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Purdue PhD in English Lit or American Studies

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I am considering applying to Purdue for the PhD in either English or American Studies. My POI works in both, and he has said that either department would work for what I want to study. I am wondering if anyone can give me some insight as to how competitive each program is so that I can compare them. I'm a Canadian, and I haven't written a standardized test in... 6 years, and I am definitely not very good at them. I'm doing my MA currently at a top Canadian school, and I will have a couple publications, a bunch of conferences, and a large scholarship under my belt. I've also had a very positive response from my POI. Will either of these programs look past a very mediocre GRE score and take a look at the rest of my app? Will the rest pof my app even make up for my apparent lack of vocab? Or should I just not bother?

Additionally, I'm wondering if the job prospects change for the worse (if they could possibly get any worse) if I go the American Studies route? Does anyone has experience with this type of program? Is it as credible as the PhD in English Lit? It is more inter-disciplinary, but I'm not sure if that is good or bad. (As a point of reference, I want to work with work literature from WWI and the depression, specifically from the Industrial Workers of the World. Purdue is an excellent fit for this, surprisingly.)

So many questions. Applying to school in America is a whole new kind of anxiety. Any insight on anything else re: these programs would be super helpful.

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I don't know about American Studies, but for a long time I was interested in pursuing a PhD in Women's Studies, another interdisciplinary field. Every single Women's Studies professor advised me to not; rather, they said, I should focus on Women's Studies within a traditional field. For me, that's English. I found the same advice online. To test this theory for myself, I looked at the faculty directories for Women's Studies departments, and I found that none of these professors had a PhD in Women's Studies. They all had their degrees in English, history, or the sciences, and they often taught in multiple departments. So now, I am applying to PhD programs in rhetoric and composition that encourage interdisciplinary study.

I'm not sure if the same advice holds true for American Studies. What I would do is look at American Studies departments and programs and see what degrees their professors have. That should illustrate to you the hireability of an American Studies PhD.

Good luck!

Edited by proflorax
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That might be biased by the fact that a lot of these programs didn't exist when these profs were going through school. I will keep looking into it, though.

You're right, it probably is biased because of when those professors went to graduate school. However, remember that academia is tradition-based (caps and gowns?). When applying for jobs, you might be better off with a degree in English having done interdisciplinary work in another field, if only because your potential future coworkers will be able to relate more to your degree. If applying for a job in an English department, for example, you may find that you have to explain just what it was you did in your American studies program; was it mostly art history, mostly history, mostly social sciences, mostly literature? On the other hand, if you were to apply for a job in an American studies department with a degree in English, the faculty would likely have the same credentials as you, and you would not need to explain yourself as much.

This is just some food for thought. Whenever I think about decisions regarding my graduate (and beyond) career, I try to think about what makes me the most marketable as a professor.

That said, there is a professor in NYU's English department who got his PhD in American Studies from BU.

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