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MFAs in Film, PhDs in American Studies/Cultural Studies/Film Studies

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This is my first post on this site! I graduated with an honors BA in film studies (minored in gender studies) in May of 2010. I am currently looking at MFAs and PhDs for the 2012-2013 school year.

Right now, I am struggling to decide whether or not I should only apply to MFAs, PhDs, or a mixture of the programs. In the end, I'd like to get a PhD, but I have a really strong interest in film production (which isn't offered in all PhD programs). I'll also only be 24 (if accepted) when I start graduate school and have concerns about being too young for both of the program types.

Advice? Some of the programs I'm interested in are listed below in my signature (I know, I know...I need to think of some safety schools). If anyone has applied to or is currently going to these schools, I'd love to know more about their admission requirements. As well as there median GRE scores (for the schools that don't release that info), average age of accepted students, overall program and advisor feel, etc.

Oh, and just for background, I went to a seven sisters school and was very involved in the film and radio community there. I graduated with an honors thesis on queer southern gothic film and fiction and a 3.43 GPA (I know...on the lower end for a lot of these programs). I make experimental films and am interested in bodiliness, the grotesque, the uncanny, witches, queer theory, masculinity in 1950s science-fiction, war cinema, genre cinema, early american literature, violence and incest in films and literature, women's cinema, queer cinema, the american avant-garde, feminist film theory, and second-wave feminism. (and that's just the beginning!)

Thank you!

Edited by alh
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  • 3 weeks later...

  • Please review the excellent information available on this forum regarding the University of Chicago's Master of Arts in the Program of Humanities. You will notice after a thorough reading that it produces polarised opinions, and for good reasons. However, read my comments on it. Without overtly promoting myself, I can tell you that the MAPH targets a very specific type of student, and you sound very like it. The places you have mentioned in your list are all ultra-competitive. Harvard, Yale, etc. do not take more than 3 students a year, if even that. You also have not considered UChicago's department of Cinema and Media Studies, which is without question one of the top in the field. With the unfortunate passing of Miriam Hansen (extraordinary work in modernism, the public sphere, vernacular modernism, and her Babel and Babylon is required reading for any serious film scholar), UChicago still has Noa Steimatsky (war/post-war cinema), Tom Gunning, Yuri Tsivian, Laura Letinsky (who would be very much in your line of interests), Jim Lastra, and a host of other scholars drawn from across the division of humanities.
  • The reason I advocate the MAPH is because if you can make use of it, it will be a superb one year spent refining your interests which, like mine when I applied in 2009 to many of the same places you did, are very broad and very diffuse at the moment. I will say, however, that my MAPH experience has been utterly crucial in letting me focus my interests to a point where I am very much in a better place this time around as I prepare to write the doctoral applications. Also, although their placement rates are not advertised (and there is good reason for this, as the program invites extremely diverse applicants, and the ultimate resolution of placement rates is a question better asked of the individual departments), for CMS at least, placement rates are extremely good. UChicago tries to admit at least 1 MAPH graduate every year, and they look for a cohort of about 3-5. Most importantly, and I cannot speak for the universities I have not experienced, although I can for UChiCago; the CMS department here really goes far in standing behind graduating PhD students and helping them secure jobs. For example, in this difficult year (2011), two CMS graduates earned their PhDs, and both have found excellent positions (one at Colby and one at Williams, I believe). I'm unsure about tenure-track status, but even a 1-or-2 year appointment to institutions like that is very beneficial in the long run.
  • Lastly, the UChicago CMS department is extraordinarily diverse, and I'm sure this applies to other places as well. Harvard is notable in that this year, all 3 admits were specialists in avant-garde cinema. Typically, each school is known for a certain moment in cinema studies; UChicago can be said to specialise in Soviet film politics, avant-garde practices both American and European, silent cinema, and modernism studies. I know that they have just hired an expert in East Asian cinema, and I have heard talk of expanding more into new media studies. This last is probably common for all good departments now, though. Berkeley used to be, or is, known for spectatorship studies. Yale and Harvard share a common interest in pushing the frontiers of post-filmic cinema, new media questions, etc. Whatever the case, you're not going to really get a sense of where you might best serve and be served until you can refine your focus at least to the point of having a viable research goal, whether that is theoretical or not. Given how fantastically competitive CMS admissions are, think about first doing an MA. Emory funds all 6 of their annual MA program admits. Chicago's MAPH does not, but they do offer limited partial scholarships. I don't know if there are other similar programs, but I definitely suggest thinking about all of this.

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