Prospective applicants to the Cornell Ph.D. program in English occasionally write me to ask about the “type of student Cornell is looking for.” …

A glance at the titles of dissertations completed in the past five years suggests why it’s a difficult question to answer. Are we looking for the type of student who is interested in “George Eliot and the Victorian Discourses of Gender and Historiography” (Rohan Maitzen, now teaching at Dalhousie University) or in “Gender Magic: Desire, Romance, and the Feminine in Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight” (Geraldine Heng, University of Texas/Austin)… .

Fascinating work has also been produced by … students who bring their training as readers and interpreters of literature to the study of visual media in dissertations such as “Rearranging the Furniture: The Apparatus of Subjectivity in 1950s Cinema” (Sabrina Barton, University of Texas at Austin) or “Reading by Half-Light: Cinematic Spectatorship in Modernist Women’s Writing” (Rebecca Egger, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor). And Cornell has played a crucial part in producing a new generation of scholars in eighteenth-century and Restoration literature, with dissertations such as “Dangerous Publics: Literature, Culture-Consumption and Political Activism in the 1790s” (Andrew McCann, University of Queensland, Australia)… .

In the past five years, our program has turned out specialists in minority literatures as well, with dissertations such as “Learning from Experience: Politics, Epistemology, and Chicana/o Identity” (Paula Moya, Stanford University) and “Bodies in Collision: African-American Fiction and the Sexual Politics of Narrative” (Terry Rowden, University of Colorado at Boulder). From “Balancing the Demand and the Delight: Preparing the English Professional at Cornell,” by Debra Fried, Director of Graduate Studies, in the September 1997 issue of English at Cornell: A Newsletter from the Department of English, page 6.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 16 Number 2, on page 3
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