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Programs for Early Modern France?

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Hey, I'm putting together a list of professors whose work I find particularly interesting, but I wanted to check here to see what people might suggest in terms of programs to look at. I'm hoping to study Early Modern France, and will almost certainly be looking to complete an MA program before applying to PhD programs. Honestly I'd love to study France and the Mediterranean. I'm getting kind of a late start on all this so I'm honestly not positive about anything more specific than that right now, but I'm trying to read as much as possible to become more familiar with the current scholarship before the summer. Dr. Junko Takeda at Syracuse seems like the best fit for my interests right now, but none of the grad students on their website have her as an advisor so I'm not sure that's a possibility. 

I'm also concerned a bit. My school, a small public liberal arts college, only has two European historians, one for Revolutionary/Imperial era France and one for 20th century Germany. There are literally no courses taught for European history before the French Revolution. I'm on path to have no more than three European history courses under my belt by the time I graduate, and nothing related to the Early Modern world in any context. Is this going to be a major problem for me?

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33 minutes ago, DistantMirror said:

Hey, I'm putting together a list of professors whose work I find particularly interesting, but I wanted to check here to see what people might suggest in terms of programs to look at. I'm hoping to study Early Modern France, and will almost certainly be looking to complete an MA program before applying to PhD programs. Honestly I'd love to study France and the Mediterranean. I'm getting kind of a late start on all this so I'm honestly not positive about anything more specific than that right now, but I'm trying to read as much as possible to become more familiar with the current scholarship before the summer. Dr. Junko Takeda at Syracuse seems like the best fit for my interests right now, but none of the grad students on their website have her as an advisor so I'm not sure that's a possibility. 

I'm also concerned a bit. My school, a small public liberal arts college, only has two European historians, one for Revolutionary/Imperial era France and one for 20th century Germany. There are literally no courses taught for European history before the French Revolution. I'm on path to have no more than three European history courses under my belt by the time I graduate, and nothing related to the Early Modern world in any context. Is this going to be a major problem for me?

Do you speak/read French? If not, that's going to be a major obstacle. If you can produce a writing sample demonstrating good working knowledge of French, your background in European history will be a bit less of a concern. I can't remember how many Euro courses I had in college. I had zero history of science courses, and, while that did prove a bit of an impediment to my applications, it wasn't a big issue in the long run.

I think NYU has a good French history program. J.B. Shank (Minnesota) is very good, but he's more a historian of science. If you came here, you'd work with Suzanne Desan, but I'm not sure how much longer she'll be active. She was going to retire shortly, but then took on a new graduate student...

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Oh right, I meant to mention that I’m working on a French minor. I only have a year of French so far, but I’m doing pretty well and I anticipate being fairly proficient by next fall. I’m currently trying to decide if I can afford to pay to travel for an intensive course over the summer in order to really advance. 

I was wondering about Minnesota. The German history professor at my school got his PhD from there, and he’s somebody who I would love to be one of my letter writers.

Edited by DistantMirror

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it does sound like a MA before jumping into PhD will be the best route (or even just a year in France teaching English on Fulbright).  I didn't have more than 3 courses in European history either when I applied to PhDs-- everyone knows that different departments have different requirements for the major.  As long as you have French and can develop good questions to explore (which can be done through reading up the latest in historiography), you're on your way.

Also ,why a PhD in early modern France?  (trust me, this is a question you will encounter a zillion times until you pass your PhD exams)

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6 hours ago, DistantMirror said:

Oh right, I meant to mention that I’m working on a French minor. I only have a year of French so far, but I’m doing pretty well and I anticipate being fairly proficient by next fall.

I'm going to be a bit more brutal than the others: it's not going to be enough. Language ability is the foundation upon which a historian is built.

Any program worth attending is going to be flooded with fully-fluent applicants who have experience living and working in francophone countries, and probably a secondary ability in at least German, Spanish, Italian, or a creole. This is a handicap you will almost certainly not overcome without a substantial block of dedicated effort. With only a year - heck with three years - of French, any program that accepts you is doing so primarily to exploit you for cheap labor.

If you still want to do this, I would, at minimum, take a year off in addition to looking for a 2 year MA, either for coursework or, more preferably, a Fulbright or other experience in a francophone country.
 

5 hours ago, TMP said:

Also ,why a PhD in early modern France?

And what about early modern France? 

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I'll echo the sentiments about doing a two year MA to nail down your languages. The type of language training required is a bit more specific than what you're typically exposed to in undergraduate language courses (at least in my experience). You'll need to show that you can read and engage with both the academic literature in those languages and the primary sources. Early modern French, like English, had different forms of spelling compared to the modern language and a part of your training should be nailing down those translations. This isn't to discourage, just to put a finer point on what is meant by 'language training'. Also note that when answering your 'why early modern France' question,  understand that programs are really asking 'why specifically the early modern period and why specifically France?' Saying that you've always been interested in France, while it may be true, isn't going to cut it.

I can sympathize with you if this comes across as daunting, but take it from someone currently going the MA route to their strengthen languages and with plans to work on early modern France, it's only going to make your application more appealing. 

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I work with modern French (my focus is on the Maghreb), so I can't speak to early modern French. However, two years of French at the undergraduate level and 9 months in France, as well as a paper drawing heavily from archival work in France and French secondary sources, did the trick. I got into my (decent) PhD program without an MA. Mind you, I also put a lottttt of time into French on my own. It was my hobby. French reading, youtube videos, speaking with natives on Italki, etc., are how I spent a lot of my time after work. I should also say that I'm a heritage speaker in Spanish, and that did help in understanding French at the structural level. 

Good luck! It's fortunately a language that has a lot of learning resources out there. 

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So, I'm now a History and French double major, and should be spending two months in France next summer followed by my fall semester in Angers focusing on French coursework. I'm virtually certain I'm going to be doing a two year MA following my undergrad. The advice here played a big role in making those choices, so thank you everybody.

I've also realized after finally taking some real courses that I'm far more interested in modern Europe than anything else, especially the French right, political Catholicism, and mass politics during the Third Republic through the Vichy period. So, that kind of negates the original question. Still eager to hear if anybody has any specific suggestions for programs I should be keeping in mind!

Edited by DistantMirror

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In terms of a MA, school name won’t be as important as having a good advisor and just enough resources to complete your project. Obviously, it would be a boon to get into the big name places like Yale or Harvard, but try looking into places that give you the best financial opportunities to succeed, whether that means low tuition, tuition waver, or scholarships.

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On 11/1/2019 at 12:20 PM, Procopius said:

In terms of a MA, school name won’t be as important as having a good advisor and just enough resources to complete your project. Obviously, it would be a boon to get into the big name places like Yale or Harvard, but try looking into places that give you the best financial opportunities to succeed, whether that means low tuition, tuition waver, or scholarships.

In terms of what I'm interested in, the two professors who most closely match are at Notre Dame and Cardiff, neither of which would be a good idea for a PhD. Notre Dame doesn't offer funding for MAs and funding would be impossible as a foreign student in the UK. 

Additionally, I believe there were only six (6) TT jobs for Modern Europeanists in 2019, but one of those was at Harvard so let's call it five. I can't imagine entering the job market to these numbers, but I also can't resign myself to not doing this. 

Edited by DistantMirror

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