Hidden meanings

January 27th, 2009

Chapter Four came back surprisingly quickly, since it sucked… Well, to be fair, the prose itself wasn’t all that bad, but it needs a good sit-down and comb-through before it’ll be up to snuff. The comments I got back on the first three pages of it (all my advisor would read, at first) smarted. I fully admit I have trouble taking criticism well when not expecting it. However, the comments were quite helpful; I’ll fully admit this, too. Another professor and I were talking about it, and the problem I had was apparently a “conceptual” issue: I didn’t know what the heck I was saying, when I was saying it, and where it all fit into the Big Picture. Chapter Four – the immigration history chapter – seems to be a sort of transition point in the larger narrative. Before it, I’ll have to talk about theories and concepts and abstracts, approached from a Canada-Quebec perspective in order to really draw out the distinctions that made Quebec national identity what it is today. After it, I’ll have to talk about the real people, their stories and lives and experience in Montreal during the last few decades. So with the immigration chapter I have to transition both a prose style (dry and boring technical stuff, dates and “important people”, to exciting vibrant lives with statistics thrown around for good measure) and a geographical orientation (Canada-Quebec to Montreal). I had no idea this part was so crucial to the narrative.

Honestly, I wasn’t going to pick Chapter Four to write over the break; I wanted to do something else that I can’t remember – probably the earlier sections so I could just get them over with. But I’m glad I did. Combing through all of my notes, jotting down some new ones, and getting a couple of “aha” moments helped me place the material into their appropriate chapters. It’s still shaky, but I think I have a better idea of when I’m going to reveal certain things in the narrative to make it interesting and follow-able.  And having done that, the Big Picture is more clear than before.  It seems that all the chapter really needs (aside from gap-filling) is re-organization.

There are two ways I can re-work the immigration chapter to make it flow/fit better.  (The first one is my advisor’s idea; the second is mine.)  1: Integrate the material that would go into this chapter into Chapter Two, where I explore the Quebec national identity and the conflicts that arise from nationalism.  Because immigration was part of the way the government of Quebec modernized and eventually “French-i-fied” the province, it makes sense that I could attach it to the end that chapter.  It would also provide a way for me to transition to a discussion of Haitian national identity.  Something like “Though the government saw immigrants as part of the improvement process, they might not have jumped on board as quickly as the nationalists would have liked.  Haitians, for example, had their own national history and identity.” The chapter on Haitian national identity would then transition into exploring Haitians’ experience in Montreal…  2: Split the immigration chapter into two sections, rather than disperse it.  The first half would talk about immigration policy and history from the dry-boring part, keeping the Quebec-Canada orientation.  The second half would transition to a Montreal orientation and develop the more personal tone, where I would talk about different immigrant experiences and end with the Haitian’s patterns of migration to Quebec.  This would transition well to the next chapters, which discuss the experience of Haitians in Montreal using culture and political participation as major examples to illustrate my points about their embeddedness in Quebec society.

This week, then, I really have to work on two things.  The first, of course, being the revision of this chapter.  The second is getting my sense of history (Quebec identity, Haitian identity) settled, and notes wrapped up to the best of my ability.  I won’t go so far as to say I’m ‘down to the wire’, but I certainly cannot dally about this semester.  The thesis really is due in a few months, whether or not I’m ready.  Five more chapters to go …

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