Oral Presentations and Final Thoughts

Presenting at the Final Colloquium was a really satisfying way to round out a year of work. To me, when doing any sort of research, it is important to share the work that you do because simply learning for the sake of knowing more yourself is pointless. Therefore, I thought to share the research I had done was a really good culmination of this semester. After having worked so hard on this project, it was nice to share that work with friends. Personally, I really enjoy public speaking and want to pursue a career in education, so being able to share what I learned in that format was something I enjoyed. Although I initially found it difficult to transform twenty-eight pages into a ten-minute presentation, I think that challenge actually made me better understand my own research. I have found that one of the best ways to learn, is to try and teach someone else how to do or about the idea in question. Therefore, although it was hard to condense my work, I think it was really worthwhile and ultimately resulted in a deeper and more nuanced understanding of my own research.

Overall, participating in the Ramonat Seminar this year has been a really worthwhile and rewarding experience.  Working this year, I learned so much more about what I can do as well as women in New Orleans.

One of the reasons I appreciated this seminar was, quite simply, because I was able to research something I am passionate about. Although, coming into the semester I was unsure about what I would research, as Catholics and Politics are not my areas of interest, I am glad I took up the challenge and that I put in the effort to find a topic that mattered to me. In Henriette Delille and Marie Laveau, I found women who I cared about and wanted to learn about. I found it really impactful to learn about these women and commit a year to study them because I think their stories are valuable and relevant to today.

Another take away I had from this year was a taste of academic research. I am glad that I had the opportunity to try to tackle a project of this caliber because I think I want to pursue academic research in the future. Trying, and succeeding, in writing a substantive piece of original research was really rewarding and helped to confirm my suspicion that I want to pursue history further.

Ultimately, working through the Ramonat Seminar has shown me that I can complete substantive research, has given me a piece of work that I am proud of, and has inspired me to participate in more research seminars before I graduate.

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Revising Process Continued

The most frustrating part of the revising process has been figuring out the flow of my paper. I have had many problems in the past few weeks around flow, such as figuring out my introduction, ensuring that I had an adequate road-map, as well as making sure that I am both being clear enough in the body, without being repetitive or writing useless paragraphs of summary. As the deadline approaches, the revising process is finally starting to go fall into place. I finally have my structure nailed down,  am happy with my evidence, and am currently writing my last piece: the conclusion.

Some of the most helpful parts of the revising process has been the feedback I have gotten from my peers, classmates, and Dr. Shermer and Ruby which has really helped me. Working closely with Amy, as well as some of my friends not in the class, has been integral to sorting through my own thoughts and finally getting my paper in order.

The main thing I am focusing on now is proofreading and finishing the conclusion. Going into Easter break I plan to work a substantive amount on this paper so that I can fix all of the passive voice, and typos that are in my paper now which I have not focused on thus far. With the end in sight and all this hard work, I look forward to finally having a paper I am proud of and finished with.

Peer Review and Revising Process

Whenever I have written an essay or paper in the past, I have found that the revising and editing process takes up the vast majority of the time I spend on those pieces. Writing those essays has shown me that the process of talking through my work with my peers (who are willing to listen) and reading back over my ideas really helps me sort out the logic of what I want to say. Therefore, the process of getting feedback on my paper was super helpful for me so far. As I have written about in previous posts I have struggled with structuring and fully articulating my argument and thesis. I found the process of peer review with Amy to be incredibly useful in figuring those aspects out. We met twice over the week, editing the paper in the interim, and I found taking that time and getting such extensive feedback really helped me out of the writer’s block I had been having. Amy and I spent all of the time we met together really focused in on each others papers I think the feedback she gave me was really integral in me figuring out how to express my ideas. Similarly, meeting with Dr. Shermer and talking through my essay was helpful to get even more feedback.

Here is a link to see the selfie video of Amy reading my paper.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1QH7WxLv9DnXfGp2YaXplTcFJ9F5t_p1I

I found that hearing someone else read my work aloud was helpful as I was able to hear not only typos but also the awkward wording of some of my sentences. I intend to definitely read it aloud a few more times before I am finished with it to ensure I catch all of those mistakes.

Going forward my plan for revising has three main parts. First, I need to write my introduction and conclusion. Although I have my thesis sorted out, I still need to figure out how to introduce and road map my essay as well as how I want to close it off. Second, there are a few sections I need to expand and explain a bit further in order to be fully clear. Third, I need to tighten up my prose and go through a full round of proofreading my work.

Writing a First Draft

Writing the first full draft of my paper has been a difficult, but worthwhile process. The most rewarding part of it was being able to see how much I have actually learned about my topic. Being able to write out more than twenty pages on a topic I knew almost nothing about at the beginning of the year was very rewarding. Because I had been struggling with organization for the past few weeks, it was really helpful to sketch out the whole of my argument to be able to visualize the flow of my essay and to be able to put everything together. Although there is still a lot more editing I will need to do to be able to reach a completed product, this first draft came together much more than I expected it to.

Along with a good deal of refining prose and streamlining my argumentation, the next overall step I need to work on is to finish filling out the evidence for my argument. When I wrote out my draft, particularly in the second half, I chose to simply write my ideas, without filling in all of the quotes and sources I intend to use. Although I have noted where all of the evidence I need is, I found it easier to sketch out the argument without adding those quotes while writing, as it made the process flow better. Therefore, one major thing I will need to expand is filling out the rest of my evidence. Secondly, I need to work on my conclusion. My first draft currently does not have a full conclusion, as I was focused more on finishing the body and my argument. Therefore, I will need to write a true conclusion in my revision process. Although I have an idea of how I would like to wrap up my paper, I need to work on fleshing out the “so what” of my essay.

The biggest struggle I have noticed so far in writing this draft has been the length of it. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have not written a paper of this length before. Therefore, writing, working with, and editing this paper has been a much more daunting task than I expected simply because of the sheer amount of text I need to work with. I think the length of text I am working with has made the last ten pages of my paper less well-crafted than the first. I think, like many things, the best way to get better at writing longer papers is to practice so I hope my work on this project will better prepare me for other longer projects.

Writing Process

In beginning to write my first draft my main focus has been to iron out the structure and flow of my argument. I have gathered a great deal of disparate information for this essay, so taking the next step between the collection of information and presenting that information in a cohesive way, has been my primary goal. Because I am focusing on a reasonably large question, I have somewhat struggled with the order of my essay.

Antebellum New Orleans was a space and time which was wholly unique. There are many important cultural specificities which most people do not know a great deal about, therefore, I have been working on balancing including enough information about the city and context, without overloading it and making my piece bloated. Similarly, as Marie Laveau and Henriette Delille are not quite household names, I have been working on how to provide enough good context about them without losing track of my thesis as my argument is not fundamentally about Laveau or Delille. I have therefore been experimenting with a lot of different formations in order to include enough contextual information without taking away from the larger argument about their reception after their death.

Moving forward, my current focus is to flesh out the heart of my argument. As the section I have been working on thus far has largely been contextual work, it has been centered around secondary literature. I am now focused on my primary sources and finding illustrative examples from them. Laying out the argument and its evidence has flowed fairly easily so far. I am discovering that writing out my argument has helped it make more sense and become solidified in my own head. However, I am encountering a similar struggle as I did when working with the context. I still need to work on ensuring that I lay out all the evidence and the analysis which I need, without being repetitive or disjointed. However, now my focus is on writing down all of my thoughts. I intend to spend much of the editing process rearranging and rewriting until everything flows nicely.

As I work on putting my argument on paper, I do not foresee anywhere I will likely be able to use digital mapping like was discussed at the talk this week. I do not think I will use it because digital mapping, although a useful way to take many data points and put them in an understandable and digestible format, is less useful when working with about a dozen sources. Additionally, my thesis, about the ways in which these women are remembered, relies heavily on the wording used by each author. Therefore, I do not think my primary source documents would be well suited to digital mapping. However, to the larger point of digitization, I have certainly benefited from the fact that all of my sources have been digitized and made available to me online.

Overall thus far, I have noticed that writing this paper has been significantly different from other shorter essays I have written. Most other short essays have much simpler arguments, and as such, there are much fewer moving parts. With this essay, I am having to arrange and rearrange, write and rewrite thoughts far more than I have had to do in the past. Although this process of writing is different from what I have done before, I hope it will help me compile an effectively written and compelling work.

Continued Research and Scholarly Article

This week I have been digging into the research I have already gathered. I have been looking at what stands out to me from what I have pulled, as well as where there seem to be gaps. In order to do this, I have been working my way through reading all of the sources I have collected and taking notes (Ramonat Notes Collected for Blog 2.3.19) on those documents. One big gap I have come across that I am working to fill is primary sources. Although I have pulled a few primary documents, for example, my next step will be to take the framing I have gathered by examining secondary sources to get more primary evidence.

I have only met with one department specialist as of now, Dr. Roberts. I met with him in the second week of the semester when I was still looking mainly to hone in my topic and get suggestions of where to research. Therefore, from that conversation I was pointed in the direction of some additional sources, including American Jesuits and the World by John McGreevy, Gods of Mississippi by Michael Pasquier, and the Catholic Research Resources Alliance whose catalog of newspapers I will use to expand my search for primary documents. I additionally intend to meet with some of the research librarians at the law library in the near future to get more research.

The scholarly article we read this week followed the general outline for academic writing which I have laid out here:

  • Title – “How About Some Meat?”: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946
  • Topic – The OPA, consumption, and power
  • Argument Groundwork
    • Information necessary to understand the argument
  • Argument – “the very way OPA legitimated and constituted its authority contributed to its eventual postwar defeat”
  • Factual Information
    • This information is not explicitly tied back to the argument, but it begins to implicitly lead the reader towards the logic of the argument
      • Growth of OPA
      • Strategies of Appeal
      • Difficulties
  • Interpretation of Factual Information
    • Impact of the Narrative laid out
    • Restating/Proving the Argument
  • True Conclusion
    • Impact of the Study
    • Why it matters
    • What it uniquely adds to the Narrative

Although this structure is common across academic articles published in peer-reviewed journals, it differs from the structure of many papers I have written. The largest and most apparent difference is the length. This article is 33 pages, whereas most papers I have written have been around 10. Another difference is the depth of the argumentation. Meg Jacobs explains far more context, has a more detailed understanding of the historiography and where she fits within it, and has far more evidence to prove her argument than essays I have written in the past. I would assume this arises in part from the length of time spent writing this article, as opposed to, at most, one semester spent working on my own work; as well as her being an expert in the topic she chose to write about. What I have taken away from these differences is the need to be very well-versed in your topic as well as the need to provide detailed evidence. Fundamentally, I think comparing this document to ones I have written, I can see a much greater knowledge and understanding of the topic, an understanding I hope to gather as I continue to work on my topic for this seminar.

Research Questions

In my preliminary research, I have found a wealth of sources on the Catholic experience in antebellum New Orleans. Thus far, a lot of what I have found has focused on the experience of African-Americans, women, and the thriving Ursuline community in the city. I have also gathered information about Voodoo, Spiritualism, and accounts, both primary and secondary, of American Indian, African, and Creole ideas and traditions which interacted in New Orleans. Out of this initial research, my main overarching question is: how did organized religion interact with disorganized, organic, folk expressions of religion? From that large question, I have drawn out the six research questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Who helped spread and shape folk religious tradition and understanding in New Orleans? Under this question some individuals that have come up as significant have been, Marie Laveau, Henry Louis Rey, and Henriette DeLille.

 

What was done in response to folk tradition? Which institutions, the Church or State, tried to limit it? What parts of folk tradition where willingly included in the Church and in society at large?

When, between the Louisiana Purchase and the outbreak of the Civil War, is most rich with sources? From my preliminary research, I am leaning towards c. 1800-1860 as there seems to be a fair amount written in and around that period, however, I am not yet committed to that time frame.

Where? Given the regionally specific nature of my research topic, I am limiting where to New Orleans.

Why did the Church feel the need to restrict some forms of folk expression and embrace others? I think this question will take up the bulk of my research as I think it is fundamental to understand what amount of syncretism was permissible. Understanding why some folk tradition was allowed and others were restricted can help unveil the power, and lack of power, the Catholic Church felt it had.

220px-le_code_noir_1742_edition
Code Noir (1742)

How did the Church and State work together to limit and permit folk religion? Here, I would like to examine the laws that came out of antebellum New Orleans to see how (and if) witchcraft or borrowing Catholicism for magic rituals was as harshly punished as it was in witch trials and heresy inquisitions throughout Europe and the American northeast.

 

Thus far, I have been looking in the Loyola Library Databases and have been fairly successful finding works about my topic, so I intend to continue utilizing the Library. Additionally, I am going to look at the Catholic Research Resources Alliance’s Catholic Newspapers Program to look at newspapers published in antebellum New Orleans. I also am planning on going to the Loyola Law Library to see if they have any information on laws passed about folk Catholic tradition.