Today, I broke ground on the chapter on Life of Pi. It’s a measly paragraph right now, but I made an important discovery. I am beginning my writing on Chapter 23, in which Pi’s religious leaders discover that he’s been studying other religions. Throughout that chapter, none of the religious leaders (even though they are introduced at length before this chapter) are called by name. Instead, for six or seven pages, they are called by their religious title. It’s an amazing device, creating a parable-like effect. The benefit of switching to imago representation is that the action is universalized. The reason the leaders disagree in this chapter is not because of any personal failing but because of a fundamental failing by religion, according to Pi. Very cool.
Today, I idea-dumped for the Life of Pi chapter. I also tried to do a preliminary organization of these ideas. I put them into categories–Pi as author, agency, communion, and imagoes. The biggest take-away from today was that I want to nestle agency, communion, and imagoes within the discussion of Pi as author. I think that will be the way to make everything tie together.
Guys! I think the first chapter is basically done!
I spent some time tonight defending the books I have chosen to analyze. Once I got into it, it wasn’t that hard. Apparently, there was quite a hubbub in the literary world when Life of Pi came out because no one knew how to market it. It wasn’t traditional YA fare, but young readers loved it, so a lot of smart people commented on it.
The Outsiders, of course, is the ultimate YA novel. No problems there.
The Catcher in the Rye is just supremely relevant. I found a few contemporary sources that predicted that it would be studied for decades because of its use of teenage language. Also, the novel continues to be banned in schools today, showing that whether educators teach it or not, teenagers are reading it.
Chapter 2 will commence soon, but tonight we sleep.
Today, I worked exclusively on the imagoes section of the first chapter. I found some sources–Robert Segal and Robert A. Johnson–who claim that imagoes (or archetypes) come with their own myths. This point, I think, is especially important to my thesis since I am trying to show that the characters we choose actually influence the actions we take in the future. Imagoes are not only adjectives but an entire layer of identity that overlays and informs our narrative identities.
Tomorrow I will be working on the reasoning behind choosing the novels that I have. And then I will be close to finished product of the first chapter. Couldn’t be more excited about it!
I intended to finish a new draft of the first chapter tonight. I got sidetracked with a friend in a conversation about race and hiphop, though. So, instead of finishing a draft, I polished up the transitions and terms.
Before I began, I did topics of each of the paragraphs. This made the areas of weakness readily apparent.
I think I fixed many of the issues with life story v. narrative identity v. personal myth. I’ve decided that having all three of these terms is necessary if only for quoting purposes.
All that’s left to do tomorrow is bring in some outside sources for agency, communion, and imagoes. I think I’m going to try to bring in Robert Johnson for imagoes.
Today, I decided to play around with number 4 from my take-aways yesterday. I went down a bit of a rabbit hole and might have more reading on my hands.
I figured out what was bothering me about the “Narrative structure is general knowledge” statement, though. I am personally pretty committed to the idea that narrative is somehow bio-linguistically ingrained (whew, that’s a big word). But I don’t think it’s a necessary idea for my thesis. Instead, I think it’s enough to say that narrative is necessary for full integration into society and culture.
I ended up breaking the “Narrative structure is general knowledge” paragraph into two separate ones. I realized it was about two separate things–life story as form of communication and life story as meaning-making device. Both are important. Importantly, this separation made the life story as meaning-making device section much stronger. Also, ironically, “narrative structure is general knowledge” was deleted.
Unfortunately, this creates an awkward transition into adolescence and life story so that needs to be worked out still.
To do: It occurred to me today that it might be helpful to go through and write topic sentences for every paragraph and see where that gets me.
To read (or skim): Dan McAdam’s The Redemptive Self and David M. Boje’s study on storytelling in an organization “The Storytelling Organization”
Amount written: 1/2 page
Admittedly, I read completely through my first draft of my first chapter of my thesis for the first time today. It wouldn’t be remiss to call it a frankenchapter. There are certainly good ideas, and it’s close to being presentable, but it was mostly written in parts, and that shows. It lacks continuity, and there are abrupt introductions of ideas that don’t go anywhere.
A couple of take-aways from today’s read-through:
1. A new introductory paragraph is needed that outlines the structure of the chapter. As this structure is likely to change over the next couple of days, I’m going to leave the current paragraph as a place-holder. But the paragraph must include, minimally, life stories as narrative, narrative identity, the adolescence importance in life story, agency & communion, imagoes, how these ideas will be applied, why adolescents are important in narrative psychology, and a defense of the use of the three novels.
2. I want to take a serious look at the number of terms I’ve introduced. One of the main paragraphs on life story for instance on page 3 seems largely out of place. I wonder if I need the term at all. It’s unfortunate that McAdams uses this term instead of narrative identity in Stories We Live By. There must be a better way of describing life story though than relying on a hierarchy involving narrative identity. Indeed, even with all of that confusing hierarchical talk, on page 4, when I get to the “Life Story and the Adolescent” I still want to know what life story is.
3. Many of the sections could be made better with better transitions, especially the “Agency and Communion” section.
4. The “Narrative structure is general knowledge” line on page 5 could be made better by discussing McLean and her work on how culture provides many of the narratives we use on a daily basis.
5. There are a couple of really cool places for growth. With the right unpacking, I have some really cool directions.
- The tension that develops as adolescents shift from collecting stories to creating them.
- The idea that a narrator of a novel cannot be observed outside of the story, meaning, on some level, that the narrator must become the imago(es) he narrates.
Feeling good about the revising process!
*For those of you who are not Dr. Bianco, I’m going to be doing these pretty regularly now (and by regularly, I mean daily). They won’t always be this long, and I will continue to blog every once in a while about things other than thesis. I just need the public aspect to keep myself motivated. If I get a lot of complaints about this, I will consider moving this portion of my blog to some other webspace.