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Hello everyone, 

I am applying for PhD programs in English Literature for Fall 2020 and I'm getting stuck on where to apply. I have a multitude of scholars that I absolutely love and have followed for some time, but there's a problem - they're all retired. Is there a way to find other scholars who have worked under other scholars? Trying to find people who worked under Jean Franco, Sandra Pouchet Paquet, and Homi Bhabha to name a few. Has anyone else had this problem in the past?

I focus mostly on Latin American and Caribbean lit, with a special focus in postcolonial and transnational if that helps at all.

If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know! 


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First, congratulations on your decision to pursue a PhD! I know that identifying programs and faculty of interest can be a daunting task, and I hope that my brief advice can be of some use to you. Of course, just as a disclaimer, I do not mean to suggest this is the only way to go about this task; it just happens to be what I was advised to do, how I proceeded, and what ultimately worked quite well for me. 

I identified scholars in whom I was interested in a bit of an inverse manner. I was advised early on to not give too much weight to the category of individual scholars I would want to work with, because individual scholars often move institutions—especially true of “bigger name” scholars—or sometimes turn out to be a complete asshole you can’t stand to work with, both of which are possibilities that cannot be adequately judged from a distance or during the application cycle. For example, several of my professors went through multiple dissertation directors and committees due to faculty turnover at their institutions, while one of my MA thesis committee members transferred PhD programs because the person they went to work with turned out to be the absolute worst.

Instead, I was advised to proceed by first identifying institutions I was interested in by evaluating their programs holistically against criteria such as fields and research interests represented by the faculty as a whole, presence of research centers or institutes relevant to the work I wanted to do, publishing history, course catalog, job placement record (specifically for my field), and so on, and only then parse and prioritize programs based on individual professors in whom I was interested. I know this is backwards from what many people might prefer or claim is the best way to select a program, but I think it’s important to remember that you matriculate into a program at an institution, not into an apprenticeship with a single scholar. I hope this helps, and if you have any additional questions, I will be happy to answer them if I can. Good luck!

Edited by adornianjazz
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