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My writing sample was about an author that is central to my study (David Mamet), albeit focused on one of his films (Homicide) rather than one of his plays. Looking back on it now, I see that the argument could benefit from a thorough rewrite now that I've taken some film classes. (And given that I wrote it as an undergrad, there are plenty of other reasons why it needs rewriting.) When I wrote the paper I was still more interested in Mamet's work for the theatre, and as such I didn't much approach Homicide as a film but rather as a narrative. That being said, unlike most of what I wrote during my undergrad, I actually like and still believe in the argument I make in the paper, though it needs to be tweaked in many ways. 

The basic argument of the paper is that all reviews and criticism of Homicide grossly misread the film's ending, and by extension its racial/religious politics. The misreading was pretty shocking to me when I first looked through the scholarship after seeing the film. I argue that the rhetoric of conspiracy theories in the movie poses difficulties that most critics have brushed off, and as a consequence the film -- which in my reading is quite important to Mamet's overall body of work -- is stripped of a great deal of complexity. 

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29 minutes ago, jrockford27 said:

As I think frequently happens when folks go straight to PhD from undergrad, I'm worlds away from the subject matter now, and the argument was exceptionally vulgar.  But I think something that a lot of folks forget when applying to grad school is that if you already knew everything you were supposed to know, if you were already a brilliant fully developed scholar, you wouldn't need to be in a PhD program.  What seemed to matter most to the program was not whether I was already a real smart well-read guy (I was certainly not), but whether I seemed like I could find an interesting trajectory given time, mentorship, and resources.  

My program director said to me the other day that he was really surprised, in a good way, about the direction I ended up going.  Every program differs, but I don't think a writing sample needs to be a ready-to-publish, immaculately conceived and executed document that provides a segue directly to your dissertation.  It should show them something about you and what kind of scholar you would like to be.

Wonderfully put! I think I agree, and I hope you're right.

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Trying to move from a lit BA to a comp/rhet PhD, I sent in my senior capstone paper which essentially made a rhetoric-based argument for the categorization of metafiction as a formal genre (like sci fi or fantasy) rather than as an offshoot of postmodern realism. 

Edited by JeremyWrites

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21 hours ago, imogenshakes said:

 There's that whole crazy primrose thing at the end where Clive perceives him to have dissolved into a pile of its petals...I just got obsessed about the novel from that point.

I love that so much! I'm a medievalist so I've never really worked on Forster, but Maurice is really important to me on a personal level. I somehow never made that ecocrit connection until I read the Terminal Note and when Forster says "Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood," I just went.... oh. OH.

My writing sample is sort of an extension of themes from my undergrad thesis. It took me a long time to think of a title for it other than "Grendel is a Power Bottom Who Just Wants to Get Obliterated: Anthropophagy and Butt Stuff in Beowulf." Basically it's about looking at violence as a form of intimacy between the human and inhuman nature, and how Grendel's monstrous figure and violent intimacy with Beowulf lends itself to a queer reading.

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Really cool papers, everyone! It's so interesting to hear what others have worked on.

My writing sample was the second section of my undergraduate honors thesis (a Weberian reading of leadership authority in Richard III, Richard II, and Macbeth). The second section is about Richard II, and basically explores the question of why Bolingbroke/Henry IV is allowed to retain the crown after usurping Richard II, whereas other usurpers (ie, Richard III and Macbeth) are punished/usurped themselves. It was definitely hard to choose between the three sections when preparing my writing sample, but I ultimately chose this section because I think it really showcases my close reading skills.

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20 minutes ago, othersamantha said:

 

My writing sample was the second section of my undergraduate honors thesis (a Weberian reading of leadership authority in Richard III, Richard II, and Macbeth). The second section is about Richard II, and basically explores the question of why Bolingbroke/Henry IV is allowed to retain the crown after usurping Richard II, whereas other usurpers (ie, Richard III and Macbeth) are punished/usurped themselves. It was definitely hard to choose between the three sections when preparing my writing sample, but I ultimately chose this section because I think it really showcases my close reading skills.

I really want to read this paper! (Seriously, PM me if you'd be willing to share).

I'll be studying Richard II in a couple of weeks, and yours sounds like a great complementary take on the play.

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I used my senior thesis that I'm currently working on (like right at this moment). Is it terrible that I don't want to put my topic on here? I just remember talking to grad students about how some people can get really competitive and steal ideas and stuff. I trust all of you, but I'm not sure I trust the lurkers out there who might steal my ideas. Or maybe I'm just paranoid and have a crazy high opinion of my idea. Anyway, at the risk of sounding vague, mine was a queer reading of 19th century British monster novels.

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55 minutes ago, JessicaLange said:

I used my senior thesis that I'm currently working on (like right at this moment). Is it terrible that I don't want to put my topic on here? I just remember talking to grad students about how some people can get really competitive and steal ideas and stuff. I trust all of you, but I'm not sure I trust the lurkers out there who might steal my ideas. Or maybe I'm just paranoid and have a crazy high opinion of my idea. Anyway, at the risk of sounding vague, mine was a queer reading of 19th century British monster novels.

A. that sounds super interesting! I would love to know but novels you're working with since I like Gothic fiction and that sorta stems/is the Gothic but totally accept your privacy and B. Totally makes sense! I kinda agree and that's why I left mine kinda vague too. Good Luck to you on your thesis! 

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My writing sample was a paper on Herman Melville's The Confidence Man. I argued that Melville analyses the role of the author in the con inherent within sentimental fiction. 

Basically I tried to show that even though The Con Man is set up to lecture American reader on their supposedly American values, a cohesive reading that focuses on a political/didactic message always unravels before it can fully form. Melville troubles the process, preaching multiple different conflicting philosophies at once so that the focus can shift from what the author means to how the cons within the story function--and thus how the author functions.

Then I tried to tie in some Minister's Black Veil and deconstruct it a bit further by using J Hillis Miller to suggest that both authors and readers unavoidably con themselves just by reading and that all communities are actually imagined, mythical, and tenuous misidentifications.  


Wow. I sound like a jerk. It plays out much better over 20 pages than it does in 1 paragraph.

 

 

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I sent a part of my MA thesis, which analyzes the neurological mechanisms of physical pain (as they were understood by 18th century physicians both in the Royal Society and on the Continent) with respect to Adam Smith's theory that physical pain is ultimately outside the scope of moral sympathy. Both suggest that physical pain is ultimately inaccessible to anyone expect the poor ass who stubbed his toe or caught gout, ergo the sentimental texts don't rely on physical discomfort (i.e. no more arrows through eyeballs as in Homer but instead broken hearts and bad manners.) I took whatever came of that and flung it against Samuel Richardson's Clarissa--wall, meet spaghetti--in the full thesis, to go on about narrative subjectivity, but I only submitted the part that dealt with the neurological theories and Smith's moral sentiments for my writing sample. 

And @JessicaLange et al., luckily MA theses are already in the LoC, so I already have dibs :P At least that's what I tell myself when the paranoia creeps in about idea-thieves! 

Edited by Avalanched

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My writing sample was my undergrad senior thesis (going direct from undergrad to doctorate, at least hoping to). My main research interest is Irish Lit, particularly feminist analysis, so my paper was focused on the cyclical nature of dysfunctional family relationships in Edna O'Brien's The Country Girls. I was basically looking at how relationships between mothers and daughters are strained by the demands of the patriarchy, and how the instability and lack of female mentors causes young women to essentially repeat and re-enact the oppressed lives of their mothers in their own adult lives. Obviously the most joyful and optimistic topic you can choose :-P

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Ah, this thread is so interesting!

My writing sample was a seminar paper/translation portfolio from a poetry translation class I took at the University I worked at for three years between my BA and grad school. I used Anne Carson's (s/o @Pezpoet Autobiography of Red is !!!) essay on silence in translation (which is totally wacky and anyone interested in translation or alternative styles of critical essay should read - here), in addition to some more mainstream translation theory and research studies done on reading visual poetry, to examine and translate the early collage poetry of Herta Müller (which is also really strange and creepy and amazing, and if any Germanics people are stopping by, actual German-speakers should translate!). It was a really fun paper. Looking back on it, it could be more polished and the conclusion could be a bit stronger, but I think my passion for it and interest in the theoretical side to what I was doing came through. I also included the translations that we produced throughout the class from Spanish, Ancient Greek, and Icelandic (which is my main research language).

I wasn't applying to a Germanics program, but I was applying with my second primary research interest in translation studies so it seemed appropriate.

@eadwacer omg your paper!!! a lot of people in my field do work in medieval studies, and one such friend of mine is presenting at a big conference in my field in May, which I mentioned in passing to one of my advisors (who works in queer theory). After hearing that my friend's paper is on menstrual blood/blood rain and elderly desire in the sagas, my advisor made a comment like "medievalists are all perverts!" -- in a truly loving way. I have to say, most of the people I know doing really interesting stuff in regards to queer theory are medievalists. Rock on with those power bottom analyses.

@theburiedgirl815 u just described every phone call I ever have with my best friend. woof.

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On 2/10/2017 at 2:42 PM, eadwacer said:

My writing sample is sort of an extension of themes from my undergrad thesis. It took me a long time to think of a title for it other than "Grendel is a Power Bottom Who Just Wants to Get Obliterated: Anthropophagy and Butt Stuff in Beowulf." Basically it's about looking at violence as a form of intimacy between the human and inhuman nature, and how Grendel's monstrous figure and violent intimacy with Beowulf lends itself to a queer reading.

How about "Grendel Has a Mother but He Wants a Daddy?"

Everywhere but one place, I used the paper I gave at my first conference on one of Thomas Hoccleve's minor poems. He calls out the rebel John Oldcastle for being a heretic and tells him to come back to the fold while he's still got a chance, but I argued that it's more instructive about Hoccleve calling out Oldcastle for being a bad friend to Henry V. The two were really chummy back when the king was young Prince Harry, and we have evidence that once Oldcastle was officially accused of heresy, Henry V really dragged his feet doing anything about it. Hoccleve was on the fringe of that literary circle Chaucer and a bunch of heretic knights were a part of, so I argue that he was intimate enough with that crowd that he'd be able to comment on it and have it resonate with Henry. It served me really well when I was applying for MAs, so I figured "don't fix it if it ain't broke!"

The other paper I sent in was on a newly-discovered copy of the Davies Chronicle that features the complete reigns of Richard II and Henry IV with a very interesting account of the Great Rising--one that's practically sympathetic to the rebels, since it copies almost everything from the Eulogium...except for any mention of John Wyclif, oddly, which is what the paper's trying to figure out. I think it's because the Yorkist who wrote it was just better at populist propaganda.

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This is a fascinating topic! So interesting to hear more about everyone's work. 

I used my undergrad thesis on the Villa Diodati ghost-story competition. The first chapter, which I did not include, examined the various narratives of the event which often differed wildly and were frequently attached as paratexts to the works conceive at the Diodati. I also surveyed the critical scholarship surrounding the event and argued against their attempts to establish a definitive historical chronology and the failures and limitations of using that approach to discuss the Diodati. 

The second and third chapters were my actual sample. I wanted to free myself from attempting to just determine the "true" version of events, and instead examine what the Diodati myth came to mean as a symbol within these narratives and what Romantic tropes these self-representational accounts drew upon. So, I wrote about the scandal surrounding the original misattributed publication of The Vampyre and how it tainted the Diodati as an origin for Polidori's work due to associations with scandal and celebrity gossip. Then in the next chapter I analyzed Mary Shelley's 1831 introduction to Frankenstein and how she crafted a compelling narrative where the Villa Diodati becomes a foundation for an origin-myth for her work—she's able to draw upon and subvert numerous Romantic tropes (dreams as inspiring force, fragility and transience of poetic inspiration, Percy's ideas of the poet as creator, and so on) and creates something uniquely her own through her self-mythologization and legacy-building. 

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I've had it dead-set in my mind that I'm going to be a very prominent Victorianist in the future. So I've developed a strategy of taking whatever literary theories I enjoy playing around with and using them on 19th century British novels. My WS was over Thackeray's Vanity Fair, specifically looking at the character Amelia and the side plot going on in the novel, known as "the piano plot." In it, I use John Plotz's example of Thing Theory having to do with sentimentality and how it makes an object more than just an object to people, coupled with Baudrillard's Simulation Theory. What I end up coming out with is that by Amelia using the piano to cause a public display of her emotions, the piano becomes not just a part of Amelia but an extension of her---the two become inextricable from one another, especially in the eyes of the other characters viewing her at the piano. This is also backed up by various looks at the history of the piano, about Victorian women/girls and the piano, and whatnot. It was really fun to write!

Edit: Oddly, for someone who wants to study Victorian Masculinity, my papers are always leaning toward talking about how women subvert male authority by playing into the expectations placed upon them as women. By playing their roles very well, and very shrewdly, they actually end up controlling their male counterparts rather than the other way around.

Edited by Silabus

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4 hours ago, Mippipopolous said:

This is a fascinating topic! So interesting to hear more about everyone's work. 

I used my undergrad thesis on the Villa Diodati ghost-story competition. The first chapter, which I did not include, examined the various narratives of the event which often differed wildly and were frequently attached as paratexts to the works conceive at the Diodati. I also surveyed the critical scholarship surrounding the event and argued against their attempts to establish a definitive historical chronology and the failures and limitations of using that approach to discuss the Diodati. 

The second and third chapters were my actual sample. I wanted to free myself from attempting to just determine the "true" version of events, and instead examine what the Diodati myth came to mean as a symbol within these narratives and what Romantic tropes these self-representational accounts drew upon. So, I wrote about the scandal surrounding the original misattributed publication of The Vampyre and how it tainted the Diodati as an origin for Polidori's work due to associations with scandal and celebrity gossip. Then in the next chapter I analyzed Mary Shelley's 1831 introduction to Frankenstein and how she crafted a compelling narrative where the Villa Diodati becomes a foundation for an origin-myth for her work—she's able to draw upon and subvert numerous Romantic tropes (dreams as inspiring force, fragility and transience of poetic inspiration, Percy's ideas of the poet as creator, and so on) and creates something uniquely her own through her self-mythologization and legacy-building. 

Your thesis sounds amazing and super interesting and just from this aspect I can see why you got into ND! Congrats!

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22 hours ago, biyutefulphlower said:

No worries - I was just curious, since I noticed the Comp Lit application deadline was a bit later than English's.  Thanks!

I posted this in another forum, but that you and other Oregon applicants might like to know that decisions have been made as of Thursday and are being announced soon. My friend is in the program and talked to the DGS this past week. Best o luck!

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Hello, all!

Did anyone of you have to send only an extract of your initial WS, and had to write a summary or something of the liking to contextualize the "essay"? I have to cut my WS down to its half, and I've never done something like that before. I don't know how to summarize, contextualize or anything that I'm supposed to do so my excerpt makes sense. Thanks! 

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3 hours ago, Yanaka said:

Hello, all!

Did anyone of you have to send only an extract of your initial WS, and had to write a summary or something of the liking to contextualize the "essay"? I have to cut my WS down to its half, and I've never done something like that before. I don't know how to summarize, contextualize or anything that I'm supposed to do so my excerpt makes sense. Thanks! 

The explanatory paragraph is to explain where the extract fits in the full writing sample. So if its follows another chapter you should summarise that chapter so it makes sense to the reader/adcomm member picking up the argument in the middle, or similarly if the extract ends abruptly describe the final chapters of the writing chapter and what you concluded from the project. Its just so that they get a sense of the overall paper and therefore understand what you were trying to do with the section you've extracted. I'd also put in a few sentences describing the project overall at the beginning of the explanatory paragraph, like an abstract similar to those included before articles in academic journals. This can be useful to situate your argument the broader wider critical debate is this is not addressed in the extract you've submitted. Then follow that with more specific detail on the sections you've left out and where the extract is located in the wider paper.

Alternatively, if the extract stands up fairly well on its own, you can make some edits so that it works as an essay in itself. I took the first chapter of my undergrad dissertation and some portions of the second and third, and edited them all together to work as a single essay, wrote a new conclusion, and didn't bother with the explanatory paragraph. This took a very long time to get right though (about 6 months).

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@Yanaka - I used a portion of my master's thesis and did use a short introductory blurb explaining what the full thesis was like and what was left out of the sample.  I can send you what I used, if that would be of use to you.  Just shoot me a PM :)

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The writing sample I used was about The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd.  I connected Bel-Imperia as the mortal counterpart of Proserpine, meaning that--just as Proserpine begins the plot through asking her husband to allow her to send Revenge into the court--Bel-Imperia sets the plot going in the mortal world through her romantic involvements.  I basically argue that this gives more female agency to the play than, perhaps, even Kyd meant there to be.  I support this through lesser known myths surrounding Proserpine as a goddess that uses affairs and her sexual identity as a way to avenge her kidnapping and forced marriage.  Through this I, also, explore the ways in which female sexuality was seen as an ultimate form of revenge in sixteenth/seventeenth century drama.  

 

It is amazing to hear all these theories and arguments.  It definitely gives me a distraction as I wait to hear about funding! 

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