Chapter 4 has been the hardest chapter of the dissertation to write, because it’s the one where I’m synthesizing all the arguments from previous chapters — economy, overdetermination, technology, historical change, class, affect, student writing — in order to lead into Chapter 5’s big finish. Sort of a grand unifying theory of everything for my dissertation’s argument. And it’s been the most difficult and intensely frustrating to revise. The first draft clocked in at a little under 11,000 words; in the middle of the revising process, it got cut down as low as 8,000 words; and now it’s back up at more than 12,500 words. And yes, that 4,500-word difference is all new writing, and the shape and progression of the chapter has changed radically: nothing is where it used to be.
I think my prior life as a would-be fiction writer (yes, I’ve got the MFA to prove it, and little else) is partly to blame for my struggles with revising. My advisor today observed that my process with these chapters tends to follow a pretty specific path: initial draft of highly dense, fraught prose relying upon relations of parataxis to indicate implicit connections between ideas; paring down to a core set of concepts; hypotactically spelling out all the presuppositions and implications associated with those ideas; and then re-sequencing everything and filling in all the gaps with highly explicit transitions and argumentative signposts. In other words, I start out in the fiction-writer mode of showing concrete action but wanting to let the audience fill in the thematic connections, and then try to convert and update in accordance with the conventions of academic argument.
Yeah. Talk about finding the single wholly and completely idiotic bass-ackwards and flat-out dipshitsical way to write a flippin dissertation. Does Bizarro Superman have a correspondingly stupid Bizarro Braniac arch-enemy? ‘Cause right now, that is so totally me.
All the above serves to tentatively propose that the 12,500 words of Chapter 4 that I’ve got now are pretty close to being good enough for the other two members of my committee to see, and everything feels like it’s starting to come together. Chapter 1’s problem statement, Chapter 2’s review of the literature, Chapter 3’s construction of a revised theory to address the problems in the literature indicated by Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 4’s synthesis, and now moving into finishing up Chapter 5’s conclusions and implications. Which means I’ve still got a lot of work to do really quickly, but I’m no longer in the despair mode that I got myself into for a while. I’m at the point where I can step back and look at the thing as a whole and say, “Yeah. This definitely works. It’s got rigor, and it’s original as hell.”
So enough with the self-congratulation already. Back to work, monkey-boy.