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Hi all -  just finished my GRE/discovered this forum/signed-up to post in this thread today! It's really nice to find a community of people going through the same process - it'll be a fun several months to go through together.

I'm a rising 4th year undergrad (which is the minority here, it would seem) majoring English and Math planning to apply to comp lit PhD programs this cycle, maybe with a few English programs thrown in depending on the department's emphasis. Hopefully I can arrange things so as to not take that GRE subject test that looks like a nightmare. My interests are literary theory, philosophy (continental & analytic) and literature, and Lacanian psychoanalysis. On the literary side I usually work with modernists - Joyce, Nabokov, Kafka, Borges, etc. I'm also learning about Media theory, especially in relation to Trauma theory for a senior thesis on the depiction of trauma in anime and contemporary Japanese literature.

What are you guys' (especially the undergrads) choices for the WS? My thesis is probably not going to be ready in time and I'm debating between a more orthodox reading of Ulysses (an older, more polished paper) and a more theoretical psychoanalytic treatment of postcritique and the praxis of literary criticism (which I just wrote for a graduate seminar). The fact that WS length requirement ranges from 10 to 25 depending on the school doesn't help, either...

Looking forward to being active on this forum for the upcoming application season and beyond!

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12 hours ago, EMeng31415 said:

 

What are you guys' (especially the undergrads) choices for the WS? My thesis is probably not going to be ready in time and I'm debating between a more orthodox reading of Ulysses (an older, more polished paper) and a more theoretical psychoanalytic treatment of postcritique and the praxis of literary criticism (which I just wrote for a graduate seminar). The fact that WS length requirement ranges from 10 to 25 depending on the school doesn't help, either...

Looking forward to being active on this forum for the upcoming application season and beyond!

I applied as I was beginning my senior year of undergrad. I combed through my papers from classes, and expanded the one I was most excited about from 9 pages to 16. The professor for whom I had written the original offered to look over the new one thoroughly, so I knew the finished product was a very successful paper. Good luck!

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, EMeng31415 said:

Hi all -  just finished my GRE/discovered this forum/signed-up to post in this thread today! It's really nice to find a community of people going through the same process - it'll be a fun several months to go through together.

...

What are you guys' (especially the undergrads) choices for the WS? My thesis is probably not going to be ready in time and I'm debating between a more orthodox reading of Ulysses (an older, more polished paper) and a more theoretical psychoanalytic treatment of postcritique and the praxis of literary criticism (which I just wrote for a graduate seminar). The fact that WS length requirement ranges from 10 to 25 depending on the school doesn't help, either...

I just took the GRE today! I've been scouring the internet trying to determine if I need to consider retaking it, and after reading others' comments on here and elsewhere, I think I'm going to stick with the unofficial score I saw today. It seems like I made an average score, so while it doesn't make me competitive by any means, at least it's one less thing for me to worry about, right? I don't know. It's nice that more universities are dropping the requirement; I just worry about the universities that are still using it, as most of the universities I'm looking at still do, it seems like. I might change my mind and try to take it one more time, but at this point, I'm ready to be done with it. 

Also! I'm excited because you mentioned your writing sample possibly being on Ulysses! I just wrote a grad seminar paper this past semester on Ulysses and queer theory, and I asked my professor for feedback on it, letting her know that my intent was to use it as a writing sample. I'm choosing that paper because it's the most recent out of my work, I really liked how I engaged with secondary materials in it, and I felt that, while not everyone has actually read Ulysses, it's at least well-known and notoriously difficult. 

Although, I am slightly concerned with my writing sample being on Ulysses, given that I'm probably going to be labeling myself as an Americanist in my statements of purpose. Is anyone writing an explanation in their SoP as to why they are submitting the writing sample they chose? I have a draft of my SoP in which I made a small paragraph explaining how the research and the ideas I put forth in my writing sample provided inspiration to my current thesis-in-progress. 'Cause like you, my thesis (except I'm a grad student in this case) is definitely not going to be ready in time to use as a writing sample. 

Edited by AtlasFox

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8 hours ago, AtlasFox said:

at least it's one less thing for me to worry about, right?

Very true! My scores are good enough that I'm happy to consider that portion dealt with - unless I totally bombed the writing part, which is entirely possible because I definitely didn't write a standard five-paragraph essay...attempted to deconstruct the issue statement instead. YOLO.

And I feel Joyce is special enough (especially in comp lit where he seems to be the favorite modernist of literary theorists everywhere) that studying him doesn't really bind you down regionally: I'm certainly don't plan on becoming a specialist in Irish literature at large, and neither are many Joyceans I know of. I'm quite sure some people list "James Joyce" as an interest area in itself. My paper is on linguistic and musical dimensions of semiosis (narrative as intermedial translation, etc.) in "Sirens," paired with some archival work on his musical background. Alternative ways to interpret "fugal per canonem" and the opening fragments of the episode in a musicologically informed way but without the naive formalism of early scholarship. I was lucky enough to get some undergrad research funding for visiting archives, and worked with a knowledgable prof extensively on it. The only problem is that all this was two years ago and my interest and style moved on.

I do plan on connecting the WS - whichever I end up using - to my stated interest in the SoP, though, someway or the other. Even if they are not the same region/period, maybe some shared theoretical concerns can be points of connection? Or maybe English programs have more rigid expectations on period/regional specialization?

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7 hours ago, EM51413 said:

unless I totally bombed the writing part, which is entirely possible because I definitely didn't write a standard five-paragraph essay...attempted to deconstruct the issue statement instead. YOLO.

...

I was lucky enough to get some undergrad research funding for visiting archives, and worked with a knowledgable prof extensively on it. The only problem is that all this was two years ago and my interest and style moved on.

I didn't even bother to write a standard five-paragraph essay for my writing section! My method was to bullet point ideas or assumptions about the argument, create a short "thesis" statement in like a two or three sentence introductory paragraph, and then I wrote a paragraph for each point (usually I had like 4 points for each prompt), with each paragraph having some sort of example, logical argument, or alternative explanation of the problem. In my "conclusion" paragraph I just tried to make sure my stance on the issue was clear or clarified what was at stake if the author went unquestioned in their assumptions. Fingers crossed.

So yeah, I think you'll be fine! I think the writing section is gauged to determine your critical thinking skills more than anything else, honestly. That's how I took it.

And your work on Joyce sounds impressive! I think that the archive material definitely adds a unique layer of research for an undergrad, and if you decided to use it as your writing sample, maybe you could briefly mention in your SoP how you used undergrad research funding to access archives. But I get what you're saying about the writing sample differing from your current interest and style. If you can't make up your mind between the two, maybe you could try to determine if each program you're applying to has professors who would be more interested in one paper over the other. Looking at the department's specialization and faculty interests might help you make up your mind. 

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Hey all -- current UT Austin PhD candidate writing, to say that if you have any questions about UT's program vis-a-vis your interests, feel free to PM me! Happy to answer questions about the department and program as a whole.

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Hi everyone, I do want to introduce myself so that if you and I can benefit from talking to each other we'll know so.

I've been studying English in Montréal at Concordia for four years and my Hons. BA will be complete by Christmas. A fair number of my credits have gone toward seminars on modernist and postwar/postmodernist literature and criticism. Going forward I want to study the poetry and theory of unhomed peoples, especially the Caribbean and Latin America. On good days I am committed to beginning an MA in English somewhere in Canada next fall (2020). The schools I am most attracted to are UAlberta, UVic, and York. The US and UK have almost no appeal. (Should I reconsider them?) On bad days I cannot understand why I would continue studying, period. Reasons include, needless to say, money (short-term) and meaning (short- and longterm). (Why do you still believe in studying literature, btw?)

If you have questions about Concordia (eg. about The Centre for Expanded Poetics, the library, the downtown campus life), I'm happy to try to answer them. Likewise about Montréal more broadly. If you want to have lengthier exchanges about the thought processes that surround 21C study, I'm very interested also.

Looking forward! 

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Hi everyone! 

I just stumbled upon this website at precisely the right time. I am planning to apply for a PhD English program for Fall 2020. I am a postcolonialist with a specific interest in Caribbean literature and attitudes to language. Some other interests of mine include south east Asian literature, African literature, black diaspora writings and early modern drama. I have been researching programs I want to apply to non-stop and every time I feel as if I have my list confirmed, I find something that deters me from at least one program. 

Currently I am constructing my SoP, and for my writing sample, I will pare down my masters thesis, which thankfully aligns with my sub-field interest perfectly. I am super nervous about the entire process, and since I would be an international student planning on studying in the US, it adds another layer of complexity and anxiety. I decided to ditch the GRE altogether since I can't do it in the country I live in, and to do it would not only mean paying the GRE fee, but also traveling to another country, buying test prep materials etc.; it would be a mounting cost. Instead, I chose programs from the growing list of those not requiring GRE, which is currently a small pool (although more have dropped their requirements within the past month or two). I hope more schools revise their requirements by the time applications open for Fall 2020 in September, but I'm not holding my breath. 

Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself. It's exciting, but kinda tragic seeing people as freaked out as I am (group hug?). I decided to take a break from the increasingly desperate research process and read The Witcher book series. Thus far, it has been successful in distracting me.

Good to meet everyone!

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2 hours ago, CrystalPS said:

I decided to ditch the GRE altogether since I can't do it in the country I live in, and to do it would not only mean paying the GRE fee, but also traveling to another country, buying test prep materials etc.; it would be a mounting cost.

This might be a worthwhile conversation to bring up to schools you're interested in but that currently have the GRE as a requirement. I imagine that a few would waive the requirement if the GRE isn't available in your country.

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14 hours ago, Warelin said:

This might be a worthwhile conversation to bring up to schools you're interested in but that currently have the GRE as a requirement. I imagine that a few would waive the requirement if the GRE isn't available in your country.

Thank you for this advice. I will try doing this with 1 or 2 schools and gauge their reactions. I do not want them to feel as though I am looking for special treatment at all, but the GRE requirement for me is a barrier. It sucks because I am really very excited about continuing my research in a doctoral program. 

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On 7/31/2019 at 12:17 AM, Warelin said:

This might be a worthwhile conversation to bring up to schools you're interested in but that currently have the GRE as a requirement. I imagine that a few would waive the requirement if the GRE isn't available in your country.

Update: You were right! I only emailed 1 school, but it actually worked and they were very kind to my plight. Now I'm eager to apply there. 

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4 hours ago, CrystalPS said:

Update: You were right! I only emailed 1 school, but it actually worked and they were very kind to my plight. Now I'm eager to apply there. 

I’m glad it worked out for you. I think most schools are willing to work with you if there are barriers to completing certain parts of your application. Most are genuinely interested in their applicants. Best of luck with your applications! If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a PM.  

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3 hours ago, Warelin said:

I’m glad it worked out for you. I think most schools are willing to work with you if there are barriers to completing certain parts of your application. Most are genuinely interested in their applicants. Best of luck with your applications! If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a PM.  

Yes. I had no idea, but this was such sound advice. I'm still in the process of choosing which schools to apply to, but I might take you up on your offer! Thanks again!

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Posted (edited)
On 7/30/2019 at 12:21 PM, silenus_thescribe said:

Hey all -- current UT Austin PhD candidate writing, to say that if you have any questions about UT's program vis-a-vis your interests, feel free to PM me! Happy to answer questions about the department and program as a whole.

Your icon! Hyperion is my favorite scifi novel. :) (Which, well... Romanticist!  ButJohn Keats as an android isn't the only reason.) 

Edited by merry night wanderer

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I'm doing my Masters as part of a one year program.  Some of my schools that I'm applying for my PhD require a Masters degree, which is currently in progress.  Can I still apply to schools with a in progress Masters degree?  It'll be done by the time I leave for a possible PhD program.  I'm guessing I could, but just wanted to confirm.  

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23 hours ago, thepeeps said:

I'm doing my Masters as part of a one year program.  Some of my schools that I'm applying for my PhD require a Masters degree, which is currently in progress.  Can I still apply to schools with a in progress Masters degree?  It'll be done by the time I leave for a possible PhD program.  I'm guessing I could, but just wanted to confirm.  

Quoting myself to also say, should I mention information about my Masters degree in my Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose?

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23 hours ago, thepeeps said:

Quoting myself to also say, should I mention information about my Masters degree in my Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose?

you'll have an MA before you start, so it should be fine. if you want to be sure, email the program. unless your MA is in a totally unrelated field, it seems like the work you're doing in your MA would be great additions to your PS.

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On 8/3/2019 at 7:58 PM, thepeeps said:

I'm doing my Masters as part of a one year program.  Some of my schools that I'm applying for my PhD require a Masters degree, which is currently in progress.  Can I still apply to schools with a in progress Masters degree?  It'll be done by the time I leave for a possible PhD program.  I'm guessing I could, but just wanted to confirm.  

I wouldn't worry about this... when students apply to PhD programmes straight out of undergrad, they're not yet finished with their BA degrees at the moment of application, either. It's implied that you will finish your present course of study before moving on to whatever programme you're applying to. 

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Is anyone else looking at the median time to degree in their research of schools? I feel like it is important. One top school I looked up yesterday had a median time to an English PhD completion as close to 9 years. Am I missing something here? Perhaps they are including postdoc work? Can anyone speak to the reality of the time it takes to complete the PhD vs what is suggested on program websites (which is usually a 5 year outline/plan)? 

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4 hours ago, Cryss said:

Is anyone else looking at the median time to degree in their research of schools? I feel like it is important. One top school I looked up yesterday had a median time to an English PhD completion as close to 9 years. Am I missing something here? Perhaps they are including postdoc work? Can anyone speak to the reality of the time it takes to complete the PhD vs what is suggested on program websites (which is usually a 5 year outline/plan)? 

I would just add that it's also important to look at how many years of guaranteed funding students receive. Although programs can often fund their students beyond the guaranteed time, it should give you a bit more of an idea as to how the program views its time to degree. 

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2 hours ago, Rootbound said:

I would just add that it's also important to look at how many years of guaranteed funding students receive. Although programs can often fund their students beyond the guaranteed time, it should give you a bit more of an idea as to how the program views its time to degree. 

I agree. I definitely compared funding years and time to degree because those two details are very important in relation to one another.

On another note, I understand that some students for many different, valid reasons take a bit more time to finish their PhD, but if most students in a particular program are taking 8-10 years, or an average of 9 years, when funding packages end around year 5 or 6, that tells me a lot more about the program itself than it does about the students. That's just for me personally. The program may be amazing, but I can't help to think about whether there are underlying communicative issues. I'd like to be proven wrong though. As I said before, maybe I'm just missing something. "How you hating from outside the club?" and all. 

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If you look at the CVs of professors who got their PhDs 15-25 years ago, you'll see that at one time it was not at all uncommon to spend 8-10 years in a PhD program. To a large degree that's changed. Programs often emphasize a lot time-to-degree and universities are increasingly putting hard limits on how long a PhD student can stay matriculated. There are however some programs that are more "old school" in this respect. Generally, I'd say that's a bad thing. 5 years is probably a little optimistic in many cases but I'd say a program that can't get most students through in 6-6.5 years is probably doing something wrong (I'm talking literature here. History is often going to be longer and I think rhet/comp is often shorter but that's not really my field).

Things you should look at:

1. Coursework requirements: How many courses do you take and when. I visited on program where students reported struggling to complete coursework in 3 years. If course work and exams aren't done til year four and then you have to write a dissertation, well you can do the math... I ended up picking a program where coursework was done in 2 years.

2. Teaching requirements: Same program as above had students teaching 2 courses in the fall and 1 in spring. Granted it was two sections of the same course, but still that's time away from coursework, exam prep, dissertation etc. 

3. Funding: You want good funding, but to a certain degree, I'd almost prefer a program that has 5 or 6 years of guaranteed funding and then avenues to secure funding after that if you need it rather than a program that guarantees 7 years (this is again coming from an anecdote). The former suggests to me a desire to get students to complete in time even if you'll support those who don't while the latter communicates an expectation that it will likely take that long. (This is probably my most contentious point and to be taken with a grain of salt, but I still think there's something to it).

NB: If those are university statistics, they will likely include AWOL students that are technically still enrolled (though some programs don't allow that) and students have a lecturer position somewhere else without having finished their dissertation, and maybe even students who took a leave of absence (though I would hope not). Of course, a few of those won't affect a median too much...

Final thought: With the job market being what it is, I think it's increasingly common for people to spend an extra year polishing their dissertations in order to get an extra year on the job market. This will obviously drive up median time-to-degree as well. Also, I've noticed people in my field who took a long time to get their PhD who nonetheless graduated and got an R1 TT position. So it's not necessarily a bad thing but it's also something I knew I didn't want when I was looking at programs and I made decisions accordingly.

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Interesting info regarding the incoming Harvard cohort:

  • 1/3 have a BA only, whereas 2/3 have an MA
  • BAs from Tufts, McGill, Princeton, Cornell, Barnard, Kenyon, Cambridge, Columbia, Bristol
  • MAs are from McGill, Oxford, Georgetown, NYU, and Yale

I find this intriguing as I feel it has often been said that you're less likely to get into an Ivy if you have an MA, but clearly that is not the case. And though many of these schools are Ivy equivalents, not all (or even most) are Ivies.

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Hi all!! I'm so glad to see this thread up because I've been lurking since this time last year on this website. Or close to it. I'm a medievalist, big shock, and I'm hoping to apply to some programs more along the east coast region but open to other places. Main focus is Arthurian literature and the Old Norse sagas but I'm a sucker for Irish literature as well. I'm so nervous about retaking the GRE and I'm starting on my SOP and polishing off my writing sample now. Anyone else getting the jitters already?

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10 hours ago, punctilious said:

Interesting info regarding the incoming Harvard cohort:

  • 1/3 have a BA only, whereas 2/3 have an MA
  • BAs from Tufts, McGill, Princeton, Cornell, Barnard, Kenyon, Cambridge, Columbia, Bristol
  • MAs are from McGill, Oxford, Georgetown, NYU, and Yale

I find this intriguing as I feel it has often been said that you're less likely to get into an Ivy if you have an MA, but clearly that is not the case. And though many of these schools are Ivy equivalents, not all (or even most) are Ivies.

that definitely makes me feel better about my MA... thanks for the info! 

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