction. The literal definition of "professor as someone who professes" was somewhat immaterial in that situation. (How does one define "profess," after all? Clearly not every teacher at a university is a professor, and neither is a PhD teaching at a middle school. Context matters.) (And somewhat unrelated, where I initially taught, the students refused to call PhDs "doctor." They felt that professors were not doctors and did not deserve the title. So "professor" was the best you could do.)
  5. For some reason, the end of my post keeps getting cut off, and it won't let me edit it. So this is the last piece of my advice: There are also a lot of undergraduate journals out there that publish the very best papers by undergrads at various universities. I think these papers are a good model because they are very good--good enough to gain admission at the country's top programs--but also accessible enough that you can figure out how to structure your own papers by looking at them. I found these just by googling: http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/anthos/ http://aleph.humanities.ucla.edu/ https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/iujur/issue/view/1326 Good luck and keep us posted.
  6. @Doll Tearsheet, I have to say I feel your pain. Throughout undergrad I did well in my English major but did not study with the intention of going for my PhD. In fact, I had very different goals throughout my four years in college, so I didn't seek out the classes or professors that would have pushed me to write more theoretically-inclined and research-heavy papers. When I went to apply for graduate school some years later, I realized that I had few papers that would really fit the bill of a good writing sample. I ended up revising part of my undergrad thesis, but I still didn't know how to turn this into a compelling writing sample (and I was rejected from most programs, both high ranked and more modest). Throughout the entire admissions cycle, I felt totally at sea and woefully underprepared to apply. I was also hanging out in an online community where people were much better prepared than I was and able to deploy the lingo. I was like, "I want to study the poetry of the Irish literary renaissance," and they were like, "I'm interested in how critical race theory intersects with biopower and is simultaneously transformed and displaced by eighteenth-century theories of communal midwifery." And I was like Unfortunately, we all come to this process with varying levels of preparation, and this process very much favors those who were focused enough in undergrad to seek out that preparation, and those who went to schools where that preparation was abundantly available. Part of me really resents the fact that programs expect a very high degree of professionalization from students who have never even set foot in a graduate seminar. But that's the way it is, and things keep getting all the more competitive. Gripes aside, there are a few things you can do, and I'm going to give you the advice I wish I had received. Pick a paper that you've already written--something self-contained. In other words, don't just excerpt your thesis (as I did) unless it's a selection of your thesis that can stand on its own. I would advise that you pick a paper you really enjoyed writing and that felt particularly inspired to you (I know you say you don't have original ideas, but you probably do). Focus on turning this paper into a research paper, not writing a research paper from scratch. Keep in mind that you're actually not supposed to incorporate THAT much outside research. In fact, it's much wiser to keep the focus on your own ideas. Out of a 20-page paper, really only 3 pages should be a lit review (a section that is focused explicitly on laying out past research) and the rest should be your own close reading and ideas with the occasional mention of outside critics or footnotes to tell us how your ideas are different. Having said that, I'm a little surprised at the advice your adviser is giving you, that you should "read all the important critical literature and also be very aware of how [you're] contributing/interacting with it." I disagree with this statement. I don't think you should focus on reading ALL the things. Doing so will distract you from your own thesis, and you'll then be tempted to integrate everything or abandon your original idea. You'll lose your own voice. Instead: Pick two or three articles/book chapters that are relevant to your specific ideas and then use THEIR bibliographies to find the most useful specific historical/critical/theoretical sources. And if a particular work or critic keeps coming up over and over again, it's safe to say that they're probably someone you should cite in your paper. Figure out your critical lens, and focus on a few of the most prominent scholars of that lens. Integrate them into your paper, but do so sparingly. You also say that you're struggling with how to structure this paper. Gregory Semeza's Graduate Study for the 21st Century actually has a chapter devoted to how to structure a seminar paper. It's here.
  7. Writing Sample Advice??

    I wouldn't worry a lot about this. Transatlanticism has been around for a while now, so most programs won't be stymied by a transatlantic writing sample. I was told the same things when I applied years ago--that "you have to choose!" between one continent or the other--but then I hit the job market and, no joke, almost every job was looking for someone with a transatlantic focus. The reason? A lot of programs are looking to kill two birds (or more) with one stone. If they can get someone who can do both British AND American, they're thrilled. Regarding the sample itself--just be sure that your first page and introduction are VERY strong--that's what tends to get read most closely. Go in peace and work on polishing your writing sample.
  8. Correct. Your foreign language ability and experience will have little bearing on your ability to gain admission to a PhD program--unless, of course, you're a Medievalist. Programs are more interested in your writing first and foremost and then your "other variables" second (recs, CV, stats, other things you bring to the table). Foreign language ability, if it matters to them at all, is going to be way, way down on the list. And IME, for most subfields the foreign language requirements are rather easy to fulfill. Mine just required a translation test that was graded rather gently. @Old Bill is correct in pointing out that certain subfields will probably want to see you learn certain languages (Spanish, for instance, if you're studying US Ethnic; French, perhaps, if you're an Anglophone Africanist), but for most grad students it's usually something of a formality.
  9. Keep an open mind about the different classes you take and the different fields of specialization you come in contact with. The MA is a great time to really explore your interests and options. I started off in one time period/national literature and ended up applying to PhDs in a completely different specialization. In other words, you don't want to pigeon-hole yourself as the "contemporary American poetry person" or the "postcolonial Africanist person" too early. For the first year, be really open to all the classes you take and concentrate on generating good seminar papers.
  10. How to Deal Problem Students as a TA

    During my first year as a TA, I had a student who, upon learning that he would fail my class due to absences (he'd missed several weeks and all the assignments that were to be turned in during those several weeks for no apparent reason) parked himself inside my office and refused to leave. He also screamed at me, called me a bitch, blocked the door so that I couldn't leave, and engaged in other menacing behavior. I was terrified. I didn't know what to do, and no one in my program had any training for these situations. When I went to tell my department (crying and really upset), they didn't seem to care all that much and just told me to put everything in writing and write an email telling him to withdraw from the class. He withdrew with absolutely no mark on his record. He was able to retake the class to replace the "W" with another grade. I now know that what my department advised was totally, utterly, and completely wrong and devastatingly irresponsible. This student harassed me and violated several aspects of the Student Code of Conduct. He should have been written up and censured (and probably suspended if not expelled), and I wished I'd had the number of the campus police programmed into my phone so that I could have called them immediately when he refused to leave my office. So that's what I would advise all TAs to do (and what I do even now as a professor): 1) Familiarize yourself with the Student Code of Conduct to know how it governs things like student behavior on campus (and most codes of conduct are VERY strict when it comes to students behaving badly toward professors and TAs); and 2) Program the number for the university police into your cell phone. What saddens me the most, to be honest, is that I've occasionally googled this student throughout the years (he had a very distinctive name) to see that his behavior with me was far from isolated. Since "withdrawing" from my class, he's been arrested several times. In 2010 he was arrested for passing bad checks and forging signatures; since then, he's been arrested for assault (he put someone in the hospital) and for leading the cops on a high-speed chase where luckily no one was killed. He was actually from a very wealthy family, and he's not currently in prison. But knowing that his behavior with me was part of a larger pattern that continues to this day really drives home for me how serious it is when students behave this way on campus, and how egregious it is to make TAs (especially female TAs) feel like they are blowing things out of proportion when students act out.
  11. No, there's nothing special about Southern institutions that make them uniquely positioned to grant PhDs about US Southern literature. I mean, if you want to stay in the South, then you really can't do any better than Duke, Emory, Vanderbilt, UT-Austin, UNC, or UVa. But on the whole, any program that's strong in American literature more broadly (because that would be your field area--not U.S. Southern lit) will be a good bet. And as echo449 said, the strongest programs are strong regardless of region. As far as the job market goes--there are very few jobs coming available these days. Your limits aren't regional; your limits are that only 15-20 jobs come available every year to begin with.
  12. To be frank, in order to make the connection work you're going to need more than just overlapping methodology or an interest in applying a particular theory. First of all, "postcolonial methodology" is vague--in some ways it's the new historicism of its age. Second of all, The Tempest and the 20th-century American novel (I assume we're talking novels and not plays or poetry) are too far apart temporally, geographically, and generically that you would have to work very hard to justify the idea that writing about one sets you up to specialize in the other. That's why I suggested that the OP try to make specific intertextual connections between The Tempest and some more recent American work--because that would then justify turning in a writing sample about The Tempest. Instead of thinking about applying theory, maybe the OP could think about Renaissance afterlives in the US experience or something like that. At the end of the day, English departments are still sorted by literary period, and in this sense the period about which you're writing trumps your other interests. A writing sample about The Tempest is probably going to get sent to the early modernist for evaluation, not the postcolonialist. (And most departments don't have someone who purely does postcolonial--instead they'll have someone who does U.S. ethnic or some kind of Anglophone-world lit. And those people are not going to be keen on reading a Shakespeare paper.)
  13. Those two areas of study (early modern and 20th-century American) are pretty far afield from each other, and I'm also not sure how you would "plug in" a 20th-century work to your paper about a Shakespeare play. This would be the perfect thing to ask a professor or advisor about, tbh. It occurs to me that you could make a good case for wanting to study how Renaissance tropes are reconfigured by 20th-century literature in ways that incorporate postcolonial issues. I mean, Caliban figures show up all over the place in the 20th century, so there's definitely a connection to be made. Obviously, an MA program is not going to care as much about matching SOPs/writing samples. But a PhD program (especially a very selective one like Vanderbilt) probably will. For an MA program, you just need to demonstrate that you can write, research, and analyze literature in ways that are compelling; for a PhD program, you need to demonstrate that you have some kind of vision and capacity for coming up with a dissertation project. More importantly, the program needs to know your proposed area of study because they tend to admit people by literary time period. Handing in a WS about Shakespeare while you're proposing to study contemporary American lit might confuse them.
  14. If your paper is truly your best, and you're really proud of it and want to send it, then make your SOP fit that paper. In other words, write your SOP so that it forms a bridge between your writing sample and your proposed interests. Or, if necessary, propose interests that line up with your best paper while making it clear you want to explore "other directions." Because to be honest with you, graduate programs are getting additionally picky these days. And while no one expects you to stick with the topic you proposed in your SOP, programs do generally want to see matching SOPs and writing samples. It's difficult to know how to advise you on this without knowing more about your work--does your potential writing sample have ANYTHING in common with your proposed interests? Is there critical/methodological overlap? Are the interests on the same side of the Atlantic but just in a different time period? Or are they in the same time period but from different countries? Are they the same genre? (Poetry? Prose? Essay? Play?) Could they be linked by media (periodical publication? visual text?)?
  15. Both of those are massive red flags for me, TBH. The lack of financial support is especially troubling as we're into May and they still don't have an answer for you. I would strongly urge you to not accept this offer. International MAs are not something I'm familiar with, so you should probably ask someone who has done an MA from another country and then gone to the US for PhD study. I do know a few people who got into strong PhD programs in the US after having gotten MAs from non-UK/Canadian programs (Peking University comes to mind), so I don't think it's a big deal. As far as teaching or presenting--no one is going to care about these things when you're applying. My general feeling is that where you do your MA isn't going to matter much. But you'll still want to check that US programs recognize this university's degree program and are okay accepting people from this particular school.