Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Long List

Let the whittling down commence. Here is a list of potential places to apply for PhD programs:

Penn State
University of British Columbia
Arizona State*
Northern Arizona University*
University of Washington**
UC Berkeley
Indiana University
University of Wisconsin
New York University
Indiana State

I chose these 12 because they are either strictly Applied Linguistics programs, TESOl-focused programs, or English programs with strong applied linguistics and interdisciplinary components. You may note that these are all in North America. Ideally, I'll do more research about each of these over the next few months and start asking questions, narrowing it down to about 5-7 to apply to in the fall, for admission in 2009. My priorities in no particular order are easy-to-work-with/accessible/friendly faculty, a program that's do-able in under 5 years, lots of TA opportunities, full funding, a place where I can get a strong foundation in qualitative research methods, and a proven record of decent job placement. Which I realize means I probably want to go to an imaginary unversity.

* Not because of any masochistic desire to live in Arizona.
** Almost solely because of a desire to live in Seattle. If Portland State had a PhD program, that would be way up on the list too. Sadly they don't, although there's a rumor that they may start one in the next few years or so.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Undergraduate Thesis Defense

Today I took part in the oral thesis defense for graduating English majors at our college. I was given very little preparation about what to expect (for example, I was given some of the papers a few minutes before the presentations, and I wasn't told that I'd have to conference with some of the students until it was time to do so), but overall I was really impressed. These guys had to write papers that would be difficult for native English speaking students to write, and some of them did it with great aplomb. One student even carried out his own empirical quantitative study, which I can't imagine doing as an undergraduate English major. (Maybe that's just me, though. After all, my undergraduate thesis was a sprawling, formless 50 pages about religious themes in J.D. Salinger's Glass family stories.)

Many of the students wrote about cross-cultural communication, and they referred to "English culture," "English people," and "English countries." I tried to challenge one student to explain what she meant by those terms, and she gave me the run-around. A popular theme in this kind of paper is the difference between "western countries" or "English culture" and China. The same kind of oversimplification that we "English people" make when we do cross-cultural comparisons?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Current Happenings

Oral English: mini-debates for the next 4 weeks.

Writing: planning the final exam this week.

Grading: way behind as always. (Why am I writing this, then?)

The Wikipedia page for "Chinglish" is awful. It needs to be changed and I'm going to change it.

Summer job: probably teaching kids' EFL (gulp) for a month in Shaoxing. Further updates soon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


The first chapter of James Gee's An Introduction to Discourse is so riddled with scare quotes that I find myself reluctant to continue despite its otherwise readable style. Why do I dislike seeing words like "truth" and "discourse" in quotation marks? Maybe it's because of the highly political nature of quotation marks that I see in the media here in China, but it's more than that, too. If we have to put everything in quotes -- well, what's the point?

Also, I have to cut right to the chase when I get involved with stuff like this: if a theory is based on the social construction of knowledge/reality/language/whatever -- that stuff is the way it is because we make it the way it is -- what are the implications for somebody who believes there's a God somewhere above/behind/inside this mess?

I'm not sure I have a satisfactory answer. A scholar I admire said "I am critical because I am Christian." This gives me hope, but I don't know quite if it would play out the same way in my own work, if I chose that path.