Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thesis lessons: reading the field

By Briana Whiteside

Because of the lack of African American literature courses offered to graduate students at SIUE, I had difficulty identifying adequate scholarly articles and approaches for my thesis. Prior to the Master's program, I was not aware that a substantial body of criticism and literature existed for black feminism. Reading the literature and criticism within the field has been the most important yet difficult task while writing.

[Related: Thesis lessons: the process]

It took 2 years to develop my research project, and the majority of the time was spent reading the literature by and about black women. I knew that my project would focus on Octavia Butler, but I had to identify her contemporaries if any, as well as those writers who were not in sci-fi but were writing about the same if not similar problems surrounding black womanhood.

My formal thesis writing did not occur until a year and a half after I began reading the field. As a result, I had an easier time writing chapters of my thesis that addressed various black women characters that I identified as healers and even strong, but not uncanny.

In retrospect, I spent more time reading than I did writing. In truth, reading the field helped to develop and refine who I deemed as uncanny black women and how I approached the topic when it was time to write.

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Cultural Front.  

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