Thorongil Posted July 25, 2015 Share Posted July 25, 2015 (edited) I applied to English and religious studies MA programs last fall and chose a religious studies program to attend this fall due to certain practical considerations like its location and the stipend they gave me. Because it's a terminal MA, I will have to reapply to PhD programs, and I've been thinking I might apply to English programs again because there just aren't that many (secular) religious studies programs out there. First, should I have a particular idea in mind about what I want to do a dissertation on? I'm a kind of a generalist and like reading philosophy, religious texts, poetry, plays, novels, etc. What anchors all of my various interests, though, is the philosophy of Schopenhauer. (You might say that I should be applying to philosophy programs, but I have absolutely no ability, not to mention interest, in symbolic logic, which I would be required to take and in most cases teach as a TA, and I also have severe criticisms of the way contemporary academic philosophy conducts itself.) Thus, because an English PhD program will require me to pick a period to work on, I have narrowed it down to doing a Schopenhauerian exegesis of an author in one the following periods: 1) Medieval: English mystics like Julian of Norwich, the Cloud of Unknowing author, Walter Hilton, etc and English poets like Chaucer and the Piers Plowman author. 2) Renaissance/Jacobean/Restoration: Playwrights like Shakespeare, Webster, and Dryden. 3) Romantic: Really just Byron. 4) 19th century British and/or American: Melville, Chopin, Hardy, Conrad, and the Victorian pessimistic poets like Thomson, Arnold etc. 5) 20th century American: Langston Hughes and Saul Bellow. Should I just go ahead and commit to one of these, or should I let admissions committees know in my personal statement of the possibilities above and just say I'm open to persuasion? Third, how would I go about finding professors who fit these interests? To be honest, I don't read secondary literature really at all. I read primary texts. Moreover, I have found finding professors who fit some of the tracks above sort of difficult, like English mysticism. In that case, for example, would I be fine just applying to departments that have several medievalists on hand? Lastly, would you have any tips on how to explain in the personal statement why I am applying to English PhD programs after having just completed a religious studies MA? I want to say there should be no problem with this, as most admissions pages will say that they want a prior MA in English "or in a related field," and religious studies is certainly a related field. I also don't want to be crass and say, "there are simply more English programs than religious studies programs as well as a much higher chance of getting a decent job with an English PhD than with a religious studies PhD." I don't give two cents about whether I'm tenured or not, I just want to work as a professor/lecturer/etc of the humanities in some capacity, and I know English professors will be in greater demand than religious studies professors, so this practical consideration weighs heavily on my mind. Basically, I would want to avoid the awkwardness of saying "Hey, I just finished studying the world's religions, and now I want to go balls deep into Herman Melville and his relation to Schopenhauer, yo!" I can see admissions committees being confused, even though the fact is that I enjoy reading all kinds of literature. Maybe I've already answered my question in a way here. At any rate, I would very much appreciate the opinions of the people who frequent this forum. Edited July 25, 2015 by Thorongil Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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