One of the biggest challenges I face in my daily life is knowing when to shut up. For the last three years, nearly every paper I’ve written has gone over the assigned page limit. I see a fifteen-page assignment as more of suggested minimum than a strict rule. This time around – unsurprisingly – I’ve managed to write over 30 pages. I told myself I’d stay under 35. As my new draft went on to its thirty-sixth page last night, I began to wonder if I had a problem.
After concluding that to be impossible, I thought back on what led me to page thirty-six. All unkind comparisons aside, I was thankful that Prof. Roberts had given my work so much attention. Undoubtedly, full implementation of his feedback would strengthen my paper significantly. To that end, I’ve been working hard on my paper for the last week, and have been trying to address lingering issues in my writing.
At the root of the problem is the French community’s place in Chicago. I – through prodding – have realized that it is foolish to view the immigrant community at the dawn of the twentieth century as a continuation of Chicago’s French citizens in the early 1800s, and now view the French story as a series of episodes. My paper deals with the urban immigrant story, one confined from 1880 to 1920. It is not the story of the early explorers and settlers, nor of those who built the city before and immediately after 1833.
Conceptualizing my paper more as an urban immigrant story led to the suggestion that other immigrant histories be included. I’ve tried to contextualize my paper better within the broad field of ethnic and immigrant studies. I’ve also heavily re-worked my introduction and conclusion, hoping to better control the flow of my argument. I’ve tried to think more about what French processionalism and celebration means within the context of ethnic community. I’ve been reading Robert Orsi’s Madonna of 115th Street during my revising process, and his work has certainly found its way into my paper.
The paper is largely finished, in my opinion, and handed in now could stand as a competent, well-researched essay. I am determined, however, to make this one of my better papers, if not my best. I know that with more time and effort, I can hammer out any remaining issues. I have no doubt that I could resolve any standing qualms. But time is running out, and the paper is due soon. There’s also the unpleasant fact that I have other things do, and cannot really spend all my time sitting around thinking about a bunch of Frenchies in 1900.
I’ve done a lot of work on this paper. I’ve started with a topic that I knew nothing about, and my genuine interest in it has propelled me along this semester. At the end of it all, I’ll be happy with what I have written because to a large extent I feel like I wrote it for myself. Nonetheless, I suppose there’s always more work to do. I’m happy with that. This topic continues to surprise me, and I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve pulled from it. At times this paper seems like it is never going to end, but when it does, I’m sure it will be bittersweet.
C’est la vie.