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Medieval Applicants (2018)


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Last year @loganondorf started a topic for medieval applicants in the Literature forum, which was a great little group for those of us who applied last year, regardless of discipline. I thought I'd poach it for the History forum this year!

So: if you're a medievalist, what are your areas of interest? What are your languages and how do you like to practice? Where are you thinking of applying? What are you up to at the moment?

I'm on my second application round, after successes with MA programs in the UK that unfortunately did not come with sufficient funding. I work on later medieval science and technology, with a focus on cross-cultural intellectual exchange. I'll be applying to MA and PhD programs (working on finalizing the list) and working on Latin and German in my free time! In addition to those, I have pretty reasonable working proficiency in French, which I learned in high school and college. I graduated a few years ago, so I've been living and working in NYC for the time being.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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I got into Brown! 

I understand this is scary, but I strongly, strongly urge you to resist this impulse. You know what the job market is, you know how school rank affects hiring on the other end (particularly in small f

Yep. As a current ND student, I can say you never really learn to enjoy living in a cold, dumpy rustbelt wasteland; you just learn to tolerate it. South Bend isn't God's country, folks.   

Medieval science is an absolutely fascinating topic! Send me a PM and I'll try to help you. 

I'm in late medieval/early modern science myself. I can speak as to the HoS side quite well, but the history side is better left to others. 

Edited by psstein
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Hi there,

 

I study medieval England am applying this year to a few schools. I am interested in kingship, governance, authority, the church, and monasticism. Generally, I would say my interests fall within the sphere of "Church and State." I've got a few schools in mind, but my major university hope is the University of Houston where I've gotten to know one of the medievalists there pretty decently through email. She's been very, very supportive. I'd love to talk about any and everything. 

My languages are my Achilles's hill and my area didn't have great opportunities to take Latin. I'm working on it now, however. Thankfully, the university of Houston's requirements aren't as rigid as some schools. Generally, an intermediate level of Latin when I begin is hoped for, but I've been quite honest with my potential advisor about this and she never gave any "You need to be at this level" when you arrive." Of course, I know I'm playing catch up

!

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3 hours ago, Timotheus said:

My languages are my Achilles's hill and my area didn't have great opportunities to take Latin.

Languages are, alas, the key to the production of quality scholarship on medieval Europe. Competent reading ability in Latin, French, and German is the minimum realistic requirement. That the University of Houston's requirements there are not particularly strict is a warning sign and an indicator as to the quality of the program, not an unexpected boon to be thankful for. If you look at books and articles being published in medieval history, you will note that strong technical skills, including excellence in multiple languages, are a constant theme. Publication is, of course, the key component in getting a job, which is the actual point of going to grad school.

A PhD program is not a place where you can acquire language skills, but one to hone them to a fine edge. Look at the University of Toronto's level 1 Latin exams. If you can get through those with little difficulty (note they do not permit a dictionary), then I'd say you're fine and to go for it. If not, you really need further language study, regardless of UoH's desire for cheap TA labor.

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Medieval archaeologist in the UK here. I just finished up my masters and am taking a year off while I apply now. My undergrad was in medieval studies so I have a bit of Old Norse/Medieval Welsh/Old French/Classical Latin, but my modern languages are not really there! I work in the North Sea primarily so I have vague intentions of starting some self-study Danish this year while continuing some self-study Dutch, just for reasons of reading excavation reports. 

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US medievalist in the 2nd year of my MA here. Main interests are less regional/period specific, more in medieval conceptions of history, the future, imagination, memory... mainly medieval "thinking about other times." I gravitate towards Britain but have worked on other regions. I'm fluent in French and German with intermediate Latin ability (should be studying for a Latin quiz right now). 

Right now I am trying to decide if I should try a disciplinary swap. I am finishing my MA in art history with my BA in art history and medieval studies. I would be interested in a PhD in History (of the non-art variety)  but am not sure if it is feasible/necessary. 

Ugh! Good to meet you all as companions on this frustrating journey :)

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On 9/26/2017 at 10:38 PM, unanachronism said:

US medievalist in the 2nd year of my MA here. Main interests are less regional/period specific, more in medieval conceptions of history, the future, imagination, memory... mainly medieval "thinking about other times." I gravitate towards Britain but have worked on other regions. I'm fluent in French and German with intermediate Latin ability (should be studying for a Latin quiz right now). 

Right now I am trying to decide if I should try a disciplinary swap. I am finishing my MA in art history with my BA in art history and medieval studies. I would be interested in a PhD in History (of the non-art variety)  but am not sure if it is feasible/necessary. 

Ugh! Good to meet you all as companions on this frustrating journey :)

It depends what you want to do. The academic job market for art history is probably far worse than it is for history.

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I'm wondering how to proceed with revising my writing sample. Most programs have asked for 20-25 pages, but some ask for 10-15. I'll be using portions of my History thesis from undergrad, but substantially revised in light of some recent developments in theory and to demonstrate changes in my thinking on the topic since I graduated. One issue I keep coming up against is length: my History thesis was 50 pages long (including footnotes). I use primary sources throughout, but the majority of my original argument, which is heavily theoretical, doesn't contain many direct references to the primary sources. Consequently, it wouldn't really demonstrate my ability to work with primary sources in the original languages if I were to use only that section. I don't really have very many other papers that fit the bill for a writing sample, and I'm doubtful about writing something fresh given I don't have the same access to an academic library. I don't want to just present a segment with an incompletely articulated argument that shows off my language skills, either. I'm just really stuck at the moment.

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Medievalist here, applying to MA programs for next fall. My senior thesis involved 12th century English charters and I'm at the intermediate level in both Latin and French. Currently procrastinating on French homework. 

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On 10/6/2017 at 3:05 PM, gnossienne n.3 said:

I'm wondering how to proceed with revising my writing sample. Most programs have asked for 20-25 pages, but some ask for 10-15. I'll be using portions of my History thesis from undergrad, but substantially revised in light of some recent developments in theory and to demonstrate changes in my thinking on the topic since I graduated. One issue I keep coming up against is length: my History thesis was 50 pages long (including footnotes). I use primary sources throughout, but the majority of my original argument, which is heavily theoretical, doesn't contain many direct references to the primary sources. Consequently, it wouldn't really demonstrate my ability to work with primary sources in the original languages if I were to use only that section. I don't really have very many other papers that fit the bill for a writing sample, and I'm doubtful about writing something fresh given I don't have the same access to an academic library. I don't want to just present a segment with an incompletely articulated argument that shows off my language skills, either. I'm just really stuck at the moment.

Can you edit it in a way that gives sections of both, e.g. delete a middle bit and replace it with a short summary?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello,

I have lately considered applying for a PhD in Medieval History. I am particularly interested in drawing from notarial household inventories in order to trace evolving patterns of consumption in the late Medieval Mediterranean as well as to explore the experience of domesticity (in the manner of A History of Private Life), focusing on the rich archives of Catalonia (relatively unexplored) and Southern France (better known). A bit about myself: I came here following a strange detour, pulled into the fascinating world of medieval households from a previous focus on the urban environment in colonial and modern Latin American history. This makes me a somewhat atypical applicant, and I wanted honest opinions about my chances, taking into account the following factors:

1) I am currently learning Latin and German at the University of Cambridge under a language learning scholarship, however both of them are at the moment quite basic (although I learnt Latin before, in high school, which means that I am not starting from scratch either). I would expect to be competent in Latin by the time I start the PhD program, especially if I do the Paideia course in Rome over the summer, but certainly not by the time I apply for it. Would this be an issue?

2) I have never worked on medieval archives, although I have done research on the colonial archives of the JCB library at Brown University. How much research work are we expected to have completed before applying for a PhD?

3) I have solid academic credentials: Phi Beta Kappa membership, award for the best thesis on comparative literature (on a radically different topic and area, though) and near 4.0 GPA from a good school (Brown). Additionally, I am likely to have one strong recommendation letter from a top medievalist in the field, with whom I took a fascinating course on gender in the medieval period. 

Chances? Am I crazy for plunging into the Middle Ages? Should I retreat to the shady comfort of colonial Latin American architecture? What do you all think?

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I think your application would be a lot stronger if you waited a year so that you could claim the language skills you're developing by putting them to use in your writing sample. But I would also bring this up with Amy directly as she is sure to have good insights. Or if you're still in Providence, come by my office in Sharpe some Thursday to talk :lol: And you should definitely apply to work with Dan Smail, given your interests.

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3 hours ago, Imenol said:

2) I have never worked on medieval archives, although I have done research on the colonial archives of the JCB library at Brown University. How much research work are we expected to have completed before applying for a PhD?

 

 

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An American currently doing my MA in the UK, studying the VIking Age. Bit the bullet and pulled out loans. Thinking about applying for PhD in both UK and US but definitely following the funding this time, can't afford getting deeper in the hole. Currently taking Old Norse and Old English but am considering taking a year off to work (chip away that debt), hone my research abilities, and get some Latin, German, and Icelandic under my belt.

Thoughts? Should I go straight to my PhD from MA?

I went straight from BA to MA and I am a bit concerned about burnout, as I will potentially be studying full time anywhere between 8-12 years. Also have a dearth of working experience due to that, worried about my employability. 

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On 10/8/2017 at 2:31 PM, telkanuru said:

Can you edit it in a way that gives sections of both, e.g. delete a middle bit and replace it with a short summary?

I'm giving it a shot. I think I'll include the latter part of my textual analysis and focus on the theoretical portion, prefacing the sample with a summary of the earlier primary source work.

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Hey! I just finished an MA in Med/Ren at Columbia and am now applying to History PhD programs*. I'm primarily interested in 15th/16th c. northern European book history and materiality, especially as it pertains to the transition from manuscript to print. I already have Latin and French. Mostly, I'm just anxious about the application process and want some more ideas for "safety schools". I know that the idea of a safety school is somewhat ridiculous when talking about doctoral programs, but I feel like I've been aiming too high with some of my top choices; I really just want to apply to a diversity of programs so that I can get in SOMEWHERE. My top choices at the moment are Penn. Harvard, Brown, and NYU. I'm also thinking of applying to Fordham, Michigan, Bard Graduate Center, Stanford, Yale (Medieval Studies), and U Chicago. Any other ideas for History programs with profs who do materiality would be really helpful. Thanks!

 

*I know, everyone tells me I should also be applying to English or Art History to do book history; however, my background is in History and I feel like it aligns better with me methodologically.

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Hey y'all,

I'm in the last year of my undergraduate in Classics, and applying for programs in Byzantine history. Broadly - I am interested in construction of urban identities, civic process, and relationship between rhetoric and space. And I have four years of Greek and Latin, native Russian (reading OCS), and intermediate Modern Greek and French. Echoing @ManuscriptBitch, I am concerned that my top choices are... well, too top. I am stuck between acknowledging that Byzantine Studies is a narrow field in the US, and thinking that I am missing something. Also I'm pretty nervous about making a jump from my (diverse but largely textual and largely classical) undergrad into graduate applications in later history without the safety cushion of an MA.

I'm applying to Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, UVA (archaeology), Ohio State, and University of Florida, and also to KCL, Edinburgh, and Birmingham MA's at the odd shot of getting funding.

Edited by rex-sidereus
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On 11/5/2017 at 3:50 PM, ManuscriptBitch said:

I really just want to apply to a diversity of programs so that I can get in SOMEWHERE

I understand this is scary, but I strongly, strongly urge you to resist this impulse. You know what the job market is, you know how school rank affects hiring on the other end (particularly in small fields like Byzantine History), and you've heard all the horror stories of adjunct life. Set yourself a lower end of the schools you're willing to apply to, which should be approximately "top 3-6 programs", and set yourself a surrender point. For me, it was six schools (probably should have been 4) and three application cycles; I got in to a PhD program on my second time through. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you could never do anything else, that the journey is worth it, or any of the other lies people tell themselves to convince themselves that they're not actually making a bad decision.

Edited by telkanuru
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On 11/6/2017 at 7:43 PM, rex-sidereus said:

Hey y'all,

I'm in the last year of my undergraduate in Classics, and applying for programs in Byzantine history. Broadly - I am interested in construction of urban identities, civic process, and relationship between rhetoric and space. And I have four years of Greek and Latin, native Russian (reading OCS), and intermediate Modern Greek and French. Echoing @ManuscriptBitch, I am concerned that my top choices are... well, too top. I am stuck between acknowledging that Byzantine Studies is a narrow field in the US, and thinking that I am missing something. Also I'm pretty nervous about making a jump from my (diverse but largely textual and largely classical) undergrad into graduate applications in later history without the safety cushion of an MA.

I'm applying to Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, UVA (archaeology), Ohio State, and University of Florida, and also to KCL, Edinburgh, and Birmingham MA's at the odd shot of getting funding.

 

Right, so here's the rub. Don't just apply to places because you want to get in somewhere. Berkeley/Princeton/Harvard will set you up for success down the road. OSU might, as they've someone well known. Florida will not. I have an acquaintance who received a PhD in American History there and is working as a high school teacher. You are absolutely correct that Byzantine Studies is a narrow field. There aren't many job openings most years, which is part of why I chose to work in a different field myself (I wanted to do Byzantium too!).

It isn't bad to have only top choices. I largely applied to the top programs in HoS and was a competitive candidate despite having no direct coursework in HoS proper. Keep in mind that you will be on the job market someday. Having a degree from Harvard will help. Having one from a second-tier program will hurt.

Also, I'd recommend adding UCLA and Wisconsin, if your interests match with the faculty. Michigan has unfortunately had a wave of retirements and Chicago no longer has a scholar who could direct you. Notre Dame may be a good option too, but I don't know much about their staff.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 11/9/2017 at 12:50 AM, telkanuru said:

I understand this is scary, but I strongly, strongly urge you to resist this impulse. You know what the job market is, you know how school rank affects hiring on the other end (particularly in small fields like Byzantine History), and you've heard all the horror stories of adjunct life. Set yourself a lower end of the schools you're willing to apply to, which should be approximately "top 3-6 programs", and set yourself a surrender point. For me, it was six schools (probably should have been 4) and three application cycles; I got in to a PhD program on my second time through. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you could never do anything else, that the journey is worth it, or any of the other lies people tell themselves to convince themselves that they're not actually making a bad decision.

I appreciate your concern, but I actually have a different set of criteria/ career goals for a doctoral program than most people. Because I do book history, I'm actually more interested in a library/curatorial career than an academic position. I have a library science background, but in addition to an MLS, having a PhD (from anywhere, really) gives you an advantage in the job market. Because of that, it's really important than I go somewhere good and supportive rather than somewhere prestigious-. That's why I want to get in somewhere, because the job market for library/curatorial careers is more motivated by skills and writing than where you received your PhD. Basically, I want to know if there are any good and supportive programs aside from the ones I've already decided to apply to. 

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Just now, ManuscriptBitch said:

I appreciate your concern, but I actually have a different set of criteria/ career goals for a doctoral program than most people. Because I do book history, I'm actually more interested in a library/curatorial career than an academic position. I have a library science background, but in addition to an MLS, having a PhD (from anywhere, really) gives you an advantage in the job market. Because of that, it's really important than I go somewhere good and supportive rather than somewhere prestigious-. That's why I want to get in somewhere, because the job market for library/curatorial careers is more motivated by skills and writing than where you received your PhD. Basically, I want to know if there are any good and supportive programs aside from the ones I've already decided to apply to. 

I should also add that one of the reasons I really like Brown is because they just got the AHA grant for career diversity for doctoral students and I could get an MA in Art History. It seems like one of the better schools for non-academic careers because it has such a flexible curriculum.

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