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Preparing for grad school

Hi, all. I just finished up my BFA in dramatic writing--playwriting, specifically--at NYU. I'm entering NYU's MA program in English and American literature in the fall. (Don't worry--I have a scholarship--I'm not paying anything.) My undergrad advisors knew nothing about English, so this community played a huge role in helping me apply without making a complete ass of myself.

So, what materials do you folks think would be good for a non-English major preparing for graduate English study to read over the summer? Remember, I've had no formal training in the novel or poetry--only drama. Recently, I read Peter Barry's Beginning Theory, a survey of literary theory. But I face a steep learning curve, in terms of both literature and criticism. Any suggestions? I've got to get a serious head start. Thanks!

By the way, for anyone who's doing the CUNY Language for Reading program this summer, so am I--in French.


May. 20th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
I'd recommend something like this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312095457/ref=cm_rdp_product. That one is of Jane Eyre, but Bedford St. Martins has a whole set of books like it. The first part of the book is a primary text, and the second half of the book is an assortment of essays.
It'll give you an array of examples from different critical standpoints-- so when you read terry eagleton (or whatever intro to theory book), you'll have these essays that are all on a primary text you've read, to see how the theory lines up with how an actual lit critic employs that theory. And these books are designed for students (rather than a Norton Critical edition that is designed more for scholars), so it should be considerably easier to read than straight theory.
When I read Eagleton just before I started grad school it went right over my head. Just a lot of philosophy and i had no sense of how this stuff actually worked with literature. So that's my suggestion-- and it doesn't matter what the primary text is, choose whatever you'd like.

I'll also say that the reason I stress this is because in my last two years of grad school I've had quite a few courses with students who weren't used to lit studies. They really *really* struggled with how to talk and write about the primary texts. So I'd really suggest you get a sense of how the field does stuff.

One more thing--- you might also want to check out Gregory Semenza's book on Graduate School. It's a good primer particularly if you're thinking you might go on for the PhD.


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