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Latin American Literature - Prof. Rodriguez: Your Assignment

Your Assignment

Research Paper Topic (due 10/28)

Your assignment for next week is to come up with a topic for your end-of-semester project (i.e., the research paper).  Please do not let the name of this assignment intimidate or confuse you.  You will not be doing any scientific laboratory experiments, or putting together any charts and graphs.  Your research paper will simply be another essay, just like the first one you wrote, only longer, and with some background materials added.  You will complete the project over the coming weeks in a number of gradual steps, as follows: 

Step 1: Choose your primary text(s).  First you will select your topic: some author, poet, playwright or literary topic that you want to explore, such as  “The Changing Image of the Gaucho in Argentinian Literature".  Once you decide on your author or topic, you will need to select your PRIMARY TEXT (OR TEXTS).  These are the stories, poems or novels that you will be analyzing.  So, for example, if you were to choose this week's author Jorge Luis Borges,, you would need to find some other stories by him to read and analyze.  You may choose an author that we have covered in class, or you may prefer to choose some other author of your liking.  My only restriction is that you do not select any story, poem or play that I have assigned as one of your primary texts.  So, for example, if you choose Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths” would be off limits.

Step 2: Come up with your thesis.  Just as you did with the first essay, this paper should be focused upon some thesis or point-of-view about your topic that you want to propose to your reader.  Coming up with a good thesis may be the most difficult part of this assignment.   Remember: the thesis is an opinion you have about the author or texts that not everyone might agree with.  It is a debatable proposition that needs to be supported and defended by you in your essay.  You may find it hard to finalize your thesis until you have completed your research.  In other words, you may begin with a certain thesis in mind, and then revise it based upon discoveries you make during the research process.

Step 3: Begin your research.  Your “research” for this paper will simply consist of background materials to support the thesis that you have proposed.  We will call these your SECONDARY TEXTS.  You will quote from these secondary materials and cite them within your essay, as well as in a Works Cited list at the end.  These outside sources might be used to (1) provide biographical data about the author, (2) offer other interpretations or perspectives from professional literary critics, or (3) simply provide cultural and historical background that can enhance a reader’s understanding of a particular work.  I would like you to conduct this research by tapping into the library’s vast storehouse of scholarly literary resources – both print AND web.  That means you should make only minimal use of Google, Wikipedia, and other Internet sources.  Our research librarian Prof. Seelick is ready to assist you with this task.  (See her contact info here on Blackboard.)

FOR NEXT WEEK YOU NEED ONLY COMPLETE STEP 1.  I want you to give me a page or two of writing that identifies your proposed topic and names your primary text or texts.  Explain why you have chosen this author or topic, and try to advance at least a preliminary thesis that you hope to argue.  IMPORTANT: YOU MAY CHANGE YOUR TOPIC AND THESIS AT A LATER DATE.  But I want you to come up with at least a provisional topic/thesis for next week to get you started on this project.  This will be graded like a normal homework assignment (0 to 4 point range).  IF YOUR PROPOSAL DOES NOT CONTAIN AT LEAST 300 WORDS, IT WILL NOT GET FULL CREDIT.

Here are just a few sample topics just to give you an idea of the kind off thing I am looking for.  But try to come up with a topic of your own that interests you.  I need to appove your topic now before you go too far with it.

  • Colonial Narratives: The Early Contact between Conquistadores and Native Americans
  • The Complicated History of the Popol Vuh
  • Dom Casmurro, Machado’s Masterpiece Novel
  • The Indigenous Roots of Miguel Angel Asturias
  • Sarmiento’s Facundo: An Ambivalent Portrait of the Gaucho
  • Ricardo Palma’s Tradiciones Peruanas: Building a Peruvian Culture
  • The Madonna-Whore Complex: Women in Latin-American Literature
  • Modernismo: Turn-of-the Century Art Challenges Science
  • The Turn to Realism and Naturalism in Latin-American Literature
  • The short stories of Horacio Quiroga

In Memoriam

Beth Seelick's picture
Beth Seelick
This research guide was created by Professor Beth Seelick (1955-2019).
"A teacher affects eternity; she can never tell where her influence stops." ― Henry B. Adams