I have a predicament. I am about 4 weeks shy of graduating from a small Virginia (USA) school with a BA in English literature and I received a D in an upper-level research class in linguistics, which I do not intend to study in the future. I want to apply to a graduate program for English lit in the future, and I am otherwise qualified (otherwise great grades/GPA, great test scores and letters of recommendation, four conference presentations, and a highly prestigious award for an undergraduate research paper in literature). I am very nervous that this class will kill my chances of getting into a good masters/PhD program. I plan to explain that the class was in linguistics, which was very far out of my comfort zone and I had very little prior knowledge of the subject or research methods required to succeed in this class. I felt like my professor expected more from me than I was capable of because I won awards for my research in literature, and she assured me that I would be qualified to perform this research without realizing that my research had been exclusively literary until that point and that I would need extra help to succeed (which she was never willing to provide despite me practically begging for help). Do you think this situation would kill my chances of getting into a good school? Or do you think they would be willing to overlook the abnormal grade since it was not part of my area of study?
It might also be important to note that I failed a literature class and retook it and earned a B+. The "F" is still visible on my transcript but doesn't factor into my GPA. I received the grade because I could not turn in my final paper due to a one-time extenuating circumstance, but my performance was excellent in that course until that point.
This is a super long and complicated question, but I'm taking a gap year to figure myself out and gain professional experience, so I'm not looking at any urgent upcoming deadlines. I just don't want to set myself up for failure by applying to schools that wouldn't give me a chance. I'm more than willing to go into an MA program at a smaller school to work hard and prove myself to a big shot university. I just don't really know what to do and professors at my school are not being up front with me about my situation because they don't have the full story. Everyone I work with says I have a great chance, but I am having doubts.