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Thank goodness for the early brainstorm rolling in, because suddenly I’m feeling that there will be barely enough time in the semester to take care of business. The resulting rain brought me a thesis topic in the form of petroglyph analysis down at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in the Mogollon region of New Mexico. I knew I wanted to use an iconographic framework, and this gives me the opportunity to do both fieldwork and formal analysis, along with cultural contextualization. Basically it will be an integration of everything that makes me love art historical research in general and the ancient art of New Mexico in particular. And those petroglyphs are personal to me – one of them is even tattooed on my shoulder.
Being the academic masochist that I am, instead of recycling an old research paper for symposium, I have decided to present the theoretical framework for my thesis – which means I have little more than a month to get a draft ready. The topic for my methodological problems paper for the Native American seminar is going to be the potential applications and limitations of using a linguistic/narratological approach to rock art analysis, and this is the foundation I plan to use for my research this summer and fall. If my thesis flies, it will pave the way for a theoretical framework that has only been applied in Mesoamerican art. If it doesn’t, I will be shot down at symposium. I know the risks are there, but so is the possibility for true academic contribution. If I don’t go for it, I will always know I chose the easy way out, which flies in the face of all the reasons I’m in grad school in the first place.
It helps that I have the full support of my professor, whose advice to climb out on some limbs and make bold statements has helped to give me the confidence I need. As much as I have enjoyed my past research, to a certain extent it has all been regurgitation. This feels original and important. This feels like my Big Idea.