In a word: Urgle.
This year, as part of my Masters, I have to write a thesis. Technically I have a choice between a creative thesis and an academic one, but if I want to teach or do a PhD (and get a scholarship) then I pretty much have to do an academic one. Which is fine, it was my leaning last year. Howver I must admit this year, looking down the barrel of 2007 I began to get faint of heart and was thinking of doing a creative one, because frankly for me I believe it would be easier.
Anywho, so now I have to come up with a thesis topic. In the next week or so, preferably (or at least have an inkling which way I might go). Tralala.
Here are some random things I find interesting:
*Narrative structure - in particular, finding alternatives to mythic structure or the hero's journey in fiction, wondering (for my personal writing) if an alternative model could be applied to a genre fantasy novel or trilogy to interesting effect or if mythology could offer an alternative model.
*Temporality in fiction - in particular reflexive narratives, where you find out the end at the beginning, so the tension comes not from what happened but how it happened. A common choice for what publishers sometimes call crossover novels (novels that appeal to both YA and adults or are about teenagers but for an adult audience, like The Secret History or The Book Thief or The Lovely Bones).
*In my searches for inspirational papers I found an article on machines in medical dramas called Visual Anatomies by Petra Kuppers. It begins: "The jumping, modulating lines of heart and brain monitors abound in medical dramas. In them life is translated: from a living, breathing body into a visual representation." For some reason this has captured my imagination. I did some reading about comas when writing Drift, and came across the case of a man who woke from a 7 year coma to speak to his family, just as they were trying to make the decision whether or not surgery should be performed on him. Read more about it and some of the difficult issues that surround this phenomenon here, an interesting articles about coma and silence. But I don't know how I would shape my fascination into a particular thesis topic. Or if this actually qualifies as one of those things that's more interesting to read about than write about. In fact what I think I really admire about the above papers is the specificity of them, the drilling down into the layers of meaning in one precise image (the comatose body or the medical machine).
*This is a cheerful one - what a dead child/teenager or dead child/teenage body signifies in literature or other narratives (as opposed to an infant or adult). I guess partly inspired by Buffy, with the sheer volume of dead teenagers, but also thinking about books like The Lovely Bones, Bridge to Terabithia, Of a Boy, Seven Little Australians, The Secret History, Little Friend, The Sweet Hereafter, M. Night Shyamalan's film The Village etc etc etc So also contrasting what it signifies depending on the market its intended for - children, YA, adult, or (and in particular) those oddling crossover books that sit between adult and young adult (like Harnett's Of a Boy). But I'm worried it might prove too depressing to think about dead kids for a whole year.
I always thought when I wrote a thesis one day, it would be some lovely genteel topic like butterflies in Jane Eyre (are there any?) or Food and Power in the novels of Jane Austen. Or more likely, I thought it would be about Ancient Greek mythology or literature, since I planned early on to do a PhD in Classics. This was before anyone told me about post-structuralist metanarratives. Now, in true postmodern fashion, I am paralysed by choice and indecision.
Other things I am interested in include: fairytales, metafiction, the body, australian children's literature, american children's literature, nostalgia, the intersection of personal history, general history, fiction and landscape (for example Gilead, see review below), Anne Tyler, Charlotte Bronte, Alice in Wonderland, game narratives, television narratives, melancholy as an aesthetic principle, children's fiction set in the 2nd world war, Nina Bawden, Rumer Godden, Noel Streatfeild, Margaret Mahy, timeslip narratives, magic-in-the-'real-world' narratives, butterflies, cake, female friendship, imagery, metaphor, birds, winter, Jane Gardam, A.S. Byatt, Simon Armitage, Bob Graham's picture books, Margaret Wild's picture books...
Sorry, this is one of my blog posts where I'm really just talking to myself in the hope it kickstarts something into being. So far not. Sigh.