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Alan - PhD topic
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Name: Alan
PhD discipline: Spanish Literature
Area(s) of work: University teaching
Year of graduation: 2003
Date of Interview: 16/06/2008

Now Playing: Alan - PhD topic
Alan explains the relationship between his PhD in Spanish literature, and his Masters' research.

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Can you tell me what your PhD topic was about?

Okay my PhD topic; well the title of the PhD was Juan Goytisolo and The Institution of the Spanish Canon. And so Goytisolo is a contemporary author, he is still around now, he in his 70s. I won't start talking about it too much because obviously you know. Basically he is a very interesting figure in Spanish literature because he doesn't live in Spain and hasn't done since the 1950s and he is very iconoclastic. And so what I wanted to do is relate the idea of literary Canon as something which is obviously all about creating icons, and then look at his relationship to that because he is very scornful. And that actually grew out my Masters, my MPhil, which was a 40,000 word research degree. The department I was in didn't offer a taught MA, which is what you might expect in most universities. And so when I stayed on after my BA the only option was to go straight into a research degree and most of my colleagues would start with their MPhil and then just expand that into a PhD. I decide the topic I approached for my MPhil, which was a thesis entitled simply The Hispanic Canon, and was one in which I just tried to theoretically and empirically grapple with this idea of what a literary Canon is. I actually decided it would make more sense for that to remain a distinct piece of work and to complete writing that up in the year, more than a year to be fair, and then start a new PhD. And so I actually produced two pieces of work. 

And so, as you have probably guessed, I mean the MPhil was the Hispanic canon and then the PhD became 'right let's look at a case-study on an author in relation to what I found out theoretically from the MPhil.' I was always interested in contemporary literature and so there were two contemporary authors whose names sprang out from the M.Phil. I didn't know much about either of them particularly, and decided to go for Goytisolo in the end. And I'm glad I did because I think he is a really interesting author, but it was a bit of a leap in the dark actually and in hindsight I wouldn't advise doing that.

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