Yes, I’m still here. Holiday travels and events, plus getting back into the swing of organizing my unstructured time, took a toll on my blogging. Edited to add: with some minor revisions, you could easily adapt this advice to apply to any English major. Do a few more revisions, and it could apply to any humanities major or any other liberal arts major. Feel free to use, adapt, and link! I’m so glad your professor put you in touch with me. I’m happy to answer your questions and give you some general advice about what to do to pursue your interests in medieval literature now and in the future. I didn’t realize that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. I was already out of college, and I felt like I spent the first couple of years in graduate school catching up with what I didn’t know. So, in a way, the advice I’m giving you now is what I wish I had done myself as an undergraduate.
OK, first of all, you have three and a half years to explore: to find out what you love, what you’re good at, and who you want to be. Don’t be so focused on the goal of getting into graduate school to study medieval literature that you miss your chance to learn new things — things you might not even yet know you’ll love. But now, on to the more specific advice about your plans to pursue medieval literature. First of all, as an undergraduate, you shouldn’t narrow yourself too much beyond the major, and your major is English literature, not only medieval literature. Admissions committees in Ph.D. And as you get further in your major, start doing research and reading criticism about the works you’re writing about. If your college or the English department offers you the chance to write an honors thesis, take it. While on your college’s web site, I saw that your department offers a summer study-abroad trip to England with the professor who teaches medieval and early modern literature in English.
If you can afford it, go on this trip. You get course credit and a great experience all in one, and there’s nothing like being in the places you’ve only read about. Even if you’ve been to England before, being a student there is different from being a tourist, and includes opportunities you’ll only really get as a student. And take as much of a foreign language or two as you can. Be serious about learning the language beyond the required two years. Unfortunately, your college doesn’t seem to offer Latin, so take French or German, or both. If you passed out of the language requirement, take another one anyway, or get better in the one you know. Most Ph.D. programs require proficiency in at least one foreign language, and sometimes two. For medievalists studying English literature, Latin, French, and German are the most useful, commonly-taught languages to know. There are intensive summer programs in Latin, if that’s an option for you now (Google the phrase “intensive Latin summer courses”); you could also leave that for later, once you’re in a graduate program. And finally, start looking into graduate programs in your junior year. Most applications are due in December and January of the year before you plan to start. And any time you want to ask me more advice — especially about graduate programs for budding medievalists — drop me a line. Best of luck and keep in touch!
Although this is the 4th time I’m teaching an intro level liberal arts physics course, I still don’t feel I’ve graduated to doing it with ease. The evals are just stressful. I decided last year that doing two evals, one semester (or more) apart, would be ideal. And what do you know, my students evidently thought so too! Anonymous 4:04: I once saw the opposite comment. Instead of the students complaining that they had to know algebra in a calc-based physics class, they claimed the TA was teaching them calculus in an algebra-based class. Except he wasn’t. They just didn’t know what calculus was, and assumed “algebra that they’d forgotten” must be calculus. Our student evaluation surveys are done in the last week of lectures. We have a week off after lectures and before exams. I haven’t gotten the sense that students are panicky, and I haven’t seen that show up in course evals.