Mapping Careers Through Experience

•February 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment



Writing a Master’s Thesis for a Master of Arts program during Graduate school sounds logical and expected in every sense. However, writing a thesis is not always required in all graduate programs. For The College of Saint Rose, writing a Master’s Thesis is entirely optional, and not for the faint of heart, nor the short of will. Writing a Master’s Thesis requires an additional semester of schooling with the added pressure of student bills. However, one additional semester is usually not enough to complete the project given its high expectations. A typical Master’s Thesis is usually at least fifty pages and takes upwards of two years to complete.




My Master’s Thesis began in 2009 when I read the novel Infinite Jest for a summer seminar. For me, this novel was a game-changer that set my course of studies into an entirely new direction. The following semester I signed up to read the novel again for a Contemporary Narrative course. It was then that I decided to do an Advanced Project on the novel, this project being a requirement of every graduate at Saint Rose. When I finished the Advanced Project, I didn’t feel done, nor fulfilled, nor finished for that matter, so I requested the opportunity to write a Master’s Thesis. The authority to allow the opportunity to write a Thesis comes from a panel of advisers/professor who work directly with the project as well as a grade of at least an A-. I was granted approval and I recently defended my Thesis to this same panel of advisers who congratulated me on my intrepid work and who I look forward to working with closely, even though I am officially no longer a student at the College of Saint Rose.




The completion of a Master’s Thesis is truly an achievement in and of itself. I already teach as an Adjunct instructor at a local Community College, but the reality for teachers is that they have to have an impressive history of publications, conferences, and scholarly endeavors to be considered for tenure track or even full-time work. I am lucky that to have had the opportunity to create such high scholarship, but now the world needs to see it. I still work directly with my panel of advisers to get my Thesis out there to be published and heard, but the process of being a world-scholar as well as a world traveler can leave any part-time employee broke even at the expense of something they’re so passionate about.




“Multiplicities: Mapping Identity through Literature” is a Graduate student conference hosted by The Department of English and the Division of Languages and Literature at Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus. I have been accepted to present a section of my Master’s Thesis written in partial fulfillment of a Master of Arts degree at the College of Saint Rose. Your funding will afford the opportunity for my Master’s Thesis to be both seen and heard all the way across the treacherous waters of the Atlantic to the buzzing metropolis of Madrid, Spain.


-Donors will receive endless thank you’s and the opportunity to celebrate passion about what we choose to do for a living.


-I know I signed up for struggle and hardship when I chose scholarship in English Literature as my career focus, but I did it because I love it, because the career challenges me, and whenever I get into the classroom I know that I’m right where I want to be.


-Please share in this experience with me…any contribution is so much appreciated already.


Thank you,


Final Porfolio:AA Studies

•December 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My Blog Posts (in chronological order)

The Woman Warrior: Female and Postmodern, 9/7

Expertise Project:

Autobiography as Guided Chinatown Tour?, 9/7

Language as Violence, 9/14

Where in the World is Jenny?, 9/20

Other avenues into American Woman, 9/21

All Over Creation, 9/27

Catfish and Mandala, 10/5

Exploratory Draft: Initial Thoughts, 10/10

The Book of Salt, 10/19

Draft Revision, 10/28

Edinburgh: Jungian Dream Theory, 11/2

Ironically forgot a name, 11/16

Final Paper, 11/30


1) JEN, The Woman Warrior, 9/8

2) Jonathan, Blog Post #1: The Woman Warrior, 9/8

3) Lisa, Blog Post 2: Native Speaker, 9/14

4) Kaitlin, Cultural Collisions, 9/14

5) Ashley, Changing Identities-Blog #3, 9/21

6) Brianna, Sexuality and National Identity in American Woman, 9/21

7) Brianna, All Over Creation-Yumi Makes an awful mother earth, 9/28

8) Mary Catherine, All Over Creation, 9/28

9) Jen, “So long, I’ll see you when I see you.” 10/6

10) Jonathan, Blog Post #5: Catfish and Mandala, 10/6

11) Brianna, Exploratory Draft, 10/13

12) Jen, Exploratory Draft, 10/13

13) Lisa, Blog 7: The Book of Salt, 10/19

14) Sarah, The Book of Salt, 10/20

15) Jon, Blog Post #8: Draft Revision, 11/2

16) Kaitlin, Exploratory Draft 2, 11/2

17) Jon, Blog Post #9: Edinburgh, 11/2

18) Brianna, It feels like I’ve just been kicked in the chest (Edinburgh), 11/2

19) Anne, No Name, No Humanity, 11/17

20) Meghan, Sin Nombre: The Collective vs. The Individual Indentity(typo?), 11/17

21) Response to Jonathan’s Comment on my own Blog, Final Paper 11/30

Final Paper

•November 30, 2010 • 5 Comments

“It begins and ends with Lelia”: Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker is the final title of my paper.

The quote was taken from a review of  Native Speaker, written by Ann Choi.  I know that I have been riding the final paragraph of  Native Speaker pretty hard in all of my exploratory drafts, but that is because I had yet to answer why the end was so problematic to me.  The most helpful find I have come across in my research of Native Speaker is that a lot of critics are baffled by the shift to present tense near the end of the novel.  The explanations of this shift to present tense have proved most helpful.  Many critics view the shift in an optimistic reading of the novel, but I see the shift as representing something dark.  Critic Tim Engles has been essential to my dark reading of Native Speaker. In my paper I will prove that the novel really isn’t about Henry Park, but how Henry Park comes to see himself through a white-middle class perspective, particularly Lelia’s perspective.  That is why I suggest that the novel is bookended with Lelia.  “It begins and ends with her.”  The novel then, is not about Henry Park through Lee’s eyes, but through Lelia’s.  This represents the dangers of America’s assimilationist sentiment.  Lee literally writes a novel where assimilationist sentiment takes center stage, and Henry Park represents the inherent problems and contradictions of this pursuit.

Ironically forgot a name

•November 16, 2010 • 1 Comment

It seems to be a consensus that no one can decide whether Sin Nombre post-racial.  As I read the other blogs, it seems that everyone is indecisive as to how this film relates to an Asian American experience.  The comparison that I can see right away is how Fukunaga’s film relates to Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow.  Margaret Hillenbrand argues that there are three main categories of Asian American film, one being the ‘closely focused ethnic detail.’  Hillenbrand argues that all three techniques manage to tell the story of “immigration, segregation, and on-going exclusion” (53).  This is the category of Asian American cinema I would lump Sin Nombre into (albeit its un-Asian American content).  As being more concerned with “politics of content,” than a “specific signature,” it makes sense for Fukunaga express Asian American experiences through a different racial content (Hillenbrand, 54).  In Sin Nombre Fukunaga is able to “explicate his world” through the story of Sayra and Willy’s escape (55).

The difference between Better Luck Tomorrow and Sin Nombre is that Better Luck Tomorrow pokes fun at, and plays with Asian American steretypes.  It parodies Asian American cinema via irony.  However, Sin Nombre is a very serious gangster movie.  It does not slow down to make fun of itself like Lin did in Better Luck TomorrowBetter Luck Tomorrow seems to feed off of Americanized versions of the stories the film is telling, however Sin Nombre reads as original.

I believe Hillenbrand or maybe just the class posed question of whether Better Luck Tomorrow was the first post-racial film, and subsequently then is Sin Nombre another example.  The only way I can answer that question is through preference.  I still don’t think I know enough about what it means to be post-racial to give a rational answer.  Sure, I prefer the both of the films to be so, but does that make them?  I think the case can be argued either way, that Better Luck Tomorrow employs irony in such a way as to make it post-racial, or that Sin Nombre uses truth and harsh reality in such a gritty and serious way, that the film becomes again, post-racial.  If I were to choose one of these standards to base an opinion of whether or not the film was post-racial or not, I think I would be missing the point.  Post-racialism is not an either/or situation, and would certainly not involve my preference for one style of film over another.  I think clearer guidelines and definitions need to be in place for me to feel comfortable making any kind of decision.

Edinburgh: Jungian Dream Theory

•November 2, 2010 • 2 Comments

Sparked by a dream of his own, the basic idea behind Jungian dream theory is that “dreams are a natural expression of our imagination and use the most straightforward language at our disposal: mythic narratives.”  Contemporary of Sigmund Freud, Jung and Freud were in agreement on the model of a “personal unconsciousness,” but Jung proposed a second level/lower level called “collective unconsciousness.”  On this level exists ‘archetypes’ which are universalized conflicts with society and the self, usually represented in mythology as a body of water.  The actual dream that Jung describes as sparking this theory, takes place on different levels of a house that is not his own, but feels as if it’s his own.  Interestingly, Jung describes each level of the dream as taking place in a different historical time period, ie. the lower/deeper he goes into his subconscious the older the scenery around him becomes.

Edinburgh, for me, employs the language of dreaming (mythic narrative) to tell the tale of Fee, Edward/Warden,  Big Eric and Peter.   Firstly, Edinburgh makes both passing and illustrative reference to mythological tales. Sometimes Chee just quotes profound passages about love, and other times the references and metaphors seep a little deeper into the narrative. Certain mythological figures seem to provide a sympathetic metaphor to what the characters are going through at the time.  One mythological tale that runs through the entire novel is Fee’s “red-fox.”   This “red-fox” sacrifices her godliness in order to die with her husband, a choice that made those around her doubt whether she was really a god or not.  I am not prepared to interpret the ‘red-fox’ extensively now, but it does seem like the ‘fire’ that burns inside the red-fox follows Fee through all of the layers of dreaming and reality that he encounters. There are many passing references to Greek mythology as Zhe reads from his books.  He often refers to tales of doomed lovers, and how they can’t even come close to describing how he feels about Peter. Much of the narrative in Edinburgh occurs on the first level of consciousness, ie. normal consciousness.  This is where Fee talks of the mundane details of home and descriptions of summer/choir camp. However, at choir camp storm and rain imagery abound.  Perhaps this is Fee’s collective unconscious archetype springing up.  In fact, this unconscious is so deadly that the lake where the boys swim actually springs up as a deadly force, taking the life of Ralph.

The mention of Edinburgh (the city) buried over during the outbreak of ‘The Plague,’ was what sparked the connection to Jungian theory.  Fee says, “there’s a hole in me the size of you, from where you came through, Edinburgh, after the Plague…I begin building the tunnels” (86).  Though the novel spends much time ‘digging through the tunnels’ of Fee’s mind, this is the scene where Chee engages the metaphor.  In Fee’s self-made “Jungian Dream” land he finds a cellar, similar to what Jung found in his own dream.  Though, Fee’s underground cellar is not filled with ancient artifacts like Jung’s dream, Fee does fill it with relics.  He puts torches down there to light his way and his grandfather even offers him a 16th century war cannon.  Fee goes to his underground city to think about Peter, to work through the demons in his subconscious.  “At the edge of here is wall from the Revolutionary War. Unmortored stones,” which prompts Fee not to fill in his underground shelter, but to “build something else” (191).  When he becomes a swim coach/ceramics teacher, Fee builds an alter on the school campus.  The alter is a supposed to be a nonsecular place of meditation, for ‘lofty and spiritual thinking.’  This above ground sanctuary is very different from Fee’s below ground forgotten city.  In fact, this is where Fee decides to burn the letter that Peter wrote to him and leave behind the polaroid from the night before Peter died. This alter does not fit into a Jungian theory of the psyche, and I cannot find a meaning for it.  Perhaps, in this alter Fee can achieve loftier thinking that does not dwell deep in his subconscious. However, what I do know about the alter, is that it is where Fee transmits his demon to Warden.  When Warden finds the polariod of Peter, Warden is suddenly taken over with passion for Zhe.  He begins to describe things in dream-like quality and quotes passages about love, and refers to ancient Greek myths.  As Jung puts it, the collective unconscious is not a soup where all knowledge is kept, but a psychic constant representing common life occurrences, like rites-of-passage. It is no wonder then, that Warden takes on the dream-like state of Fee.  Perhaps, Fee does not transmit his demon, but rather, Chee illustrates the way in which this “demon” may exist and play out in others.

Draft Revision

•October 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m at a toss up again about my exploratory draft.  Although with this second version my topic got a lot narrower, and I wilted down my novel choices to just Native Speaker, I again find myself interested in the final scenes of Catfish and Mandala, and All Over Creation.  One route I can take in reference to these ‘endings’ is to explore the history of the novel.  I will need to research what ‘endings’ are commonly supposed to do for the reader, and how they are supposed to work in narrative.  I read the endings of these three novels as a ‘resolution’-to many of the themes going on throughout the narratives. 

The other option is to stick with just the last scene in Native Speaker.  In that last scene I see a definite conflict in perspective between Lelia and Park.  I want to argue that Lee redefines the term ‘assimilation’ through his last assesment in the last scene.  Instead of ‘assimilation’ being thought of as a process that one (mostly) willingly goes through, instead the last paragraph reads as if ‘assimilation’ were something that can be handed out, or brought to a person externally.  Lelia specifically is granted the athority to pass acceptance out like candy.  Perhaps this also redefines terms like ‘citizenship’ and nationality as well.

The Book of Salt

•October 19, 2010 • 2 Comments

In a word, I really really liked this novel.  Ironically, this has left me with very little to say about it.  This novel, I do not wish to pierce the surface of, to over analyze, or to delegate to some singular truth.  The story was heartfelt, sad, true, and genuine.  To thematize this  novel would be to take away its eloquence.

However, I notice similar elements popping up in this novel that we have seen in earlier examples of Asian American literature.  One is the dynamic idea of naming, and how a name can so easily fluctuate, whether the renaming is helpful or harsh to the one doing the renaming.  Another theme I see is the symbolism of mirrors.  In at least three novels we have read so far there has been a moment where the narrator has relied on his reflection to tell him who he is at the present moment.  It’s as if the narrative slips away from the author for a moment, and the authenticity of the characterization must be presented in the literal reflection of character.  We must be reminded constantly who we are, who we are reading, and what is at stake in that reading.  This reflection happens in American Woman, when Jenny must gaze into the mirror to be sure that she is still there.  She must catch up on her aging and assure herself that she still undeniably exists in the world.  So too does Henry Park have this moment of reassurance in his reflection.  Often he runs to the mirror to assure himself of his identity.  He makes sure that he is still in fact a Vietnamese American, and that his skin and facial  features still betray him as such.

Also, The Book of Salt makes great fodder for the Frank Chin argument regarding autobiography.  Chin argues that this form of narrative is inherently Catholic.  To examine The Book of Salt in the context of Frank Chin’s article would be to him almost sacrilege.  The Book of Salt is blatantly anti-Catholic, in its vehemence for Binh’s father, and subsequent death of his mother.  It is for reasons like these, that The Book of Salt presents to me a culmination of many of the subjects we have talked about over the semester thus far, and why in a way I am wordless to account for all the themes that arise in this novel.


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