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Need Advice in Choosing My Field of Study (Humanities)

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Hello everyone. This is a cross-post with a topic I made in the Humanities board.

I'm currently a Junior in a BFA Creative Writing program; however, I studied English at my previous college. I need help deciding where to focus my academic efforts over the next 9 months so that I'm not applying to programs which are beyond my skill-set.

I've considered pursing an MFA, but after speaking with my advisors I feel that a PhD program better suits my current interests. I'm much less interested in publishing creative work in literary journals than I am in understanding the rhetoric of artistic forms and the culture/experiences they encapsulate. 

I've been primarily looking into Comparative Literature graduate programs (the interdisciplinary potential excites me,) but

  1. I only have an intermediate level of French; I can read fluently and speak fairly fluidly, but my writing skills are comparatively poor.
  2. I'm very interested in Showa Era Japan, particularly post-war, and the cultural exports of Japan to the United States and France, but my Japanese is very rudimentary.

My McNair advisor suggested I pursue the UCSC History of Consciousness program or another program rooted in Critical Theory. I really took to the whole 'liberal arts' thing and waded into every pool of the humanities (visual art, philosophy, identity, etc). My small college doesn't have much to offer me in this area so I'm researching this field on my own.

I'd also be happy to focus on methodologies (Narrative and Rhetorical Theory, Marxism and Critical Social Theory, Writing Studies/Pedagogy, Cognitive Studies) so I'm open to English programs that allow me to focus on this aspect. 

My areas of academic knowledge are broad but very shallow. I'm not sure what level of experience in these areas I'm expected to have as an undergrad. I've only just started looking into some academic journals this year. My classes have focused more on theory and I've only written a couple of serious research papers. None of them have been in any of my areas of interest so far. The closest I've come was when I was translating Baudelaire, discussed its poetics, and mentioned its depiction in a manga/anime, Aku no Hana (this wasn't even a traditionally academic paper, more of a poetry/creative essay/academic hybrid.)

Is it a bad idea to pursue academic research when I've been more trained to pursue an MFA? Would an MFA allow me to explore these academic areas without jumping ship into what's essentially another discipline?

Is a bad idea to pursue interest areas in which I have only limited undergrad academic experience? 

Thank you for any feedback you can give me. I hope I have enough time between now and November to course-correct my time and studies towards a viable area of discipline. 

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  • 5 months later...

Hey! HisCon at UCSC is a super small department. Be sure they'd be able to support your interests. I'm thinking with such broad interests you have you may be more well-supported in a Comp Lit department... I would look for programs with less stringent language requirements 


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  • 4 weeks later...

definitely keep working on your French and Japanese. You can prove your competence not just via options in college, but also proficiency tests (DELF and JLPT, although I don't know if these are still taking place during the pandemic); you'll have the chance to talk about / prove your competence (and potential) in your statement of purpose and/or letters of recommendation.

If you don't have time to work on both, then work on your French to a C1 or C2 level, I think.

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