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Thread: Graduate Studies in Literature

  1. #31
    Providence-bound! cridamour's Avatar
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    Hi there! Good to hear that I'm making myself useful.
    About the writing sample, I actually wrote a new one, especially for the applications. The Belgian educational system doesn't require a lot of papers and I studied foreign languages rather than literature in college, so I didn't have any useful papers from that period. I had some from my MA in American Studies but all in subfields I really had no interest in continuing to work on. So, I contacted one of my professors from that program who had a PhD in comp lit from Harvard (a rarity in Belgium, I can tell you!) to ask him for a couple of suggestions for a 20 paper. I gave him some general areas that interested me and he sent back some suggestions of authors and directions in which to think of taking the papers. He afterwards also proofread my paper, gave me some suggestions and that was that. I spent quite some time on the research, but I had decided not to work between September and January in order to focus on my applications (yes, all 16 of them and a couple of independent scholarship applications).
    I know that for Brown, I was lucky that my interests perfectly matched one of the professors whom I had also contacted beforehand. (this can be a good idea) It's really hard to say what makes the difference between an admission and a rejection and there is no one single reason, but at Brown (for comp lit), they told me they spent a lot of time going through the SOPs and that that is really a crucial part of the application.
    So, if you have got the time and you don't have a paper you think is adequate, it's not too crazy to write a new one. If you think you might want to continue using legal history and such in your research, you can work on one of the papers from law school and change the focus to make sure it's a lit paper. Doing this, however, does put you immediately in a certain catergory of interest, that of "law and literature" (instead of e.g. "medicine and lit", "psychoanalysis and lit", "philosophy and lit", ...), which means you'll have to start looking for professors with an interest in this subfield.
    Just some more food for thought.
    Talk to you later!
    Brown, here I come!

  2. #32
    Trying to make mom and pop proud Scraggle18's Avatar
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    Talking Thanks SOO much! And more thoughts... :)

    Thanks again for your thoughts, they help a TON!! I think I would like to write a paper specifically for my applications too. Its good to know that writing a "law and literature" paper will put me in that subfield, such that I will want to be able to show a match-up with a professor at the school I'm applying to. I need to investigate what the contours of that area really are, because its possible that my true interests are in another area!

    Here is another question -- I've been fretting a bit about how my law degree will be received. This may sound silly, but I'm nervous they might be suspicious of my commitment to the program, or maybe they will think I am lazy for not sticking with the law. Or that I'm wishy-washy. Or shallow. These are probably irrational fears, and I feel silly admitting them. But I do wonder if they will see law school as an indicator of poor judgment, or something. I know its possible that they will look at my law degree and think it means I'm hard working, capable of graduate work, etc. And I know the rest of my application is far more important than this degree that keeps tapping me on the shoulder, saying, "what do you want to do with me? why do I exist?"

    I feel like if I integrate my legal knowledge into my SOP I will somehow justify the fact that I went to law school, and make sense of my overall "path." But what if I actually want to leave law behind and pursue literature without using that knowledge? I will always be able to use the skills I learned in law school, and perhaps I can make my path seem smooth by emphasizing how useful those analytical / persuasive / research / editing skills can be in a PhD program -- and then not necessarily have to paint myself as a "law and literature" person. Hmm...

    Did you address your business degree in your application, at all?

    Thanks SO MUCH for helping me think about this! You've been really inspiring to me.
    BACKGROUND: I have got my B.A. in English from Duke in 2002, and my J.D. from Cornell Law in 2005.

    GOAL: My dream is to become a professor of poetry, and also teach civil rights crossover courses involving law. I applied to Ph.D. programs in English this fall.

  3. #33
    Providence-bound! cridamour's Avatar
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    Hi, sorry for the late reply, but here goes...
    I had similar concerns about the message I was sending with my business degree when applying last year. I think you shouldn't try too hard to incorporate it in your future studies only to justify the fact that you got a law degree. If you don't want to further use law in your studies (apart from the useful skills you acquired getting the degree), then don't waste too many words on it in your SOP. Mention why you got it and why you decided not to work in the legal sector and pursue a PhD in a totally different field. It' OK to make a wrong choice in life and learn from it. Adcoms don't want a perfect profile, they are looking for something that makes you special and this will bring fresh ideas and points of view to the department. You have lived, you have done other things, and you have decided that what you really want is an English PhD. That's more than reasonable.
    Don't try to second guess the adcoms too much. Think first about how things went and how you made your decision to go for an English PhD. Then think about how to explain it in the best possible way. In my case, the business degree was a mistake (in a way), I really didn't like it, I didn't want to work in the field (I found this out while getting the degree), so that's exactly what I wrote in my SOP. The only thing you need to keep in mind is not to be too negative about things like these. If you want to, send me a private message with your e-mail address and I'll send you one of my SOPs to give you an idea of how I incorporated the issue of my business degree.
    Brown, here I come!

  4. #34
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    Is there a site online that provides information about the mean GRE general and subject test scores of students who have been admitted to specific graduate programs? I'd like to get an idea of where I would be a competitive candidate.
    Thanks!

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    hello everybody,

    I am a BA English lieterature student. I would like to to know if GRE Subject Literature is required for a MA program.. or is it that only PhD program requires it.
    i wanted to know how beneficial teaching experience would be for a MA/ PhD program.
    i would like to know if research work is imp for the application.. i have asked this question because the scope for BA Eng literature student to do reserach is not much here in India.

  6. #36
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    Hello,

    Whether or not the GRE Lit. is required depends entirely on the program. You can check program websites to find out. I would say that MOST programs (especially top-ranked ones) tend to require it, but definitely not all. I'm in a higher-ranked M.A. program, and it didn't require Subject test scores, just General scores.

    Good luck!

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