Re: the first assignment. I got a good grade, but a lot of that is a function of my writing ability (which is pretty good-- it better be... I'm a writing teacher and professional writer!). Steve pointed out that I really didn't prove that the theory I'd chosen was a theory rather than a set of practices, which is really true-- husband Jeff spent the whole time driving down to L'ville trying to help me understand what a theory is in philosophy terms, and I realized I am totally practice-- I like to see what works with students, but I don't really come up with a reason set. It works to be affirmative instead of negative! Why do I need to explain why? How is more interesting to me.
But graduate school is about theory.
My MA is in American Lit, and while there are of course critical theories, I never felt the need to choose one approach to criticizing. I loved them all-- deconstruction and formalism and Marxism and feminism, everything. I thought each of them would illuminate some work under study, and with some works, well, every theory offers some meaning-- Hamlet, for sure; and The Heart of Darkness; and The Age of Innocence.
But that sort of comprehensive "whatever works" approach is just another kind of empiricism, I think.