Well, I’m close to finishing my last uni courses before I can start my M.A. thesis, and I can’t decide on a proper research question.
If you’ve read this blog before, you probably know that I am studying for my Master of Arts in Cross-Cultural Communication by distance learning. Unfortunately, that means that I do not know my course-mates and have nobody at uni to actually talk about thesis ideas.
My background is in Journalism and Tourism Management, however, in the 6 years since I graduated with my B.A. (Hons) I’ve gotten more into literature and theatre. I still love writing, but I’m doing more features, theatre and book reviews and occasional interviews than news.
Considering I’m doing cross-cultural communication now, I am very interested in how we see other cultures. Being aware of cultural similarities and differences can take so many forms. I’m not the business management minded person who’d love to spend her life teaching a German business what to consider culturally when expanding to China. I’m more interested in how we form our views and prejudices of other cultures.
I’d love to research how culture is represented in literature. Because an American author writing about America will differ in their descriptions from a British author writing about America. The author’s native culture is always reflected their writing, how their characters behave, how they speak, how they do everyday things. We form ideas of places and cultures based on what we read or watch.
Over the last year, I’ve read a lot of Sherlock fan fiction. And every time, I can immediately tell whether the author is a Brit or not. Sometimes it’s a word (usually “cell” instead of “mobile” or “Sidewalk” instead of “pavement”), sometimes it’s a hospital scene (the US authors always mention insurance and paying for the service, when medical services are free on the NHS).
The same happens with established, traditionally published authors, even after months of editing. Globalisation in literature is just as noticeable as globalisation in theatre. Especially non-Western cultures often get Westernized to appeal more to that audience. An Asian play performed in Asia will differ from an Asian play performed in front of a Western audience, as there is no shared cultural background, and actions and even props need to be adapted to make them relevant and understandable for the audience.
I am just unsure how to word this to make it my thesis. Culture in literature and globalisation in theatre are the two topics I am most interested in. Writing and reading are my two passions next to travel, and cultural understanding has always been a topic close to my heart. I’d love to stay within publishing, but shifting from journalism to literature. And just for your information, my B.A. (Hons) dissertation was market research and analysis comparing four leading UK travel magazines – it counted as a business dissertation and was twice as long as a journalism one would have been.
We’ve focused a lot on psychology and personality types, non-violent communication and language issues, but these modules presume that everybody doing cultural communication wants to go into business and nothing else.
So if any of you have any ideas how I can turn those passions into a thesis idea I’d appreciate some brainstorming. I’ve been pretty much alone in this up to this point, but now I’m in need of bouncing ideas around.
5 thoughts on “Considering my M.A. thesis”
how the culture we come from shapes the stories we tell and the way that we tell stories? or , to look at this from the other direction, how the stories we tell ourselves can shape the culture around us and how we interact with it?
I haven’t done a master’s thesis. I have a Bachelor’s degree and have gone on to learn voraciously outside of further degree programs. One of the things I have noticed ( and the topic of one of the books I currently am working on)is how the nature of reality is shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and how, to have a better reality, we need to tell ourselves better stories…
good luck and good fortune to you
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Thank you, Catherine. I quite like that idea, though I’d probably have to narrow it down. So maybe how a well-known story is portrayed in different cultures?
I’ve also considered the theme of “Home” in Australian literature. How do British settlers, white Australians and Aborigines differ in how they see Australia and what cultural aspects does their literature focus on. Not sure whether that’d be worthy of a M.A. or whether that’s Bachelor material. I do have a soft spot for Australia and NZ, having lived in NZ as a teenager, and later worked in Oz, Plus, it’s probably a lesser-known and less discussed literary culture than British or American.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts at 10pm on a Sunday night.
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I’m only at 7:30 here, so have a few more active synapses…
I figure my job is mainly to throw out a few ideas that may get your own brilliant mind going. As I understand it, you’ll be spending a heck of a lot of time and effort on your master’s thesis, so you need something that you can feel good about and that you’ll want to spend that time with
If you want to run away with my idea, or a narrowed version, I’m good with it and will be glad to have helped.
Your research is very interesting and it is something I experiment every day.
I am French and live in France in the countryside where nobody is iterested by what I have doneof my life, what I like and even who I am. I have had to resign my job as a diplomat to become the carer of my younger sister, who “suffers” from DownS, when our mother died. And we went to live at home in the country.
Just to be sure I would not become insane, I kept on reading in English (various English(es), writing in English, created a character that was not too far from mine in order to avoid indiscretion, and went on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. I started blogging (always in English) last year and have tried another cross culture with people from the Middle-East or Central Asia. I have made friends with Pakistani people, invited on my blog, criss-crossing ideas, photos, texts, facts of the everyday life.
I belong to reaing groups and lists online and am particlarly interested in the way gennder studies in the US see the world with their own reading grid. My other great topic in literature is about those neglected or half forgotten (sometimes for the best) women writers of the beginning of the 20th century until the 1960s. In English.
The participants in the latter bookk groups are mainly middle class women with very average instruction. They are Brits but mostly Americans, Canadians, New-Zealanders, Australians – coming from the “ex colonies” or Commonwealth, white, nostalgic of an idyllic past that never was as such and super fans of their one, two or three women writers. I would say conservative, no less that 55 or 60 and upwards. “Gentle”. No word agaist their beliefs must be said. Some quited reading my blog when reblogs from Karachi begun coming. I have been throw out from two groups last week for having said that the two women authors that were worshipped there were minor and second-rate.
A message went from onr of the members to the adminitsrators of a group asking my exclusion. Unfortuately, it was re-sent openly to all members of the group and I could read it. The lady was saying as one of her arguments that I was certainly bipolar and coming frm a country that had produced very little in what she called literature.
There are here very interesting examples of the dynamics of groups (see anthropology for this) and of comparison of cultures: for a French person, the language (and its meaning) is very different among English-speakers. The gap of knowledge of customs and history is sometimes wider between Norther Americans and Brits than between Frenchies and Brits. The very fundamentals of culture between English speakers are not understood. And there is sometimes a common fight against non native English speakers and native English speakers (whatever the English spoken).
Then, based on this, just think about the link I try to make (all in English) between Pakistan and the Mid-West through France! Or between Australia and Russia!
Therefore, yes, there is a great need of multi-cultural approach from seemingly little things until what was myjob before: sometimes, diplomats and States do not understand each others because they do not put the same meaning under the same word. The world lives upon a great misunderstanding.
I don’t know if I may be of any help. Let e know if I am and how. In this case, I would give you an e-mail address.
You’re on a right track but there is a lot to do. Onwards! 🙂
P.S. I am queen of typos: I hope you don’t mind.
…it’s been a while since this blog post was ‘new’ so maybe you’ve already found an idea for your thesis. If not, here’s an idea: Look at the work of authors who were successful in a culture different from their own original culture. Compare several authors or explore the phenomenon in a specific case. There are a good number of poets, novelists, essayists etc who wrote across cultures, who embraced (or tried to embrace) foreign places as home, etc. This needs a lot of narrowing down if you want to turn it into a thesis idea, but maybe there’s something there that interests you.
Alternatively, have you thought about looking at how living in exile / living in a different culture and language affects the literary output? Elizabeth Bishop comes to mind, writing in English while living in Brazil.