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Writing the Statement of Purpose


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Hello! Now that the GRE Lit is over, we have to buckle down and finish up all the writing for our applications. (Or, in my case, really start writing my personal statement / statement of purpose....) :eek:


How is it going?


At the moment, I'm puzzling over how specific our statement of purpose should be, in terms of the vision we articulate for our areas of interest in graduate school.


Is it enough to say something like:

I am interested in women writers and their representation of women's experiences. My background in feminist jurisprudence and legal history leads me to want to examine women writers and their works against the backdrop of their political and social climates, asking how their work relates to social changes occurring during that time. I envision myself tracing the trajectory of women's writing across many time periods, from Aphra Behn to George Eliot, to Eavan Boland and Deborah Pope. I will likely make a comparative study of imagey between literary works written by women, expanding on the ideas articulated by ____(insert literary critic here)____.


Would that sound too specific? Too general? What, exactly, are they looking to hear us say about our prospective area of specialization?

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Of course i haven't got in anywhere, but here's what i'm planning on doing. For those schools where specifics would be appropriate, i'm going to be specific, for those where specifics would hurt me, i won't be specific. Cornell and, say, purdue, for instance, both have excellent medieval programs with professors who are also interested in old norse as well as ties to other medieval areas (such as medieval studies departments, german depts, philosophy departments, etc)-- for these schools i will be very specific, mentioning not only my intended plan, but also professors whose work i am interested in, etc. (cornell has the largest old norse collection in the usa, etc). Others schools, such as, say Maryland, have very weak medieval programs (as in, nonexistent), so i will mention my passion for medieval only in passing, only insofar as it relates to my passion to English as a whole. Your problem seems similar except that i would guess (perhaps erroneously) that almost every school has a women's studies dept (that means, of course, many more applicants wanting to focus on women's studies). For those schools that do have such a dept, or such a focus, i would be specific as possible. Also, there are also those schools (such as duke) that pride themselves on their being interdisciplinary, and those (such as idaho and west virginia) that prefer to remain wholly English. The way i look at it is that if 45 applicants mention a passion for women's studies, what will make your application different from theirs? The more specific you get, the more individual you become---and if your interest happen to coincide with a professors, so much the better. For me, sometimes just saying "medieval studies" automatically puts me into a specific area-- very few schools get more specific than that. For women's studies, on the other hand, i would think that many schools get much more specific-- are you interested in women's studies or gender studies (butler, etc)? cyborg studies? etc. blahblah. You know all the specifics, find out what the school's professors' likes are and see if they coincide with your own. For me, i'm not so much hoping that these professors say, "Oh, good his interests match my own," as they will have a frame of reference to work from. The more specific i get, even if they don't like what i'm interested in, they can at least know why, and they can know that i know what i'm talking about. Then again, some professors just want somebody to mold (whether they'll admit it or not). Who knows, though---maybe i won't even get in anywhere.
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i'd add that most top tier schools, even if they don't have a specific theory ph.d scheme (like, say, duke, irvine, etc) are approving of a theory as applied across time periods. if you are applying to any schools below the top tier, though, be wary, as many of them will want you to stay within a certain time period.
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Wow, thanks for your detailed response! It helps a lot. You're absolutely right, I need to show them what makes me "unique" and memorable within this women-centered area.


Its so tempting to paint myself as a "law and literature" scholar, but I have been reading articles in this area, and I know that I don't fit there. (they are obsessed with how to improve the law, using literature as a tool, and I think it doesn't focus on literature enough for me!)


I need to somehow bring in my legal background, without making myself seem like a "law and literature" person....


Thanks for the input! :):):) Best of luck with applications!! Especially Cornell - it sounds like they would be a great fit for you. I need to look at those professor matchups, to see about my fit in the schools I like.



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