Can I get onto an English Literature PhD?

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Charlie Gorst
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I'm interested in becoming a lecturer in English Literature but I only have an undergraduate degree in philosophy - will an MA in literature suffice to get me onto a programme?
Additionally, I've also heard it's not really worth going down the academic route if you can't get onto a top ten programme for the subject - how true is this? and would it be true of me with just an MA?
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0le
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(Original post by Charlie Gorst)
I'm interested in becoming a lecturer in English Literature but I only have an undergraduate degree in philosophy
I think it would be wise to first focus on trying to get a PhD first and if you succeed, only then evaluate whether you wish to remain in academia or not. This is because from your post, it seems that you have not yet got a PhD, nor been a post-doc nor have you been a GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant). Therefore the chances that you have any idea of what it is like to be a lecturer is slim.


- will an MA in literature suffice to get me onto a programme?
It depends on what the supervisor requests but from my perspective, I cannot see why not? Perhaps you should ask some lecturers what they think?
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artful_lounger
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Possibly depends what field of "literature" you end up working on for your PhD. If you work in literary/critical theory (i.e. the development, analysis, and criticisms of these theories and theoretical frameworks, rather than applying them to literary texts) then I imagine a philosophy background might be ok.

I agree with the above poster that you should aim for getting the PhD first then cross the bridge of becoming an academic (and hence, lecturer) when you get to it. It's also worth noting that there are generally not going to be that many positions for budding academics in literature fields so it may well transpire you can't pursue that route anyway. Do you have any alternative plans if that is the case?
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Uni of Hull Students
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(Original post by Charlie Gorst)
I'm interested in becoming a lecturer in English Literature but I only have an undergraduate degree in philosophy - will an MA in literature suffice to get me onto a programme?
Additionally, I've also heard it's not really worth going down the academic route if you can't get onto a top ten programme for the subject - how true is this? and would it be true of me with just an MA?
Hi Charlie Gorst

It is great that you are considering studying a PhD in English Literature to then potentially become a lecturer in English Literature.

One thing which is worth considering is that some universities may offer a PhD in English rather than specifically as English Literature per say and it is worth researching into that as to what that means.

At Hull we offer PhD's in English and Creative Writing. Further details about these programmes including lecturers specialisms and our entry requirements which are a 2:1 (honours) in a relevant subject as well as additional parts, can be found on our website - https://www.hull.ac.uk/study/postgra...search-degrees

It is worth considering whether you would be wanting to apply for a funded PhD - and if there are any available - or if being self-funded via a Doctoral Loan is a option as well.

It is also worth considering whether there is opportunities to teach as part of that course. It is important to gain experience of teaching if becoming a lecturer is something which you would consider doing.

If you have any questions about studying a PhD in general, i am current 2nd year self-funded PhD History student at Hull and i am happy to answer any questions to do with this which you may have via our Ask a Student page on our website - https://www.hull.ac.uk/study/ask-a-student

I hope this is helpful

Emily
PhD History Candidate
University of Hull Student Representative
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QHF
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(Original post by Charlie Gorst)
I'm interested in becoming a lecturer in English Literature but I only have an undergraduate degree in philosophy - will an MA in literature suffice to get me onto a programme?
Additionally, I've also heard it's not really worth going down the academic route if you can't get onto a top ten programme for the subject - how true is this? and would it be true of me with just an MA?
English is a very broad discipline and if you cross-trained by taking a master’s in literature I don’t think your BA in philosophy would be a problem (you would of course need a credible project, &c &c, but everyone needs that). I’ve known people do English doctorates with BAs in other humanities fields. There are also some interdisciplinary options out there: Warwick, for instance, has a Philosophy and Literature PhD degree.

Is it worth ‘going down the academic route’ if you can’t get into a top programme? Well, what does ‘worth’ mean to you? English is large for a humanities discipline, but significant bits of it are shrinking (e.g. the closure of the department at Portsmouth, redundancies at Leicester, Chester, and so on). All humanities disciplines are ferociously competitive at the postdoctoral level, even for people from the very best institutions (inasmuch as one place can be weighed up against another, which is often not very much). If it’s only ‘worth it’ to pursue a PhD for you if the end result is, let’s say, a greater-than-5% chance of eventually having a permanent job as a lecturer in English, you should not do a PhD anywhere, because nowhere can offer that. (I think 5% is generous, actually, but let’s say 5.) If on the other hand you want to roll the dice in the casino of academic careers and you don’t mind having a slim chance, but you’d like to maximise your chances, then yes, I recommend taking your doctorate at a well-known, well-resourced department with a supervisor who (and this is the stickiest bit) is both powerful and actively helpful to their students. You should also gird up your loins for a fair bit of insecurity and mobility, because the normal post-PhD route to a permanent job is a series of postdoctoral roles (research, teaching, or both), and you will have to go where the work is.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t do a PhD. I found my doctorate immensely fulfilling and I’m very glad I did it—and I would be glad I did even if I hadn’t wound up working in academia afterwards. But you probably shouldn’t do a PhD if your primary motivation is to parley it into employment as an academic, because that’s unlikely. And if you do do a doctorate, you should by all means have a go at the academic career route, but do so with your eyes open about the trade-offs involved, and with some backup plans for what you’ll do if it doesn’t work out—because for most people who try it, it doesn’t work out. You’ll have a lot more fun and a healthier life if you go in knowing and thinking about that rather than not knowing it, or knowing it and refusing to think about it.
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