For some applicants, the Winthrop M.A. will be a final degree, but quite a few are at least contemplating doctoral work and may wonder how a relatively small "comprehensive university" like Winthrop compares with a large research university that grants the Ph.D. Of course, the research universities offer larger library collections and a wider range of graduate courses, but we believe that our size and commitment to teaching may make more attractive to many applicants. Obviously, prospective graduate students will be attracted to a strong teaching department in which new M.A. candidates are taken seriously. It is also important for a graduate student to work in a scholarly institution with faculty who are making significant contributions to their fields and where scholarly journals and conferences expose each graduate student to current work in the profession.
Our tradition as a department, which balances teaching and scholarship, began with the arrival in 1896 of James Pinckney Kinard, Winthrop's first Professor of English. He had just completed a Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins University, which at the time probably had the most academically fashionable doctoral programs in the United States. In keeping with the philological orientation of his generation, Professor Kinard's scholarship took the somewhat austere form of a study of Bishop Wulfstan's Old English Homilies and an edition of Old English ballads. He was also a first-rate teacher, after whom the University's primary teaching award is still named, and many other members of the Department have pursued a primary focus on teaching while developing enviable records as scholars or creative writers. Apart from this work by individual faculty, the Department as a whole strives to ensure a scholarly atmosphere for our students by sponsoring an impressive array of conferences and journals.
Another way in which the Winthrop Department of English collectively supports scholarship is by hosting scholarly conferences, which provide the graduate student with many advantages. The Philological Association of the Carolinas was founded here in 1977; and while it meets at a different college or university each year, it has been hosted by Winthrop on four subsequent years and will return in the spring semester of 2006 for its 30th annual conference. PAC is a general literary conference that includes presentations on all areas of literary and rhetorical study, but members of the department have also organized or hosted many specialized conferences on such topics as Yeats, Scotch-Irish Culture, Robert Frost, and Southern Women Writers. In 2007 and 2011, we continued this tradition by welcoming the Southern Regional meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies and in 2009 we hosted the Southeast Eighteenth Century Studies Association. Many members of the Department are officers in organizations such as the College English Association, the Southeastern Medieval Studies Association, and the American Humor Association.
These conferences, like the journals, give graduate students an opportunity to keep in touch with genuinely current scholarly trends by seeing work which is far more innovative than the sometimes dated work available in books. By providing successful models, they should also help your writing to become more sophisticated and marketable. Finally, they allow you to make contacts with members of the profession at institutions where you may seek further instruction or at which you may eventually seek employment. As Winthrop graduates, you will find yourself prepared to join the professional community of literary scholars and teachers by the time you complete your degree.