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Help! Stuck on SoP for Comp Lit Programs

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I'm currently enrolled in a terminal master's program in Spanish and Portuguese literature at Stanford. I want to continue my education and eventually become a professor of Comp Lit. I'm planning to apply in December for a PhD, and so I've started putting together my applications. But I feel stuck on the SoP for the following reason: I don't know what I want to focus on, within the discipline. I haven't started my master's program yet (it begins in September). I've been out of school for 2 years, between undergrad and now. I know very definitely that I want to study in the field of Comparative Literature, I want to immerse myself in philosophy and literary theory and untranslated foreign literature. I've studied French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and I want to study German, so those are probably the upper limit of the languages I know I can/will be working in (plus English, of course). I know that I'm particularly fascinated by Brazil, France, and German-language literature. I have various favorite writers from each of these languages (Ex: Machado de Assis, Robert Musil, Marcel Proust) But 1. I don't have a coherent single topic which links all of these interests and writers together; and 2. I don't feel like I know enough about anything yet to see where my interests will lead me. I fully expect my interests and focus to change, a lot, once I'm enrolled in a PhD program.

So what should I do? How do I consolidate everything I'm interested in, with how very little I really know about Comparative Literature, into a great SoP?

Thanks for reading my post.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Is your master's program just a year long? Trying to figure out why you're applying to PhD programs before you start a master's... especially when it seems like you might have access to resources (aka real live comp lit professors) this winter.

To answer your question directly, I think you should consider learning more about comp lit. Talk to current comp lit grad students if you can find them to see how focused they were in their sop's. Troll the internet. A quick google search led me to the cuny's website, where their student bios look like they have some pretty diverse interests represented:

Area of concentration: British and American realist novel; 19th and 20th century Russian/ Slavic literature; exilic memoir; aesthetics, ekphrasis; literature and art; literature and science

Area of concentration: Romantic, 19th and 20th century literature (American, German, Polish); theories of anxiety; the aestheticization of the urban landscape; intersections of philosophy, literature and history.

Area of concentration:18th and 19th Century Russian Literature, 19th and 20th century British Literature, Classical and Modern Drama, Short Story, Latin

Try reading course catalogs online to get a better idea for things you might want to study within the discipline. You've got time to research, and it sounds like you're getting tripped up on the sop because you need a little more clarity of purpose. Some amount of change once you reach a program is to be expected, but you should come up with a working hypothesis that you're excited about.

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