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Hi all! I'm a long time lurker, first time poster, etc., etc. I wanted to pick everyone's brain on something that's giving me some trouble with my SOPs as I try to get my stuff together for the Fall 2018 cycle. In my MA program, I became very interested in psychoanalysis in general, Lacan in particular. I took an independent study on Žižek and Lacan (submitted a version of my final project to a conference; fingers crossed!), and did a ton of writing and research on Lacanian topics for many of my other courses. 

Now, I haven't found any POIs yet who do both my period (19th c. American) and any sort of psychoanalysis, let alone Lacan. Psychoanalysis seems like a niche thing where just one or two profs in a department do research on it, and some of the programs I'm looking at don't have anyone listed who does psychoanalytic theory/criticism.

This is my conundrum: I know I should tailor my SOP to the strengths of each department, but if much of my MA work was in psychoanalytic theory, should I leave it out or downplay it for schools like Harvard that seem relatively theory-adverse?? I have other interests I'd be happy pursuing---ecocriticism, possibly lit + economics---but I'm worried I'll look a lot less dedicated if I don't demonstrate the focus I had in my MA program. On the other hand, if I do make a point of talking about psychoanalysis, even for schools that do have a POI who researches it, I wonder if I'll come off as a wacky niche candidate with strengths that the department is not interested in. 

I'd appreciate any advice!

 

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I don't have the time right now to speak to how you should tailor your SOP, but Max Cavitch at Penn works at precisely this intersection. 

Also, FWIW, psychoanalysis is still major in many avenues of theoretical thinking today. If you wanted to pursue it as a project, I think, with a little tinkering, you could easily make your interests sound relevant and up to date. We can talk more over PM if you want to discuss these things in more depth/ get some recommended texts. 

Edited by echo449
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There isn't a subfield you can choose that isn't risky to some degree or another!  This is graduate English studies we're talking about!  If you're very interested in psychoanalysis apply with that understanding (I'll throw in a recommendation for University at Buffalo [SUNY], which even has a 'Center for Psychoanalysis - although I think they recently lost Joan Copjec it's still quite strong).  If a program seems like a "stretch" in terms of fit, then you're probably throwing good money after bad.  Learn from me, I now look back on my apps and with 80% of the programs I applied to I think, "what was I thinking?"

Chances are that your ultimate project, under the guidance of your committee, will deviate dramatically from what you first envision in your SOP.  You also don't need to have an advisor that works on exactly what you do (in fact, I can see where this would be a very very bad thing).  You also aren't likely to find a department in which there will be half a dozen folks who do psychoanalysis as a specialty.  Think about it, such a department would be pretty homogenous. However, you'll probably find a lot of scholars who are familiar with Freud and Lacan on some level and would be interested in a project related to those bodies of theory, even if those things don't appear in the bullet points on their page.  My committee (chair included), for example, has only the most general connection to the direct subject matter of my dissertation, but they all offer really amazing intellectual insights.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey there! My research project also draws heavily from Lacanian theory and the Slovenian school, but also verges on several other fields: French and Korean cinema, politics, etc. I think I felt the way you feel when I first applied to programmes, but as others said I don't think it's necessary that you limit your search to people with the exactly same set of interests as yours. They'll have some level of understanding and interest in psychoanalysis anyway because it has had such a strong influence over humanities in general! 

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  • 1 month later...

It seems to me that you have some options unless you need to stick to English as your discipline. For instance, Duke Literature, Emory Comparative Literature, and UMN Comparative Literature all have some support for psychoanalytic theory. Most departments at least have that one person doing it and many departments strong in Feminism or film studies will also have it. As for Copjec, you'll have to apply to Brown's Modern Culture & Media department.

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