Some basic things you should know about being in a Ph.D. program

"Cloister, Glasgow University," by _skynet

Disclaimer: This post is not about the politics of humanities Ph.D. programs, the ethics of these arrangements, or whether you should go to grad school in the first place. But if you haven’t already looked into this and you’re thinking of going to grad school, you need to do your homework on this stuff. Start here.

A few days ago I had a nice phone conversation with a recent college graduate who was thinking about applying to Yale’s Film Studies program. Talking to her reminded me of my first year or so as a grad student at Yale, and what I remember most is just all-consuming confusion — the ubiquitous sensation of doing the wrong thing, and, worse, of not knowing what the right thing was.

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So, you’re moving to New Haven: Do you need a car? (Answer: No.)

(This is my third post about moving to New Haven. I’ve also written about where to live and what to do. I wish you the very best of luck on your move, but I regret that I don’t have time to answer individual questions about your situation.)

Parking Ticket
“Parking Ticket,” by alicegop

If there’s one thing that everyone knows about me, it’s this: I give the people what they want. And the people, judging by my Google Analytics, want to know whether you need a car as a grad student in New Haven. So here you go: No, you don’t, and you probably shouldn’t have one, either.

Disclaimer: I had a car in New Haven and you’d pry it from my cold, dead hands. But that’s because I’m a) lazy, b) from California, and c) prone to making bad decisions about the short-term/long-term benefits of things. Even I could tell, as I begged rides to the car-impound lot at two in the morning, that if I were smart, I would give up on the whole having-a-car thing.

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Yale’s film studies “canon”: the readings

My desk in the wake of oral exams
This is what my desk looked like in the wake of my oral exams, back in 2006

Long, long ago, I posted the the filmography from the “canon” exam that Yale’s Film Studies Ph.D. program administers to all of its graduating students. I promised to post the readings, too, and then promptly forgot. Anyway, here they are, in case you’re interested in some light reading. Apologies for the formatting errors; I didn’t have the wherewithal to clean this list up.

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Yale’s Film Studies “canon”

Yale’s Film Studies program is old-school in certain ways, and one of those ways is that we have an exam at the end of our Ph.D. program to test our knowledge of various essential films and film scholarship. We students have nicknamed it the “canon exam,” although it seems as though the professors avoid calling it that.

I was remembering how, the summer before I started grad school, I wondered what films I should watch to make myself conversant with other film students. I think I just ended up checking out every Criterion Collection movie I could find.

I thought you might be interested to see what we’re drilled on, and I don’t think the canon exam is a private affair (quite the opposite, actually, since it exists in part to assure prospective employers that we’ll be up to speed on the canon). So I’m posting the film list below. I’ll post the reading list later. [Update: here’s the reading list.]

As to the politics of a “canon,” or the wisdom of these particular choices … well, I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say that I don’t think this is a bad list, though it’s missing a lot of my favorite movies. (And the movies it does contain are so somber!)

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