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Bumblebea

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Bumblebea last won the day on June 11

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About Bumblebea

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  1. I honestly don't think you have anything to address here. Lots of PhD students don't begin until their thirties. You don't have to justify having had a life and a job and outside interests. I did not get accepted to a PhD program until I was 30, having spent time outside academia in TFA and working other jobs. As far as I know, this did not hurt or help me as an applicant. (I had hoped it would make me "more interesting" to adcoms--apparently it didn't even do that.) I also don't think your undergrad GPA is of any concern. Lots of people don't even get near a 3.6. But if your gaps are a matter of concern, you might have your recommenders address it and sell it as a strength.
  2. Let me preface this by saying that I was always very skeptical and eye-rolling of "life coaching" or "dating coaching" or "career coaching" and stuff like that. It always seemed really woo to me, and like a complete waste of money. However, when I was going into the final funded year of my PhD, and facing down the job market in the fall, I decided to just bite the bullet and hire a dissertation coach. I was having problems with my advisor and just really needed to involve a third party to get some perspective. So I hired one for about $100 a month, which wasn't cheap, but I do think it was the best money I spent in grad school. You have to be aware that a diss coach isn't a mini-advisor--they aren't going to read your dissertation or be able to offer substantive advice. But they can encourage you and gently hold you accountable. Knowing I was going to talk/skype with someone once a week about my progress helped me stay motivated. It was also nice to be able to talk to someone about some of the difficulties I was having with my advisor and some of my anxieties about the job market. Or, say I got a snarky reader's report back from a journal. Again, it was nice to be able to talk to someone about it without unloading it on my advisor or a family member (who wouldn't really be able to sympathize much, not having been in academia). I thought of it more like academic therapy than "dissertation coaching," and yeah, for me it was what I really needed in that moment. Years later (out of grad school) I tried one of those online writing clubs where everyone logs on once or twice a day and discusses their progress and sets goals for the next day. I found this less helpful and left after a month. It was just too impersonal--no one really chatted or got to know each other, and the advice the group coordinator gave was canned (probably recycled from previous sessions), so it just didn't work for me.
  3. Good point, @renea--I suppose it depends on how someone depends "burnt out," and we don't really have all the information here. Grad school is indeed stressful, and the first semester can be really overwhelming and exhausting. You can also spend a lot of your first semester (or first year ... or first two years ... or the entirety of grad school) suffering from imposter symdrome where you feel like you just shouldn't be there, and that is completely normal. However, I took "burnt out" to mean something a bit different--perhaps bored, uninterested, and just plain uninspired by the material. And if that's the case--and if OP is truly miserable and finds it a chore to even do the reading--then I would advise them to think about doing something else for a while. But yes, there is indeed value in finishing the first year, and, for that matter, the MA altogether. It shows you're a finisher, even if you don't end up going into academia. I'm also probably projecting my own experiences. I found my first semester of grad school challenging and exhausting, but I was still passionate about my classes and found it hugely inspiring to be around a bunch of smart people after slogging through the non-academic workforce for a few years. (The first grad school paper I wrote felt amazing to me.) But other people sometimes have the opposite experience--they hate coursework and find it gets better when they're dissertating, doing the research and teaching they really want to do. So it's definitely a YMMV situation.
  4. Since it seems that you just started, I have to say that it is a little ... odd ... that you are feeling burnt out already. I mean, this is really the very beginning. If you are feeling it's really not for you, then I think you should withdraw from graduate school altogether and find something else that you are truly passionate about. Yes, the academic life is grueling ... but the good news is that no one has to subject themselves to it if they don't want to! I'm not being flip--I'm just telling you to explore whatever other options are out there that might be more meaningful for you. As for the question of whether you can reapply for Fall 2019 ... that's something I really can't answer. I do think that it would look "flaky" to professors for a student to drop out of their program but ask for a letter of recommendation for the next year. And frankly, they will have other students to write letters of recommendation for--shiny BAs and MAs who didn't drop out and who therefore will be owed a stronger letter. Having said that, people do occasionally drop out of graduate school because they are not ready, and then return again several years down the road. They usually don't drop out and then reapply immediately, though. They take some time off and work and then decide what they want to do. And that's usually how they justify their return to academia--"I wasn't ready at 22, but at 28, and having achieved x, y, and z things in the professional world, I am now more determined than ever to make academia my career."
  5. I feel like the era of you-must-have-an-MA-to-apply-to-PhD is almost fully over. When I applied to grad school (more than 10 years ago now), there were still a few prominent programs that required people to have an MA before going for the PhD, but even then those programs were rare. I was getting an MA, and one program I applied to accepted me on the condition that I do the MA all over again at their school before advancing to the PhD--but without funding for that extra MA. (Obviously I turned them down.) So yeah, even back then there was a sense among certain programs that you should be a fresh untainted BA.
  6. Bumblebea

    ISO Statements of Purpose

    Here's what I got from a little googling, this English SOP from Writing Center at UConn: https://writingcenter.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/593/2014/06/personal_statement_english_phd_statement_of_purpose.pdf
  7. FWIW, Yale has a reputation for having the most rigorous foreign language requirement. I don't think most programs require what they do, though I'm unfamiliar with Michigan. I would not be worried and would advise you to apply anyway.
  8. Bumblebea

    How to Help Undergrad on Brink of Being Fired

    Why do you want to help him save his job? It sounds like he's not a great fit. It also sounds like it's not really your decision to fire or retain him.
  9. Bumblebea

    Quick Conference Question

    Lol, not a problem at all, and you definitely don't need to tell anyone. Grad students are strapped for cash (and even when you get departmental funding it's usually not a whole lot), so it's perfectly acceptable to not stay the whole time. Even now as faculty I don't stay the entire time. My department allocates only a certain amount of money, and oftentimes it's enough to do three nights at a hotel but definitely not four. (Bigger conferences tend to run four or five days.) I mean, technically you should try to attend the conference as much as you can (networking opportunities and all) but ... if this conference is in a cool area, pick out a few relevant panels and attend those, and then definitely do some sightseeing. (Or, if you're jetlagged, take some time to rest. No one will notice you aren't there, seriously.)
  10. Yes, Romanticists definitely interact with a lot of social and political theory--you should have no problem finding an angle there! And the French Revolution is pretty well-trodden ground, so if you can push past it and find something new, you'll be golden. It occurs to me that you might look at this person's work: https://english.osu.edu/people/risinger.13 I saw him speak at a conference. If I'm recalling correctly, he writes about how we generally don't associate Romantic poets with stoicism--usually we think about the spontaneous overflow of feelings, feelings, feelings--but he finds evidence that they were more concerned with stoicism than we've given them credit for. So, as you can see, there are definitely people out there who are not all about some social justice/identity issue but who stick more with intellectual history, philosophy, and emotion. You're in good company.
  11. Yes, I think people often do take one of two approaches when narrowing down their interests--they decide they want to research literature by a particular region or identity (Black Atlantic, Caribbean, queer Southern gothic, post-WWII disability) and look for literature that they can use to explore that specific culture or identity; or they focus on a particular genre, form, aesthetic trend or literary technique and grow their interests from there. Both approaches are completely valid. The former, though, will be more readily identifiable to adcoms; the second has the potential to be extremely rich and fruitful and exciting (IMO), but you need to work to "situate" this approach in your time period, if that makes any sense. Like (and here's an example I'm just pulling out of my ass so probably not a good one), let's say you're interested in modernist poetry because you love the ways in which authors experimented with form and language. Well, maybe you'll talk a lot about the form but also think about formal experimentation as it might have related to, say, other types of experimentation. Maybe you discover that a certain poet was really interested in social and scientific experimentation (the evidence is in his poetry or other things he wrote), and so you're willing to hypothesize that thinking about poetic forms in connection to social engineering might have been something writers were doing at the time. You're still privileging your interest in form/aesthetics but using it to branch off into other contextual issues. Maybe you're dipping into posthumanism or critical race theory while you do so. You're not pigeonholing yourself as a critical race scholar, but you're using a particular approach to deepen what we know about poetry of the early 20th century. So I think that's what some of us are trying to say here. In this day and age it's going to be difficult to "sell" yourself--on either the admissions trail or the job market--as someone who focuses only on aesthetic/formalist issues. But you can certainly privilege your interest in such issues while relating them to other issues. Like, upthread you talked about an interest in the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution. Do you see Enlightenment-era literary forms as providing a particular window into the industrial revolution? Do the literary forms of the era (and some of the aesthetic critics--there are so many of them) give us insight into how people wrestled with massive ideological questions (human rights, women's rights, revolutions, modern capitalism)? So, I would say, don't take the approach that you have to have some kind of cultural studies "angle"--the angle should emerge naturally based on questions that pique you and the surrounding historical contexts. And to answer your other question-- Correct. I don't think you would necessarily have to telegraph that you are combining a formalist approach with Western Marxist theory. Instead, maybe if you're looking at the Enlightenment, you mention X about form and aesthetics and then discuss how you'd bring it to bear on Y aspects of early modern capitalism and industrialization. Or something like that, you get the idea.
  12. Yeah, this. I wish I'd thought to ask these questions before I applied to PhD programs. OP, you're ahead of where I was, let me tell you. (And I'm also flipping between revising an article and writing these posts, oh crap, I mean procrastinating 😏)
  13. (Disclaimer: My own scholarly interests lie in the distant past, so my need to historicize the crap out of things is definitely coloring my responses to you here. People working in different eras might have much different advice.) I think what everyone is recommending is that you need to retreat from the idea of taking one specific approach and instead think about combining different approaches. That is, if you like to come at literature from an aesthetic/formalist approach, that's great, but the literature you study is still going to require close attention not only to form but also to the historical/political issues that inform the backdrop of your chosen literary era. Combining approaches isn't going to be like "add a dash of gender criticism and a sprinkling of Marxist theory"--no, these days we think about approaches emerging organically from what the text is telling us about authors and readers of the time. Like, for instance, let's say you're writing about a picaresque novel that involves cross-dressing. You're probably not going to be able to write an article ONLY about the formal properties of the picaresque mode, though you might start there. You instead would do a detailed discussion of the picaresque combined with gender issues, and you'd think about how gender issues might influence the author's use of the mode, or how the mode might push the author to have specific engagements with the theme of cross dressing. And you're going to have to do research into cross-dressing and gender issues of the 18th century (or whatever century you're studying), no way around it. Then let's say the next picaresque novel you study takes place against the backdrop of the Atlantic slave trade. Same issue will apply--you'll have to do research into the Atlantic slave trade and think about the relevant theories as they might help you discuss the novel. And if gender issues also arise there (since race and gender and colonization don't exactly respect boundaries), then you'll also want to address that. Basically, you have to think about what the literature is telling you and work from there. Like, IME the time has passed when people self-identify as "Marxist" or "feminist" alone and go through novels and poems and stories and apply only one theory. Their work might deal with the same issues time and time again, but that's probably because the approach is useful to the literature they study. Scholars tend to pick approaches that are most helpful to them rather than starting out with "feminism! feminism! I must do feminism!" and then applying feminist theory to everything they read. (In fact, excessive focus on one cultural approach is probably bad because we now recognize the importance of intersectionality. If someone is focusing only on gender, they're going to get called out for ignoring the experiences of non-white people, and if they're focusing on social class issues as they relate to men, they're going to get called out for ignoring women, etc. etc.) I mean, Gilbert and Gubar might have written a landmark text about women and literature ... but their work has (maybe unfairly) served as something of a punching bag ever since and an example of a narrow-minded approach. So I'm being really long-winded here, but my main tl;dr takeaways are: Any program worth its salt is going to have a whole bunch of people on faculty who do all kinds of approaches. You're not going to find a (good) program that is invested in one thing and hostile to all others (and if you do, run). It's true that some programs seem to produce more scholars who work on a variety of aesthetic approaches (Berkeley comes to mind--a lot of their people do novel studies and poetics) ... but people are also always going to market themselves as having a cultural angle, since that's what the job market wants these days, and that's what's going to publish. Look closely at grad student interests and review recent dissertations. Think about what your chosen literature is telling you. It might have formal/aesthetic aspects that you find really cool, but it's also going to be engaging with other cultural issues in some way. Think about how the form might influence the treatment of issues and vice versa. This might be a way to integrate approaches and therefore seem more attractive and identifiable to adcoms. Check out this guy's work: http://mcgarrett.faculty.wesleyan.edu/ I'm not an Americanist, but I love his work and it seems to me that it's very formalist but also attentive to social and political history.
  14. First of all, I don't think you're going to find an entire program *without* something pretty central to the discipline, like cultural studies or critical race theory. Second of all, I don't think what you're asking is that unusual. There are a lot of people out there who focus on issues of form and genre. In fact, I think that most programs are recognizing that cultural approaches by themselves (Marxism, gender, queerness, race) are pretty tired, and that English departments shouldn't be history/social science lite--we need to focus on literature as a distinct expression. But the thing is, you can't just begin and end with formalist readings of texts. At some point you have to address history. For example, let's say you want to focus on the rise of the novel, and you want to look at the types of aesthetic philosophies that may have informed the proliferation of the genre. At some point, you are going to have to think about why novels mattered to people, and why your intervention matters, and this will undoubtedly have a historical dimension. You'll also have to address the content of those novels, which will probably be political in some way. So all of this is to say that you're in good company. You won't be made to apply theory like a lens and go through a text doing a feminist reading. But you won't be able to escape history, either.
  15. There's another possibility, though: people could be unsympathetic to your approaches because your approaches might not be considered "good" by the discipline at large. Or they might be old news. Or, field wise, they might have evolved into something else. That's not to say that professors know best, or that their approach is right while yours is always wrong. But if you're consistently coming across articles and book chapters that seem disdainful toward your particular underpinnings and inclinations (or ignorant of them altogether), then it might be worthwhile to think about why. And if only a small number of professors in a small number of graduate programs seem to gel with your interests, then you should proceed with caution, as it might be more difficult to get a job when you're finished. Like, take Lacanian criticism, for example, and this is just an example. There are a few people at a few programs who do this, and and if you're into it you might be tempted to throw all your eggs in a very small number of baskets. But a lot of scholars consider Lacanian criticism to be "intellectually bankrupt" (a direct quote I heard just recently). So if you're coming out of a program steeped in the stuff, you might find yourself with worse employment prospects than usual. I think another way to possibly narrow down programs is to look at what the grad students in your proposed area of study are dissertating or publishing about. Because graduate students aren't necessarily going to be carbon-copies of their advisors, and the best ones are going to be engaging with relevant issues while branching out into new realms. When I was figuring out my dissertation prospectus, I spent time studying the projects and abstracts of recent graduate students in my area (but from other schools) who'd won national recognition for their scholarship (ACLS dissertation fellowships, article prizes, etc.).
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