TSS – 18 October 2009


I have two things to say to you this Sunday:



At the moment I’m working on a paper for my survey course on the poem “Entrada a la madera/Entrance to wood” by Pablo Neruda.  It’s a delightfully odd poem that questions nature and substance and the union of humanity with nature.  I love it and wanted to share it with you, but there doesn’t seem to be a decent translation of it online.  I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to say about it.  It’s one of the most argued-over poems in academia.  No one really seems to know what Neruda is getting at and I think that’s why I’m drawn to it.

I bring this up because whenever I write one of these papers I get to thinking about my Master’s thesis.  We have to decide on a topic NEXT SEMESTER.  Which is equal parts terrifying and exciting.  So I thought I would ask you!  Many of you are familiar with Latin American fiction and poetry and I’d like to bounce around some ideas.

  • 2666.  YEAAAAAAAAAH.  I’m seriously thinking about this one.   It would be a MAJOR project.  I’d have to read the book in Spanish (help, Richard!) and I would most likely have to focus on one very small aspect of the book, because my thesis is a minimum of 60 pages.  I don’t know if there’s a maximum, but I’d like to be realistic!
  • Virgin Mary poetry.  This is inspired by a class I took on the Virgin of Guadalupe and about her transformation from religious symbol to a symbol of rebellion and finally of Mexican identity.  It’s a really fascinating topic and I know that I would enjoy doing the research.
  • Neruda.  I love Neruda.  He’s why I began studying Spanish in the first place.  He’s also one of the more studied poets.
  • Elena Poniatowska.  She’s just such an interesting woman and everything I’ve read of hers I’ve loved.  It would be great to explore her work more.
  • Gabriela Mistral.  She was the first Latin American to win the Nobel prize and I really like her work.  Plus, she just looks like a no-nonsense kind of woman:

She was also bffs with Neruda.

Do you have any suggestions?  This is just what I’m thinking about now.  2666 would be so much fun, and also somewhat unconventional as it was just published.  Mistral and Neruda are safe choices.  Virgin Mary poetry is something that I’m interested, but it would also involve a lot of reading across many centuries to get a good scope of what I’m dealing with.  I’m sure I’ll come up with some more topics over the next few weeks.  Christmas break is going to be spent reading and deciding on a topic.


12 thoughts on “TSS – 18 October 2009

  1. I don’t think I can really offer any help, but seriously good luck with a masters thesis. I don’t know that I could pull it off. I’m terrible at nonfiction writing.

  2. I’m not knowledgeable enough to be able to offer any serious help, but idea number two sounds like it could be absolutely fascinating. Good luck!

  3. I’ll throw my hat in with “2666.” And would love to read what you discover. The others have been done before and, as you said, are safe choices. Bolano will be receiving a lot of critical work and theses and dissertations in the future, why not beat them to the punch and provide the basis for future research. Sounds good to me.

  4. I’m not nearly as familiar with Latin American literature as I should be. All I can think of right now is Mario Vargas Llosa. Isabel Allende is probably too “Oprah’s Book Club” at this point.

    I say go with 2666. It’s definitely ambitious, especially if you’re reading it in Spanish, but I’m sure the people reading your thesis have probably read hundreds of theses and would probably appreciate something totally different.

  5. If I were you, I’d tend toward 2666, but I don’t know if you’re like me in how you like to write papers…when I was writing my undergrad honors thesis it just bothered me so much to be writing on SHAKESPEARE, of all people – the most studied writer in the English language. I would have loved to feel like there was a possibility of breaking new ground on something. But my thesis buddy really appreciated the wealth of other critical voices available. So it’s all down to your style, but good luck deciding!

  6. I am not that familiar with Latin American lit (only read some of the famous one like Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) so cannot be of much help. I do have to say though: I wish you all the best. I completed my MA thesis late this spring (I got my BA degree 10 years ago and have been working more or less full time, and then last year I wanted to take up studing again and managed to do the MA including the thesis in a year, which was quite an accomplishment). From one day to another I was able to “demand” quite a rise in my salary, just because of the MA. It was a lovely thing to finish it, and in fact, i still haven’t really adjusted to the fact that I have the MA and not “just” the BA.

    My field is not literature though. But it is actually my kid sister’s field. She also just finished an MA thesis (she wrote about modern Arabic literature) and I had the pleasure of reading her thesis a couple of times. Its definitely an exciting thing to be able to do a thesis in lit. If I could choose again, that or journalism would be highest on my list.

    Anyway, I am babbling on and on here. JUST WANT TO SAY GOOD LUCK 🙂 🙂

  7. I love Neruda but I’m suggesting 2666 since that’s #1 on your list. I’ve noticed a few of us are going through a reading slump right now. Maye it’s the weather.

    Yes, halves count! =)

  8. Oh Lu–I wish I could help you. I was too chicken to write a thesis so I opted for the easier Masters program and took more course work (like 42 hours I think?). Good luck! I’m sure what ever you come up with will be great.

  9. I would probably write about 2666 – because I enjoy writing about something that hasn’t been worked to death.

    Although, writing about Neruda’s bff sounds like fun 😉

    Do what you enjoy best, and it’ll work out.

  10. Lu, 2666 sounds great for all the reasons you mention…plus, it just is! Bolaño’s Spanish isn’t difficult at all (one of his tricks, making it look easy), so don’t let that put you off either. ¡Saludos!

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