The battle continues…

October 25, 2008

So here’s the deal on that restructuring-the-dissertation bit…

I’ve been laboring fruitlessly over a chapter of my dissertation for far too long, about which I’m increasingly discouraged.  Something is eluding me, and I’ve been chasing it around and around, writing and re-writing and throwing out writing, structuring and restructing the argument, and throwing out structures, and it’s starting to feel like I’m circling the drain.  I could just work in an office somewhere, right?  Give RB a chance to follow his dream for a while, before the realities crush his soul, too?

Aaaaaaaaaaanyway, while commuting to my job, I was roughing out the structure for a conference paper that is related to this troublesome chapter, and somehow, as I was scribbling out notes, I was struck (almost literally; it was really shocking) by the realization that maybe my problem is that I’m writing the wrong chapter.  Now hang on a minute while I try to explain.  My diss is organized into 4 chapters and an intro; I’ve written solid (but not finished) versions the intro and Chapter 1, and I’ve been chasing around Chapter 2.  Since I wrote my proposal, I had conceived of Chapter 2 (theme:  race/ethnicity) in a particular way, because it seemed to logically grow out of Chapter 1 (theme:  rurality).

BUT.  Something about how I phrased something on paper made me think:  wait a minute…the theme and subjects of Chapter 2 might make more sense if were framed as Chapter 4, after I deal with the themes and subjects of (old) Chapters 3 (history/nostalgia) and 4 (religion), since the subjects of Chapter 2 are also related to the themes I’ll be presenting in those other chapters.  This displaces race/ethnicity a bit, but it puts more focus on class, which is where I think I want to go anyway.

This freak out happened on Tuesday, and I’ve had a little more time to process and articulate what was at the time mostly a smack in the face and a reason for panic.  I’m over the panic, and now I’m just staring at the mountain of work that this change is going to necessitate.  The 20-25 pages I had on old Chapter 2/new Chapter 4 is going to have to be seriously worked over and re-framed, but since I haven’t yet written New Chapters 2 and 3, I’m not sure if I should put aside New Chapter 4 for the time being and write the middle stuff, since they are now going to be more important to the construction of the ending.

Gaaaaaah.  There isn’t a satisfactory answer, but there probably is a better one.    And then there’s the work, which is massive, no matter the answer.  I think the change is right, but it sure isn’t feeling like a victory.  Just another war.


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