marXian

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About marXian

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    Male
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    United States
  • Interests
    Early 20th century ecclesiology, Marxism, social theory, critical theory, Weber, Troeltsch, political theology, theory and method in religious studies
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    Religious Studies

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  1. Religion Phd and Alternate Careers

    It's possible to study Kierkegaard in either a philosophy or religious studies department. The philosophy route, however, would require application to a limited number of programs since there would have to be an actual Kierkegaard scholar, or at least someone with a strong secondary interest in Kierkegaard, in the department in order to be accepted. That's not necessarily the case with religious studies, which is more interdisciplinary. If the proposed project is really strong and there are faculty with expertise in 19th century philosophy/theology more generally, they might take on a student working on Kierkegaard even if that's not their main area of expertise. This site hasn't been updated in a few years for some reason, but it's more or less (for better or worse) the definitive ranking of philosophy departments: http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/ Your son can figure out who the leading people on Kierkegaard are and more generally which departments specialize in continental philosophy (to which K belongs). Regarding jobs, religion PhDs typically don't land government jobs unless their expertise is in religion and politics (broadly) or Islam. I also study 19th/20th century European (German) philosophy and theology and I have no illusions that I'll be finding a government job if academia doesn't work out. There are a lot of resources at universities for non-academic careers. That is a growing concern and many schools have started developing that part of their career center to better serve PhD students who are leaving academia. Publishing is most people's first thought, and it's definitely an option. There are also consulting firms that help businesses solve conceptual problems related to how people think, which humanities PhDs are equipped to solve. For example, this company sent a representative to my university to give a presentation to late-stage PhD students: http://www.redassociates.com/ Not all humanities PhD students would be jumping at the chance to do something like that, but if academia ceased to be an option, I would consider it. I'm going to tread very lightly here, but I think this ought to be said. Whether or not to pursue a PhD is something only the person interested in pursuing it can decide. My father is an engineer. He didn't want me to follow in his footsteps necessarily, but it certainly took him some time to understand and accept that one of his sons was choosing to be in school 10 years beyond finishing his bachelor's degree (I completed two MAs before starting my PhD--certainly not a requirement!) Neither of my parents understand the research/writing that I do, but they do understand why I'm doing it, and that, to me, is most important. Your son ought to be talking to people who are in PhD programs (not professors) to try to find out what it's like and whether or not it's for him. Everyone on this forum already in a program would tell him that if he can imagine himself doing something else, he should go do that instead. People who are only halfway invested in PhD level graduate work do not finish their programs. You have to be all in emotionally and mentally.
  2. Definitive Ranking of Programs?

    This looks a lot more accurate than other rankings I've seen in the past. But two issues. First, tuition shouldn't be a criterion. The vast majority of those listed offer a full financial package that covers tuition (if not all--a couple I'm not sure about.) So high tuition shouldn't negatively affect a program's rank--a low or conditional financial package should though, which doesn't seem to be a factor here. The other thing is that this, in general, seems somewhat lazily researched. For example, "ATS accredited" shouldn't count as a "standout feature" of a top ranked program. That's a minimum requirement to even be considered a program worth one's time at all, let alone a top 25 program. They identify some actual components of some programs that make it standout perhaps (e.g. NU's interdisciplinary cluster initiative), but for the majority of them, the standout features are virtually meaningless, e.g. "program flexibility" or accreditation, or nothing is listed at all.
  3. Research on CV?

    This might be true for professional degree programs, but for research degrees, especially in the humanities, you need to show that you have the background via your studies to be able to carry out the research you're proposing. y00nsk or anyone else doesn't need to list every relevant course--those are on your transcript. Instead, though, the SOP can be used to tie the elements of your whole application package together so that the adcom gets a clear picture of who you are as a developing scholar and gets the clear sense that you're able to write a dissertation in the field you're interested in. E.g. "As my transcripts indicate, I've taken many courses in ______, which has provided me a strong background in ___________" etc. There are more elegant ways to do this, of course, but you get the idea.
  4. Research on CV?

    It depends on what you mean by "research experience." In the hard sciences, people typically list experience they have working in particular labs. Those labs are directed by professors who have funding from the university, government, etc, and it's often competitive to be able to work in one as an undergrad. If you worked on a specific research project with a professor and that professor had funding for that project, it wouldn't hurt to list it. For example, if someone were interested in NT studies or ANE and went on a dig that was led by a professor who had funding, that might be worth listing. If you did a significant amount of archival research for a funded project directed by a professor, and you anticipate your proposed project for PhD apps will require significant archival research, then that would be a good thing to list. If you did that kind of research on your own, I wouldn't list that on a CV, but I would definitely mention it in your SOP, e.g. you had to write a thesis for a master's degree and did a lot of archival research for that. Don't list papers on a CV unless they've been published or presented at a conference--and even then, I would vett that section a bit, making sure any publications listed are in reputable journals, or in books/encyclopedias published by reputable presses and that any conferences were those you had to submit a proposal to and be accepted. I also wouldn't summarize anything like publications or conference papers in the CV. As tough as it may be, adcoms don't really care about the content of those papers--only that you published or presented something. I also wouldn't spend too much time talking in great detail about past papers you've written in the SOP, unless it was a thesis for an MA/ThM/etc. If you're trying to demonstrate your competency in a particular area, it's enough to say that you've taken many courses in the field, name particular professors if you're 100% certain they're well-known, and then let your writing sample do the talking.
  5. How much breadth in History of Christianity?

    I would also add that it's completely normal to be interested in a lot of different things as an undergrad. If you're academically inclined, everything is new and exciting as an undergrad because you're discovering a lot for the first time all at once, and it's easy to want to be ambitious (I also remember desiring the kind of breadth you're talking about.) As you progress through grad school, you'll likely find yourself drawn toward a specific area within one of the four things you list. You'll also find that the deeper you dive into any one topic, the more aware you become of your lack of knowledge in that area and you'll want to do two things: 1) Keep exploring that area to fill in those knowledge gaps as much as possible and 2) narrow your interests to something that's relatively manageable to gain significant expertise in within a 5-6 year PhD program. It's not that you'll completely lose interest in the other things, but you'll realize that those will have to go on the back burner for awhile and maybe become projects later in your career. Earning a PhD is as much about learning how to dive deeply into a subject area and make yourself an authority on a topic as it is about actually becoming that authority at the end of the program. Once you've done your dissertation and (with an immense amount of luck) secured a job, you can begin branching out into other areas of interest. As dmeuller mentions above, becoming that conversant with multiple areas of interest can take a really long time--and it should.
  6. Social Life in Divinity School?

    As you allude to in your post, the big difference is that as an undergrad, the age range of the vast majority of the people you're around is limited to 18-22 with very few exceptions. In div school/seminary and really grad school in general, that changes. You're going to meet some people who are your age and some who are 5, 10, 15+ years older than you. But that doesn't mean that you won't be able to establish friendships with those people. If you share common academic interests, you'll have something to talk about. In general, many people are amenable to drinking socially. I wouldn't worry about whether you'll find people in exactly your situation. Some of my favorite people from my first two MA programs were a bit older than me. I hung out a few times with a dude in his 60s when I was in seminary. You just meet people through coursework, study groups, group projects, etc. But regardless of age, most people are also in a different mindset in grad school. The work is more challenging, some students have aspirations of PhD work, etc. so the interest in drinking is, in my experience, rarely about "partying" in the undergrad sense (though maybe sometimes....) Doesn't mean you can't find those people at a large div school, but that isn't the culture of any grad program generally.
  7. Writing Sample

    I used a paper from a PhD seminar I took in seminary for the expressed purpose of generating a writing sample for apps (which the prof knew.) That prof gave me some suggestions for edits, things to expand, better defend, etc. The paper was 16 pages not including the works cited page (I'd include one.) I don't think they'll care if it's a shorter paper--they just want to see polished writing and significant promise for future work. Regarding your last dilemma, I'd say definitely submit your best paper as long as it's in the general realm of your field. That is, you're interested in historical theology, so if you think your best paper is an exegetical paper on the Hebrew text of Isaiah, that's probably not a good paper to submit. I'd submit what you think is your best paper in historical theology.
  8. Visiting Prospective Program's Campus

    I'll third the previous answers: it's not necessary. Sending out emails to prospective advisors is plenty, but even that doesn't really provide any significant advantage I don't think. I did meet one prospective advisor in person, but the university was very local to where I was living during my app season. I ended up being accepted there, but I was also accepted and ultimately ended up attending a program where I'd had no contact at all with my POI. Whatever money you'd end up spending on travel would be much better spent revising/editing your SOP and writing sample with a professional. But even that probably isn't necessary.
  9. I won't speak for Body Politics, but from my perspective contemporary uses of "science of religion" often refer to an approach to the subject matter that understands it as necessarily wholly reducible to natural scientific explanation--and that all other explanations are either functions of a natural scientific one or are simply epiphenomenal (i.e. not real.) It's a silly position, frankly, because clearly there are good scholarly reasons to want to understand what a religious adherent believes without those reasons committing one to the confessional claims of the adherent--because those reasons extend beyond the claims of the adherent. The classic example, in my view, is Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Some contemporary examples: The Invention of Religion in Japan, Jason Josephson-Storm; Dreams That Matter, Amira Mittermaier.
  10. 100% with you. Yes, but even the German universities tend to mean natural science these days when used in conjunction with the study of religion.
  11. Preparing to start program

    To combine both sacklunch's and theophany's advice a little bit: How one responds to the first year of a PhD program is absolutely dependent upon both the program and your own constitution as an academic. sacklunch rightly points out that some people are totally fine to keep plugging along at the same pace and, importantly, that things change once you're in a PhD program. So, to echo theophany a bit, one shouldn't feel bad for not being the kind of person who can keep up that same pace--primarily because it really doesn't matter. I began my first year thinking I had to attend as many on campus talks/lectures as I could, join as many reading groups as I could, read as much secondary material, read everything in German, etc., etc. But I was also newly married--just 4 week--before moving 2,000 miles across the country to a brand new city, no family around, just me and my wife, to begin my program. So doing all of those things was not sustainable, and I realized that very quickly. But I also worried a lot about possibly sacrificing things that were going to be helpful to me (a worthy sacrifice, no doubt, but one not everyone in academia understands unfortunately.) Now at the end of my fifth year, I can say with great confidence that those things didn't matter in the long run. They didn't necessarily help me get the grades I got in my seminars (also mostly meaningless IMO) and have contributed only in the most indirect way to my dissertation. The papers I've given at AAR and other national conferences and opportunities I've had to publish are what have opened professional doors for me, and those opened without sustaining the insane schedule I made for myself in my first quarter. That's not to say the same schedule would be insane for everyone--some people would probably thrive with it. But what a feeling of freedom I had the day that I looked around at the work habits of everyone else and said "Nope, that's not how I do it, and I'm not going to feel bad about it." What Fear N' Trembling has suggested is great if you're in a M* program because you really are hustling to get noticed, get letters, etc. You can definitely relax a bit once you're in a PhD program because the important things are not the same as they were as a M* student.
  12. As @theophany rightly says, so much depends on the institution, department, and your advisor, particularly in the US. I would also say that I'm not sure whether American or UK schools are more or less accepting--they're accepting in different ways. The UK and European RS programs are much more closely affiliated with the IAHR (International Association of the History of Religions) which is a "purely scientific" organization that insists on an extremely stark distinction between "the study of religion" and "theology." The AAR is not part of the IAHR--rather NAASR (North American Association for the Study of Religion) is the American branch of the IAHR. NAASR is extremely small compared to the AAR and seen by many in the AAR as a very small subset of loud voices who insist on a very stark distinction between "the science of religion" and "confessional" approaches. The latter often includes not just theology but philosophy of religion and sometimes even cultural studies and continental philosophy more generally. In general, you don't see these kinds of clashes between "theology" and "religious studies" in the UK and Europe because those are (almost) always two distinct departments within universities with no crossover. "Religious studies" is always social/natural scientific whereas theology includes philosophy of religion, cultural studies, etc. That's not the case in the US. There are departments that lean more toward the social/natural scientific and there are those which are friendly to theology, though to clarify theophany's list--Duke Div is obviously friendly to theology, but Duke University's religious studies department is not. Other schools with RS departments friendly to theology/philosophy of religion: UCSB, Northwestern, Syracuse, Stanford. Of course, just how "confessional" one can be will vary as theophany says. Chances are that in any RS department within a "secular" university in the US, a purely constructive, confessional project is likely not going to be possible.
  13. From my perspective, and knowing the little bit I do about the divide between theology and religious studies which is actually much starker I think in the UK and Europe more generally than in the US, "theology" likely means an approach which presumes from the outset certain confessional "givens" such as the existence of God tout court--givens that would not at all be assumed in an historical or social scientific approach. Typically, one is making a constructive argument either toward the improved articulation of a theological concept/argument or the improved understanding of an historical figure and his/her articulation of a theological concept/argument (though I'd probably call the latter historical-theological--there's certainly more grey area than these distinctions imply.) Textual-interpretive I take to probably mean philological. I.e., what is Text X actually saying or how was it most likely received in time period Y.
  14. MDiv after MTS

    @Lysdexia A few thoughts: 1) It really depends on what your subfield is since RS covers an incredibly broad range of fields. For people doing language heavy work (e.g. NT/HB, ANE, or ancient Mediterranean stuff) two summers of language coursework probably won't cut it. Many people in top programs in those fields have years and years of language work, which usually requires two masters degrees. 2) You can't judge the present by what current professors have, how easy it was for them to get into programs and get jobs, etc. It's just astronomically more competitive now than it was when many professors were applying to grad school and going on the job market. 3) For some subfields in RS, interdisciplinarity is really exciting for PhD admission. E.g. if you're looking to do philosophy of religion/ethics/theology in an RS program, being able to draw on "cultural studies" broadly speaking (whose theoretical texts are often conversant with literature, history, anthro, philosophy, etc.) is highly attractive. That's becoming a much more common source of theoretical material in RS, so it's not necessary to have an MA in comp lit, for example, but it would certainly demonstrate you know what you're talking about if you're proposing a project that includes something about literature and/or literary theory. 4) A caveat to the above point: Interdisciplinary training is intriguing to RS adcoms because they'd like to think that there's something cutting edge about those students that will add interesting dimensions to their department. Sometimes that's definitely the case, but the job market does not reflect this interdisciplinarity. People who write tight, focused dissertations that make a very strong argument about a very particular thing get hired in response to job postings that are far more often than not written looking for a very particular kind of expertise. Some are so narrow as to be utterly ridiculous. Interdisciplinarity is a good thing, I think, to have in one's back pocket, once a job of some kind is secured because you have more knowledge to draw on for creating courses and making them interesting to undergrads. But for getting a job in the first place, it can be a hindrance. 5) I have colleagues in my cohort who came in without any masters degree at all. They did just fine in the program and we'll all likely be finishing our dissertations around the same time next spring. Some people are just smarter than others and require less training. Some people know what their interests are from nearly the beginning of their BA and can develop those to maturity without the aid of an MA. I don't have any problem admitting that, for me, I felt I needed two MAs to really get a handle on my interests and fill knowledge gaps that I didn't fill when I was an undergrad. I was in a pop punk band trying to get famous for the majority of my undergrad with the plan of being a high school English teacher if "rock star" didn't work out. I didn't give a shit about school until my senior year when a couple English professors I had each took time to show me that there was something special about my writing ability. Then I started to care school. But I didn't know anything about grad school, PhD programs, etc. I didn't know I wanted to do a PhD until halfway through my first MA. And even then, I realized it probably wasn't going to be in English, my original discipline. Because I have about four times more graduate coursework than my cohort colleagues, I have much more material to draw on for generating courses. And I suppose in some ways my previous MAs have helped to indirectly shape the direction of my dissertation and the way I think about my source material. But at the end of the day, they are just as capable as I am to actually complete the dissertation and finish the program, because our dissertations are so narrowly focused that all of that extra course knowledge could never find its way in directly to my dissertation. Everything else my extra grad work adds are "intangibles" (my particular writing style, my creativity in conference proposals or course design, etc.) All of that to say: two MAs is by no means necessary, particularly if one's interests are theology, philosophy of religion, ethics, American religious history, etc.--subfields that don't require substantial language training.
  15. Sharing Trends/Topics in Religious Studies

    Yes, 4 for sure is really hot right now. To add to 3 and combine a bit with 4, I'd say that the category of "whiteness" is something that is just beginning to be theorized in religious studies particularly in relation to home mission, colonialism, empire, etc. More broadly in RS, affect is still relatively prominent and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future I think (e.g. Donovan Schaeffer's Religious Affects) The role of "genealogy" in religious studies theory & method is also, I think, coming into question. There was a fantastic panel at the AAR last year on genealogy that was intended to ask what is in need of a genealogy but in many ways, particularly during the Q&A the whole project of genealogy in RS was called into question. Though there is a very, very small minority of people in my subfield (phil of religion/theology in the context of "secular" religious studies), those who are have been interested in the kinds of spaces that are generated by the genealogical dismantling of the category "religion." For example, you have "critical religion" folks (Craig Martin, Russell McCutcheon, etc.) who contend that the natural sciences "fill the void" so to speak once the concept "religion" is shown to be not a real "thing" out in the world. This conclusion, of course, raises interesting problems wrt genealogy, since Nietzsche or Foucault would have never accepted such a conclusion. So people in my subfield are interested in showing how engagement with theology or any metaphysical claims in general for that matter (often referred to as "crypto-theology") doesn't entail a commitment to the discipline's problematic past (e.g. Eliade and "phenomenology of religion"). Recent examples: Kevin Schillbrack's Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto and Thomas A. Lewis' Why Philosophy Matters for the Study of Religion--And Vice Versa. There have also been some really great editorials in this vein over the last two years in the journal Critical Research on Religion, the editors of which are advocates for a position called "critical theory of religion" which is a critique of "critical religion."