Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 31

Thread: question for literature students

  1. #1

    question for literature students

    I have a question for literature students who plan on graduate study.

    At what point do you decide what you are going to specialize in? And once you do decide, how important is it also to study the texts that are outside of your desired specialization?

    Right now I'm a 3rd year English Major and for graduate study I want to specialize in American literature. So far as an undergrad I have been taking courses in everything from Medieval Literature to Renaissance to Victorian to Romantic. Also seminars in Shakespeare and in Classics. But now that I've decided my focus for graduate study do I mainly focus on American literature and pull back from everything else? Or continue to study the Canon but focus primarily on American literature?

    I guess my question is, once someone decides to specialize, how important is it to be an expert in other types of literature? Is the PhD in American literature also an expert on the Russians? Or the French? How much do you need to know outside of your specialization?
    Last edited by Hal; 09-02-2013 at 03:12 AM.

  2. #2
    I tentatively chose a focus period after my undergraduate degree. I went into my MA planning to focus on Victorian British lit, but within the first semester of my first year, I had extended that to late Victorian through the Modernist period, with a focus on Irish lit, primarily Joyce. Now, a year into my PhD, I've maintained my focus on turn of the century and Modernist British and Irish lit, and I have integrated several theory seminars.

    As far as taking other classes outside of my focus area, I did so during my MA, but I have not been branching out too much during my PhD work. Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by maxphisher View Post
    I tentatively chose a focus period after my undergraduate degree. I went into my MA planning to focus on Victorian British lit, but within the first semester of my first year, I had extended that to late Victorian through the Modernist period, with a focus on Irish lit, primarily Joyce. Now, a year into my PhD, I've maintained my focus on turn of the century and Modernist British and Irish lit, and I have integrated several theory seminars.

    As far as taking other classes outside of my focus area, I did so during my MA, but I have not been branching out too much during my PhD work. Hope this helps.
    Thanks for responding.

    Yeah, for undergrad study I am studying many different periods and movements. I'm somewhat settled when it comes to focusing on American literature but that could change. I wonder though, for those who are going on to academic careers if the study of literature remains broad even while there is a definite focus point. I think its important to know the canon but how much time can someone specializing in American literature spend on Shakespeare? I love Shakespeare but one or two courses don't even scratch the surface.

    Take for instance a Doctor of Medicine. Some Doctors have a general knowledge of medicine. And some specialize. If I go to my Dr and I complain of bone weakness he may send me to a Rheumatologist. The reason he does this is because he does not know a lot about diseases of the bone. Could the same be said for the Phd in English Literature? If a student comes to you with a question about Restoration literature do you feel that you should be able to answer his questions or would you send him or her to someone who specializes in Restoration literature?

  4. #4
    If you are looking at pursuing a PhD, I would recommend developing a definite focus, but you should also be "experimenting" with other areas as well. Remember that, with the way the academic job market is right now, finding a position as the "19th Century American Lit." professor is highly unlikely. You will be teaching survey courses and composition courses as you work towards tenure or developing status in the department. The wider your range of knowledge is, the easier it will be to adapt to the classes you will HAVE to teach before getting to the point where you teach what you WANT to teach.

    But don't worry. Figure out who your adviser is going to be and begin discussing your plans with him or her. You will figure out what route to take.

  5. #5
    I believe the trend in academia now is interdisciplinary studies, so the more you know about other areas the better.

  6. #6
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    next door to the lady in the vinegar bottle
    Posts
    4,590
    Blog Entries
    72
    If you are planning to use a degree in literature as a foundation for a career, please try to learn a lesson from the sorry history of yours fooly. Don't make another move until you read this very recent article from Time Magazine.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    If you are planning to use a degree in literature as a foundation for a career, please try to learn a lesson from the sorry history of yours fooly. Don't make another move until you read this very recent article from Time Magazine.
    so don't become an English teacher?

  8. #8
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    next door to the lady in the vinegar bottle
    Posts
    4,590
    Blog Entries
    72
    Quote Originally Posted by Hal View Post
    so don't become an English teacher?
    You have to look at future hiring trends in both secondary schools and colleges.

    It's possible to land a job into a high school program,if you can cut the line of all the other liberal arts majors ahead of you. As the Time article says, there is going to be preference for science and math teachers. Look at the classified ads, though, and you will see that many secondary teaching positions aren't primarily full-time. They might have a decimal number next to the listing, such as "5.0" or "3.0." That means part-time.

    The other thing you have to consider is the salary. No good teacher goes into that profession for the money--that's true! But you have to consider that you have to make a living, while simultaneously paying off student loans. Even though it'[s not unheard of for a teacher in a well-off district to be earning upwards of $100,000 yearly, but this is only after he or she has attained tenure, a reward for seniority of several decades.

    As far as aiming for a spot for Academia, unless you have a Ph.D., fuhgeddaboutit. Take it from me, today's Master's degree is yesterday's bachelor's degree. Again, there is an interminable number of other folks with doctorates far ahead of you in line. English departments are shrinking and rarely if ever hiring new faculty members. It's the rare college that has an opening, again part-time. The most you can hope for is to become an "adjunct professor," if you can actually find a campus in need of one. Consider yourself lucky if you can land a job as an "instructor," just a short rung up from a humble teaching assistant, with comparable salaries.

    You could look for openings in remedial reading and writing courses, although those positions may very well require training or accreditation in techniques and educational theory.

    I read somewhere that as a result of "dumbing down" or more likely, a result of supply and demand, some colleges aren't even requiring English composition as a pre-requisite for graduation. This would mean that a decreased enrollment in literature classes.

    Seeing the bleak employment future for liberal arts grads, fewer and fewer freshmen are choosing English as their majors. They may have reached this conclusion on their own, or their parents stuck with the tuition bills are encouraging them to choose a career, such as accounting or hospital administration,with a higher R.O.I. (return on their investment.) With the supply of English majors thus shrinking, there will be a highly diminished demand for college professors of English. It's like a star inexorably in red dwarf status, burning down and out before eventually exploding, leaving behind a bottomless black hole.

    Be an English teacher, by all means. Just be aware of what you might be up against. I only wish I could see this coming decades ago.

    An alternative is to choose a career in which writing skills are a plus.

    But fuhgeddabout newspapers.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 10-04-2013 at 05:14 PM.

  9. #9
    Hal,

    If I were to specialize in one area of literature I would still read the canon if only because there are so many great works you would miss out on otherwise. I would simply prioritize my reading of American literature, probably on a 2 or 3-to-1 ratio with other non-American works, and go in-depth with the American literature to the extent of really analyzing the works I read vs. reading the canon more for general enjoyment and knowledge.

    That's probably how I would go about it.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    You have to look at future hiring trends in both secondary schools and colleges.

    It's possible to land a job into a high school program,if you can cut the line of all the other liberal arts majors ahead of you. As the Time article says, there is going to be preference for science and math teachers. Look at the classified ads, though, and you will see that many secondary teaching positions aren't primarily full-time. They might have a decimal number next to the listing, such as "5.0" or "3.0." That means part-time.

    The other thing you have to consider is the salary. No good teacher goes into that profession for the money--that's true! But you have to consider that you have to make a living, while simultaneously paying off student loans. Even though it'[s not unheard of for a teacher in a well-off district to be earning upwards of $100,000 yearly, but this is only after he or she has attained tenure, a reward for seniority of several decades.

    As far as aiming for a spot for Academia, unless you have a Ph.D., fuhgeddaboutit. Take it from me, today's Master's degree is yesterday's bachelor's degree. Again, there is an interminable number of other folks with doctorates far ahead of you in line. English departments are shrinking and rarely if ever hiring new faculty members. It's the rare college that has an opening, again part-time. The most you can hope for is to become an "adjunct professor," if you can actually find a campus in need of one. Consider yourself lucky if you can land a job as an "instructor," just a short rung up from a humble teaching assistant, with comparable salaries.

    You could look for openings in remedial reading and writing courses, although those positions may very well require training or accreditation in techniques and educational theory.

    I read somewhere that as a result of "dumbing down" or more likely, a result of supply and demand, some colleges aren't even requiring English composition as a pre-requisite for graduation. This would mean that a decreased enrollment in literature classes.

    Seeing the bleak employment future for liberal arts grads, fewer and fewer freshmen are choosing English as their majors. They may have reached this conclusion on their own, or their parents stuck with the tuition bills are encouraging them to choose a career, such as accounting or hospital administration,with a higher R.O.I. (return on their investment.) With the supply of English majors thus shrinking, there will be a highly diminished demand for college professors of English. It's like a star inexorably in red dwarf status, burning down and out before eventually exploding, leaving behind a bottomless black hole.

    Be an English teacher, by all means. Just be aware of what you might be up against. I only wish I could see this coming decades ago.

    An alternative is to choose a career in which writing skills are a plus.

    But fuhgeddabout newspapers.
    okay..why the thread hijack? Your experience in finding employment in the education field may be a disappointing one. But that's not what this thread is about.

  11. #11
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    6,296
    You pick generally at the beginning of your masters degree. Generally stronger applications are said to be the more rounded students during their undergraduate degrees, those who have experience with diverse genres and time periods.

  12. #12
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    next door to the lady in the vinegar bottle
    Posts
    4,590
    Blog Entries
    72
    Quote Originally Posted by Hal View Post
    okay..why the thread hijack? Your experience in finding employment in the education field may be a disappointing one. But that's not what this thread is about.
    Since yours fooly is the type of person who can't stand having anyone harboring "hard feelings" against her, please allow me to 'splain: Obviously, that reply was not intended to hijack your original question but rather a perhaps misguided attempt to "help"-- by recounting present-day realities which, alas, have only worsened since the Jurassic Era in which yours fooly was a graduate student. I now realize that you are already well aware of the bleak employment picture for
    literature majors.

    But trying to redeem myself, please let me offer one suggestions as to possible specialization. Try to look for areas that aren't overly popular. For instance, there are probably many grad students pursuing Shakespeare, 17th century poetry, American and Modern Britishh literature and relatively fewer studying less-popular areas such as medieval literature and
    18th century British literature, including Dryden, Pope, and Restoration drama.

    Are we friends again?

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    Since yours fooly is the type of person who can't stand having anyone harboring "hard feelings" against her, please allow me to 'splain: Obviously, that reply was not intended to hijack your original question but rather a perhaps misguided attempt to "help"-- by recounting present-day realities which, alas, have only worsened since the Jurassic Era in which yours fooly was a graduate student. I now realize that you are already well aware of the bleak employment picture for
    literature majors.

    But trying to redeem myself, please let me offer one suggestions as to possible specialization. Try to look for areas that aren't overly popular. For instance, there are probably many grad students pursuing Shakespeare, 17th century poetry, American and Modern Britishh literature and relatively fewer studying less-popular areas such as medieval literature and
    18th century British literature, including Dryden, Pope, and Restoration drama.

    Are we friends again?
    If I wanted a career where I'd make a lot of money I'd go into business. But then I would be miserable. I'd rather make 25k a year and be doing something I love than make 70k a year does something that makes me dread waking up in the morning. Money isn't important to me.

    You use the word bleak but I could easily switch that with the word competitive. I have news for you, every field is competitive.

  14. #14
    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    3,840
    Quote Originally Posted by Hal View Post
    If I wanted a career where I'd make a lot of money I'd go into business. But then I would be miserable. I'd rather make 25k a year and be doing something I love than make 70k a year does something that makes me dread waking up in the morning. Money isn't important to me.

    You use the word bleak but I could easily switch that with the word competitive. I have news for you, every field is competitive.
    The assumption there is that you'll be doing what you love in the first place. If nobody's hiring for what you do, would you rather be making decent money in a business job you don't like or making minimum wage plus in a fast-food job you don't like? Also, there are many jobs out there besides generic "business" that pay well.

    Nobody's telling you that you shouldn't pursue what you love, just giving you a reality check and encouraging you to have a second plan in case you're one of the majority who doesn't win the English major job lottery right away.
    "You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views." -- Doctor Who

  15. #15
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    6,296
    Let him make bad decisions and read 4 years of novels to land up with a job in retail.

    At any rate, one Should never just major in English. One should at least acquire a foreign language or two. That's generally a requirement for being competitive nowadays anyway.

    Then again, most English majors are novel readers which means they are the bottom tier of readers anyway. Anybody can read a novel, and the form does not translate well in the practical sense that "period" studies may. Then again, the educational demand on studying medieval manuscripts is unquestionably higher.

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 17
    Last Post: 11-23-2012, 05:06 AM
  2. Spanish literature question
    By briankh in forum Introductions
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 01-25-2012, 11:56 PM
  3. Students of Literature
    By Luckdragon in forum General Literature
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 11-14-2004, 07:16 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •