Have you ever thought that the stories you read might be describing
aspects of your life? Or that whatever you live is written in every book you
get through? Well, ok, it is not a big deal, this usually happens. All book
lovers have admitted it and it is indeed one of the pleasures of literature.
Yet, some stories
seem completely detached from any life experiences you may have had. Hmmm... at
least at a first glance that is. With the power that reader response theories
have given to the reader, the merit of symbolism
and loads of
imagination, let me introduce you to my current literature world, where all picturebooks
include thesis-writing implications.
Birthday Battle Bunny (written by Jon Scieszka and Mac
Barnett and illustrated by Matthew Myers)
When Alex gets the corny book "Birthday Bunny" as a birthday
present, he grabs his pencil and changes the entire story. He scratches words,
replaces lots of them, adds his own drawings in the illustration and in the end
he creates his own version of the tale. Readers can notice all his
interventions, since they are depicted as a child’s handwriting
over the original computerish print. Of course, the final result is based on
"Birthday Bunny", but now it is called "Battle Bunny" and
it seems much different. It is also more adventurous and interesting. I bet that
when Alex grows up, he will follow either of the following two career paths: a)
postgraduate student/academic researcher reading and scribbling and writing and
erasing and then writing again; or; b) supervisor reading and scribbling and
writing and erasing and then writing again.
supervisors from all over the world Microsoft Word
has offered invaluable assistance in editing and grammar correction)
2. Lindbergh - The tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann
"Many years ago
in a country across the sea there lived an inquisitive mouse. This little mouse
was so curious he would hide away, sometimes for months to read great books
written by humans". Judging from the opening sentence, this story
is certainly related to inquisitive creatures. I know plenty of those
that constantly have their heads buried in a book written by humans. Every day
I bump into them in the library (not a surprise!) or in the college and I can confirm
that there are hundreds to be found in the Faculty of Education. While writing
these lines and looking at my desk which is covered by books and notebooks, I
strongly suspect that I have become one of them...
Living in a cruel
human world where mousetraps, cats and owls lie in ambush, the mouse of
"Lindbergh" decided to build his own flying machine and fly
away. Bats, his distant relatives, do that with great success, so why shouldn't
he try? Nevertheless, it was not as easy as it sounded. Moreover, bats have
wings by nature.
First try --> failure: "He swung through the
air for a moment. But then he tumbled and plunged toward the ground at
alarming". He came up with the idea of adding steam to his contraption.
Second -improved- try --> also a failure: the machine being too heavy, it
crashed into pieces. After new refinements, the little mouse attempted a third
try. And he succeeded. He flew to New York, leaving astonished those who saw
him swinging in the sky.
let me think similar stories of the inquisitive creatures in my own world. Have
they ever failed? What obstacles have they come across? From where do they draw
inspiration? How many times did they refine their writings? How many times will
they keep amending their thoughts? Fingers crossed that they will follow the
little mouse's example and they will not stop trying, even if they finally succeed in
creating their own "flying machine" to conquer the -academic/
publishing/ literary- world.
3. April, the red
You probably think that
April is a red goldfish (!) which lives a boring life in her fish bowl. She
feels trapped and her dream is to escape and travel around the world. To me: fish
bowl = library, escape = thesis submission, travel the world = travel the world
after the submission. This is maybe a brave parallelism, given that libraries
seem fantastic places, especially for researchers and even more especially for
literature researchers. Nevertheless, let’s be honest: do you really consider
your department's faculty as the most magical place in the world, especially
after you have spent 5 hours in there, turning over hundreds of pages without
finding what you are searching for? And don’t even let me get started on those
days when there is no ounce of inspiration on the horizon.
April the goldfish
was "the kind of fish to ponder the deep questions". Likewise, PhD
students are the kind of students to ponder deep research questions. Not only to
pose those questions, but also try to find their answers -something even more
spectacular than a red goldfish which talks and tries to manipulate a black
cat. [To be fair, I do not know what to do with this black cat in my
"academic" version of the story. I don't think that a thesis can be a
black cat. A thesis is not that unfriendly and definitely it does not eat people.]
+1. Pablo, the artist by Satoshi Kitamura
Talking about no
inspiration on the horizon, Pablo the elephant has artist's block (I suspect it
is similar to writer’s block, and unfortunately I can totally relate with poor
Pablo). Whatever he paints doesn't seem right to him. Then, Leonardo the lion
suggests that his elephant friend should go out to find a great landscape to start with.
"A good landscape is the next best thing to a self-portrait", he says.
Following the lion’s advice, Pablo visits a picturesque meadow and step by step
draws a decent background for his portrait. But then he falls asleep and...
there it is! His dreams fully inspired him and he was then able to create the
most fascinating painting ever.
a) Do not give up, when you don't feel in a creative mode.
b) Making a start is always the most difficult step.
c) Engaging with the activity may help you find your inspiration.
d) Keep your ears open for any useful advice.
e) A good landscape for the self-portrait seems like a good theoretical
background for the research.
f) Take a rest every once a while. Even workaholics need some power
g) You never know when you will come up with the best idea ever.
h) Indeed dreams can come true.
i) Rush back to your... canvas and start to work!