Document Type



Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


Creative Writing

First Advisor's Name

Julie Marie Wade

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Jason Pearl

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Debra Dean

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


memoir, Paraguay, ethnography, Spanish, Guarani, Peace Corps, tango, Buber

Date of Defense



TWO WAYS OF BURNING A COTTON FIELD is an ethnographic memoir concerning the narrator’s experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay, South America. The plot is structured around a moral crisis in his rural Paraguayan village. The narrator’s neighbor, a man in his late twenties, threatened to kill his partner and her two children. The Paraguayan police were made aware of the situation but did nothing. Peace Corps management also instructed the narrator to do nothing.

In TWO WAYS OF BURNING A COTTON FIELD, this moral crisis is explored within the contexts of post-colonial power structures, including economic and ecologic geographies, intersections of community and government, and the colonial-indigenous language continuum of Paraguay (Spanish-Guaraní). Further, these neighbors’ localized trauma is located within historical, colonial trauma. Of particular concern is the role that languages – English, Spanish, and Guaraní – play in constructing power, worldview, and relationships within the village.





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