free professional advice!
‘Tis the season of fielding PhD applications… The following advice only applies to those applying in the UK, and I explain why this is the case below…
I am somewhat astounded how many I see that front a high (or somewhat high) concept “idea” but then have almost nothing to say about actually existing novels, collection of poetry etc. It seems clear in many cases that the novels that are mentioned might not have even been read. I understand the difficulty involved – one needs the time of the PhD to do in depth research into the way ideas manifest in the literature of period X or Y. But on the other hand: good ideas for literary critical projects generally arise out of the reading of works themselves, not the imposition of an externally developed lens.
So if you’re thinking about putting in a proposal of this sort, make sure you’re solid on the authors / books that you’re going to discuss before you type up the abstract. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready yet… Take another year, there’s no rush. Might seem obvious, but really does separate out the tenable proposals from the flimsy ones, this issue.
(I say UK PhD applications because the US version is quite different. Since you’re going to do 2 – 3 years of seminar work before composing your abstract, you can be more vague – probably should be more vague – on this point…)
(Oh, and it of course makes less and less sense to do a PhD in the first place every year, so caveat emptor and all that. Then again, it’s unclear that there’s much else to do nowadays, so if you can get funding to do it I suppose why not, right?)