What colleges offer a doctorate in comparative myth?
January 25, 2008 10:15 AM   Subscribe

What schools other than Pacifica offer a Ph.D. program in comparative mythology? My Google-fu has failed me. I understand that certain institutions offer interdisciplinary studies that can be bent in the direction of mythology, as can certain programs in English. But I can't seem to find any that offer the richness of mythological courses found at Pacifica. Surely that isn't the only university out there!
posted by jackypaper to Education (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Surely that isn't the only university out there!
It very well may be. A PhD isn't designed to promote the recipient's personal intellectual development. It's job training, and humanities PhD programs are job training for careers in academia. As a tool to get a job in academia, a PhD in comparative mythology would not be very helpful. Therefore, I don't think you're going to find too many programs that offer them.
posted by craichead at 10:34 AM on January 25, 2008


A PhD isn't designed to promote the recipient's personal intellectual development. It's job training.

Well, I find something inherently wrong in this arrangement, if indeed you're correct. I don't seek a Ph.D. to get a certain job; I'm quite happy doing what I'm doing. But the more I read about myths, metaphors, and comparative religion, the more it fascinates me. I want to take the courses because they stimulate me intellectually, not because I want to get a job as a university professor.

Alas, what's happened to education for education's sake?
posted by jackypaper at 10:41 AM on January 25, 2008


want to take the courses because they stimulate me intellectually, not because I want to get a job as a university professor.
PhD programs also aren't about taking courses. They're about producing dissertations, which contribute to the field of study and serve as evidence of your ability to continue to contribute to the field. The classes are just a preliminary. In many countries, PhD programs don't even require classes, because you're already supposed to have amassed the knowledge you need to begin doing your own work.
Alas, what's happened to education for education's sake?
It's a fabulous ideal, and there are probably lots of appropriate venues in which to pursue it. A PhD program just isn't really one of them.
posted by craichead at 10:49 AM on January 25, 2008


I don't seek a Ph.D. to get a certain job

That is the reason to get a phd.

Or rather, the only decent reason to get a phd is because you want to become a full-time researcher, and maybe instructor, in that field. I expect that you would be very disappointed with a PhD program, since PhD programs are not about taking interesting courses. They are about taking rough survey courses and methodology courses that won't make any sense for quite a while, undergoing brutally comprehensive examinations on the entire field including all of the stuff you were never assigned in class, and being turned loose on the library, lab, or computer cluster to go do original research with, often, very little training in actually doing original research.

Alas, what's happened to education for education's sake?

That's what continuing education is for, not PhD programs.

If you are interested in reading about mythology and having stimulating discussions about mythology, I would look into finding or starting an online reading group that focuses on original sources (especially if you can learn an ancient language or two) and serious scholarship. If you do this successfully for a few years you could probably interest professors or graduate students studying mythology in joining.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:56 AM on January 25, 2008


Yeah I just thought I'd back up what everyone here has said, a PhD is very much a specialized degree that enables one to become a professional academic, whether that be a researcher or an instructor. Basically, PhDs programs are designed to make you into an academic. A lot of people enter into PhD programs with a similar misapprehension and that accounts for the high drop-out rate that is part of grad school life.
posted by ob at 11:08 AM on January 25, 2008


A lot of people enter into PhD programs with a similar misapprehension and that accounts for the high drop-out rate that is part of grad school life.
Well, that and psychotic advisers, chronic procrastination, and realizing that having money actually does make some things funner and easier. But yeah, you'll be a much happier camper if you enter a PhD program with realistic ideas about what the process is all about.
posted by craichead at 11:13 AM on January 25, 2008


I have a close friend who's currently in the low-residency MA program in Mythological Studies/Depth Psychology at Pacifica. I'm not going to dispute anything craichead or ROU_Xenophobe said about (most) PhD programs, but based on your responses I think you'd enjoy studying at Pacifica immensely. You know about their Joseph Campbell archives, right?

From what my friend has told me, I don't think that the program at Pacifica is designed, really, to churn out professional academics; therefore, I expect most professional academics would look down on the program and its course of study. It is, however, focused on studying mythology for mythology's sake, and on allowing students with a shared interest in religion/mythology/psychology to get to know one another and interact in a positive environment of shared learning. It may, in fact, be the only program of its kind.
posted by junkbox at 11:21 AM on January 25, 2008


I agree with what others say about the utility of doctorates and about the nature of getting one. Having said that, if you want to pursue it for its own sake, then I would say, the key thing in your situation is not the university per se (since the "brand recognition" of your degree may not matter) and likewise the department or program that you enter into may not matter (since you won't be looking for jobs in, say, History with a degree in Mythology. Rather what matters is something that matters hugely for any Ph.D. student, but which in their case may be constrained by those other considerations: who your supervisor is. Therefore, I would suggest, if you want to go this route, then consider finding out who is doing the most interesting and stimulating research in the areas most close to your interests and seeing if he/she/they are able to take students. For example, there are still some people doing comparative mythology in Anthropology departments, and while (because?) some of them might be crusty old dinosaurs out of the trendy spotlight, they might be ideal Ph.D. supervisors.

And, in the less mercantile disciplines, doing it for love, not money, may well be music to the professor's ears. They may be resigned to not training a lot of students for a job market. therefore do not do an "opportunity cost" analysis that they could train someone for academia instead of for love of topic. (And, if by some small chance, you have such amazing insight into the topic, write a brilliant dissertation and produce a series of front-rank journal articles before you graduate, then you might just get a job in academia anyway, and would deserve and probably enjoy it)

Also: to amplify the points above: Ph.D.s are most definitely not about taking a suite of fascinating courses relevant to your interests. They are a grind, and the dissertation can also be a grind, and that's when you find out if you actually do love the subject or not.

I had a PhD student once who, just before I "fired him" admitted he was primarily doing it because having a PhD would "improve his self esteem". I had to inform him that (a) he was not in a department of counselling psychology and that (b) in any case, if one wanted to design a 4 year process intended to destroy self-esteem, it might well resemble his Ph.D.
posted by Rumple at 11:45 AM on January 25, 2008


It's not surprising that there are few PhD programs in such a small subfield. I don't know of any in my subfield. I'm guessing that it's like this: you wouldn't get a PhD in comparative mythology, you would write a dissertation in comparative mythology. That's the way it is with most graduate specializations. So you need to find an adviser whose interests match yours, not an entire program. Also, most of a PhD program isn't about taking courses, though those help. (Typically they help to broaden you more than to focus you, in my experience.) It's about doing your own independent research.
posted by advil at 12:11 PM on January 25, 2008


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