While studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, Isabel Gross ’17 heard the music of Violeta Parra, a storied and influential Chilean songwriter-poet, time and time again. During social gatherings, concerts, and street festivals, she experienced the artist’s work as an ingrained stitch in the cultural fabric of Chile. Upon her return to Haverford, Gross wasn’t ready to stop listening.
In her thesis, “‘Que no se adore ninguna señora ni señorita’: La poética de la feminidad en las canciones políticas de Violeta Parra” [“‘Que no se adore ninguna señora ni señorita’: The poetics of femininity in the political songs of Violeta Parra”], Gross examined the folk artist’s political work, representations of women, and subversion of oppressive discourses with support from her thesis advisor, Associate Professor of Spanish Roberto Castillo Sandoval,
“With Roberto’s help, what started off as a scattershot analysis of a few of Violeta’s songs grew into a comprehensive examination of her artistic project as a whole,” said Gross, a Spanish major and anthropology minor. “His calm and confidence in my work also helped me maintain sanity and continue to enjoy the thesis process, even when at times it was stressful.”
What did you learn working on your thesis?
I grew to love her music as music—to sing amongst friends and pass the time—but also for its advocacy for the poor and oppressed. In addition, as I learned more about Violeta, I became drawn to her multifaceted talent—she was not only a poet and composer but a renowned ethnomusicologist and visual artist.
What are the implications for your thesis research?
The implications of my research include cementing Violeta’s place in the poetic canon and establishing that femininity is essential to her work. Despite Violeta’s genius and wide recognition, she has historically been demeaned by the academic establishment, who view her work as “merely” folk music, not complex poetry. Moreover, representations of the feminine in her work have been ignored because the movement that shaped Violeta’s legacy, the Chilean New Song, was heavily dominated by men. My research attempts to right these wrongs.
What are your plans for the future and does your thesis have anything to do helping to guide your future career path?
My plans for the future include (hopefully) the United States Peace Corps; I have interviewed for a position in rural Guatemala. Should I be accepted, I will answer Violeta’s call to build peace and understanding among different cultures and to support those less fortunate than myself.
-Michael Weber ’19
“What They Learned”is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.