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What's Your Purpose

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English PhD SoP [Nov. 20th, 2011|02:03 pm]
What's Your Purpose


[mood |calmcalm]

Hey!  If a few people wouldn't mind glancing over my SoP (with all pertinent names removed, of course), that'd be wonderful.  I've got my MA and am applying to film studies programs (most of which are housed in English or Communications departments.)

Having spent much of my time as a graduate student applying to and presenting at conferences, particularly the SCMS conference this year and the Film and History Conference the year before, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of students and faculty members alike about their graduate programs all over the nation.  This allowed me to discuss, with quite a few members of different programs, their specific experiences and current research interests, which led me to choose the University of (redacted) as what I feel is my best fit program in terms of both the graduate/faculty community and my work.  My research has mostly, to this point, been concerned with the image of the grotesque body in contemporary American horror and exploitation cinema and the ways in which this relates to gender configuration and performativity; I am very interested in pursuing this line of filmic questioning in my doctoral research.
For my PhD project, I would like to expand on a theoretical line of questioning that I have already begun working on.  I presented short versions of the introductory material at the last SCMS and University of Florida EGO Conferences.  I’m interested in exploring the ways that female child bodies are presented as simultaneously violent and violated in contemporary cinema.  I want to examine the prepubescent child body in particular and the ways in which it moves from violating to vulnerable and back in so many of these texts; my current interest areas of gender, psychoanalytic, and trauma studies all relate integrally to this topic.  My research interests to date lie mainly in exploitation and horror film as genres that return to a focus on the body (whereas much of contemporary film theory deals with eliding the body in favor of performance).  In an era that produced Hostel (Roth 2005), Xtro (Davenport 1983), and Kick-Ass (Vaughn 2010), I do not believe that we can responsibly avoid their focus on the physical body.  Marginalized and transgressive cinema are both genres of films that frequently address this concern by focusing almost entirely on the body, and they demonstrate the ways in which mainstream and popular film fails at expressing or literally embodying many of the central concepts of, for example, Kristeva’s Powers of Horror, William Ian Miller’s The Anatomy of Disgust, and G. Thomas Couser’s Vulnerable Subjects.  Many of these texts are already ones that I considered as source material in “Violence as a Regendering Force in Basket Case,” which is my writing sample as well as the chapter that I wrote for (book title redacted), which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan this Spring.
As I now have a personal relationship with Frank Henenlotter, who helped found the distributor Something Weird Video in Seattle, Washington, I have access to their incredibly extensive library of exploitation and horror film; optimally, my research will require me to spend time in their archives, looking at the development of this generic trend.  My involvement in the Ax Wound zine – recently included in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition of Riot Grrl zines as one that influentially spoke to the feminist horror community – allows me to connect with a wealth of independent cinephiles and horror critics, as well as independent exploitation horror filmmakers who have, in the past, been more than accommodating in forwarding me screener copies of unreleased films so that I could study them as a part of my research.  These types of non-academic connections are able to influence my work and allow me a vast library of material for research that would not otherwise be available.
Because I began theorizing this project about a year ago, I was able to speak about it with (redacted), who seemed enthusiastic, at the last (University-housed) conference; I also spoke with (redacted), who was understandably busy but incredibly welcoming. The year before that, I had the good fortune to be able to discuss the graduate program and its specifics with (redacted).  Coming from the University of (redacted) MA program in English, I am accustomed to and looking for a supportive program that will encourage me to pursue my own research interests independently while providing access to amazing professors and a proportional amount of theoretical research. I believe that the University of (redacted) film studies program, with its focus on independent student research and its driven community of graduate students, is a perfect fit for both myself and my research.