Well Winter term has started and it is time to get back to work. I know this blog is called Preliminaries Project, but for now I don’t have much to say about Preliminaries. We are beginning a new round of research and model building, but it is still in the, ehem, preliminary phase. I would like instead to take this opportunity to talk a bit about my academic future.
Here in the Hispanic Studies department at Western University, instead of doing comprehensive exams we design courses. I like this; it seems that comps represent the old guard of academia, an antiquated rite of passage that often provides more stress than benefit. Is it important to know your field of study inside and out? Of course it is. However, designing courses forces the doctoral student to engage creatively with the material that interests them, and appears to be more realistic, or representative of what you will actually be doing in the real world. They say that teaching a subject is the best way to learn it. Cliché yes, but in my experience very true, and I believe planning a course and then defending it in front of a critical audience simulates this this kind of leaning process. Plus designing courses give you a leg up in the job market: you already have two courses more or less ready when you (hopefully) get that new job.
To graduate from the Ph.D. program here there are three requirements: coursework, 2 course designs, and a doctoral thesis. Although I am still in my first year, it is already time to begin thinking about my thesis and course designs. A year from now, I will be presenting an official thesis proposal and defending my first course. These are big projects, so it is crucial to find a topic that you find very engaging.
What engages me? Good question. I guess the point of this blog is to get some of my ideas out on paper, even if they are still in the formative stages. First of all, thinking about my thesis, I think my primary interest in terms of Hispanic Studies is early print culture and the interactions between political or ecclesiastic structures, print culture, and authors. Sounds a bit like Preliminaries doesn’t it? This is a BIG topic, so obviously I have to narrow it down. I find that I am also quite interested in New Spain—the Spanish viceroyalty located in present day Mexico, Central America, and the southwest of the United States—something about the history really intrigues me, so it seems to be a given that I will focus my studies here. Interestingly enough, my interest for New Spain was sparked by my studies of New Spanish painting, a subject that recently lead me to investigate the literary phenomenon surrounding its most famous iconographic subject: The Virgin of Guadalupe. Here I found all sorts of interesting results, above all the heavy influence in literary production of certain affiliates of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. These individuals were involved in a campaign to historicize the guadalupan legend during the second half of the 17th century and most of the 18th century, and I strongly suspect that they had a hand in much of the literary production of the era. For my thesis, I hope to explore these kinds of relationships while at the same time engaging deeply with the literary discourse of the era, as I feel that I will discover strong and interesting relationships between discourse and politics.
As far my course design, the jury is still out. Here I will limit myself to a few ideas:
Techniques and Technologies of the Digital Humanities: A survey course that focuses on some of the common technologies of the digital humanities, how they have been applied in research projects, and how to use them.
Hispanic literature-The Nineties and Beyond: This course would focus on some of my favorite Hispanic authors: Junot Diaz, Roberto Bolaño, Cristina Rivera Garza etc. Using books like 2666, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Verde Shanghai, we would look at what it means to be a writer, and furthermore a Latin American author in the 21st century
New Spain and the Creole Consciousness: This course would focus on the literatures of New Spain and their relationships with the emerging Mexican identity. We would read authors such as Bernardo de Balbuena, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, and the founders of the guadalupan legend: Laso de la Vega, Miguel Cabrera etc.
These are just a few ideas. Thankfully I still have a while to think on my academic future. But as we all know, time flies around here, and before I know it I will be writing those first chapters of my thesis. Can you ever truly be ready? Maybe not. But it doesn’t hurt to try.