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If you're more complit than English, then maybe you should consider applying to Duke Lit instead of Duke English-- it will give you more flexibility with your Franco-Euro influences. Plus they don't require as many foreign languages as other complit programs.

Have you also considered UPenn? They have some cool 19th c stuff going on there. And you definitely aren't interested in any of the Cali schools?

I have a friend at Cornell in English who is doing something similar to you-- influences of French literature on Decadent writers (the chair of the dept. Ellis Hanson, is an expert in this field). She actually got a lot of money from the school to spend a summer and now a year abroad in France doing research! so jealous. There's also a recent hire, Dagmawi Woubshet, who is a up-and coming rising superstar in Baldwin studies. If you're doing American, though, Shirley Samuels is another good person to look at. FYI, almost everyone who graduated this year in Afam/English got jobs (U Toronto, Stanford, UC Davis, Smith)--even in these tough times! Cornell has a stellar placement record.

I actually intended to apply to 10, but I ended up only applying to 8 because I ran out of steam and I KNEW that my last two schools were just not good fits for me. I would say no more than 10, if possible. I also didn't have any "safeties" on my list, which was probably a mistake looking back on things, but I told myself why apply to somewhere where I definitely would not want to go?

If you know what you're doing (and it sounds like you have a pretty good sense of things) don't apply to the M.A. It will be a waste of energy if what you really want is a Ph.D.

PM me if you have more questions. I had almost the exact same application list!

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MA programs are less selective, so it wouldn't hurt to apply to one or two. Likewise, the top ten list in U.S. News and World Report is neither accurate nor field-specific. I would look for better advice about fit and worry less about "prestige." Just getting a PhD is prestigious; find the people you want to work with, not the school whose name looks best on a diploma.

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