The Art of Presenting

Yesterday, April 27th marked the day of our Ramonat Presentation. While the entire class had a graded practice-run for the symposium earlier in the week, the actual symposium symbolically marked the end of the Ramonat seminar for us scholars. Our final paper is due on Thursday; however, ultimately, the Ramonat builded and culminated into presenting our research publicly. This provided me with the opportunity to craft a presentation that was meant to be both entertaining and informative. Using the inspiration of many lecturers and lecturing styles I’ve had at Loyola, I believe I presented to the best of my ability, given that my paper still must endure its final edits and redactions.

I wanted to be creative, but I also wanted to reign true to the statement that “historians tell stories.” So, I told two separate stories: 1. a brief story which detailed my own personal journey, which provided a snippet into my personal research journey and inspiration behind pursuing such a daunting project, and 2. the actual story and premise of my argument: how Little Italy came to fight Richard J. Daley in the 1950s-60s. I wrote a speech that reflected this desire, and I recited it numerous amounts of times in front of the mirror, the wall, my closet friends, and my colleagues at work. After establishing the groundwork of my initiative, I knew I had to then factor in my argument, analysis, or opinion on the historical happening. This task required the ability of concision: determining what you want your learned audience to know about a story they may or may not have heard about before. The best way to communicate this point, in my opinion (and after watching Dr. Bucholz do it many times!), in consolidating what I have to say in the form of takeaways. Using the rule of three, I crafted three takeaways from my paper. The first being the closest to the actual story itself (the correlation between the university, Daley, and Little Italy), the actual conflict in focus (what can be said about Little Italy and Daley and their disunion), and finally how historians can learn from this example. After constructing this speech and practicing with much passion (as with most history professors!), I presented.

I want to say I did a good job for an aspiring lecturer and historian, but I will leave the ultimate judgment to my audience. This opportunity provided me a glimpse into the real work of academics, who build arguments, present arguments, and hopefully inspire the will and desire to converse about topics with like-minded peers. I hope to have a place in historical rhetoric and dialogue in my future, but I definitely need more discipline, humility, and hard work in order to accomplish this wish. But, I think I did O.K. for someone just beginning their 20s. 🙂

Thank you to Dr. Shermer, Ruby, and Dr. Roberts as well as the countless other history professors and teachers that have aided in my journey thus far. I promise, with some rest, I will not disappoint.

 

 

 

 

The Revision Process

This week my sole priority has been ensuring that I finish a decent draft of my project to be submitted to the Ramonat panel by Monday, April 22nd. With that being said, I have been intensely writing and editing my paper for hours on end –I believe that the first ten pages of my essay have seen major redactions and changes. The other six are still within the editing process, but are coming along quite nicely. I can’t get too much in my head, though, I still have much to do within these next few days. I have been adding new paragraphs throughout my pages in order to clear up any ambiguities within my own writing, as well as to offer additional information into the premise of my argument. I know I still have to move some paragraphs around and change some of my topic/transition sentences, but I have a good grasp on what I want to argue.

As a writer, I have an intense habit to want to explain everything, including topics that are not relevant to my own topic. A major hurdle that I had to overcome was when I discussed the University of Illinois Navy Pier campus. Originally, I spend a solid two pages discussing its significance, when in reality, all that was needed was a paragraph briefly explaining why a new university had to be constructed in the first place. But that’s now fixed! Additionally, another major drawback to my whole paper was the lack of a sound organizational structure. I still need to complete more significant work on this; however, my introduction begins to set up what I initially want to say about the construction of UIC. Factoring Catholicism into ethnic prejudice definitely remains one of the more difficult portions of crafting a clear organizational structure, but I am in the midst of figuring it out. I have a general idea of how I want to factor this in, but it still remains to be seen if I can do it appropriately.

Editing is more fun to me than writing, but my issue lies with having to write the entire project before I can truly and effectively edit what I have. So, the frustrating part is writing it just in general. But, again, this is a process, so I’m learning. I have to be done by Monday, so I am dedicating my full attention to this.

Peer-Review

Over the past couple weeks, I have received large amounts of feedback from Dr. Shermer, Ruby, and Sam on my paper. While I do plan on adequately processing and implementing said feedback later in the week, I have yet to thoroughly analyze in-depth the comments, suggestions, and recommendations from all three reviewers (but prepare for intense emailing soon!) For now, I have been prioritizing completing two other papers due within the coming week before diverting my complete attention to the Ramonat paper’s completion, editing, and presentation.

First, however, from what I can recollect, my paper does seem to lack a clear organization. While the premise of my argument paves its way towards the beginning, this focus seemingly becomes lost as I progress into the multidimensional layers that is the Daley administration. Topped with organizational issues, I am also prone to be overly wordy and feel the need to explain everything, rather than trust in my reader’s competence. Secondly, I must also balance constructive criticism with positive feedback: I honestly believe that I am successfully implementing my plan to create a balance between a narrative structure and an academic argument. Also, according to Sam’s testimony of my paper, he understands what I wish to argue with relative ease. For now, it’s just a matter of supporting what I purport with quality evidence -a challenge I feel like if my argument IS to speculative.

My plan until April 4/22 is as follows:

  • Sunday, April 14th: 11-4pm work in the Lewis Library on my Ramonat (writing!)
  • Monday, April 15th: 6:00am-12pm, work on another paper due on 4/23; 4-7pm work in Cuday Library on Ramonat (writing!)
  • Tuesday, April 16th: 7pm-??? (writing and hopefully editing!) Ramonat
  • Wednesday, April 17th: 6am-12pm writing Ramonat; 8pm-??? editing Ramonat
  • Thursday, April 18th: 1-4pm writing and editing Ramonat

Easter Break: Writing and crafting my presentation!

If I follow strictly the plan I’ve outlined accordingly, I should have a solid draft and presentation of my Ramonat paper completed by the assigned due date. It will not exist in its final version, but I should be okay. As mentioned before, I am very tired but will persevere!

 

 

 

The First Draft

What can be said about my first draft? If I am being honest, then not much. I am very much under the impression that I am far behind — I feel very overwhelmed and sense that I am highly underprepared. My draft, currently, only achieves at best 12 pages of a projected 25-30 pages. With regard to my own writing style, a critique that I have of myself is my expertise in being very vague, which may just demonstrate that I still have a ton of more research to do (in order to establish the specifics!), and little to no time to do it. I know what I want to say, it becomes now a matter of me writing it and then of course supporting it with quality evidence. But if I am being honest, I am so tired.

Regardless, I hope to April to be a time of rejuvenation for me. I hope to finally collect myself, my research, my time, and my undivided attention, and to really craft something special and unique in my young, historical career. More specifically, I think I finally figured out a quality argument regarding Daley that is more plausible and not as speculative. Essentially, via contemporaries of Daley and scholars of the Chicago Political Machine, Daley has been critiqued of crafting, promoting, and administering racist housing policies all across the West and South side areas of Chicago. However, such critiques comes later in Daley’s tenure as mayor. With respect to my own research into the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago (erected in the early 1960s), my plan is to put forward the claim that this university’s construction acted as a precursor to Daley’s harsh and strict housing policies. However, instead of labeling the construction as racist, the construction can be considered symbolic of ethnic prejudice towards both the Italian-American and Greek-American residents of the Harrison-Halsted junction. Ultimately, the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago acts as a precursor to Daley’s racist housing policies, which denied individuals the right to property in specific neighborhoods based on skin color.

In the end, consolidating this argument is what I hope to achieve. Let’s just hope that I can do it!

The Writing Process (so far…)

Writing this research project has been like no other. To adequately summarize my first steps into this writing process, I would definitely characterize it as overwhelming yet challenging. While I did not complete nearly as much as I was anticipating over Spring Break (visiting family made that hectic!), I do think what I have thus far is well-researched and getting to the point of being well-written. When writing this 30+ page paper, it is important to remember that this is a process. I am not going to be an expert the first time around and perfecting the craft only takes practice. I am confident in my ability to succeed. If anything, time seems to be my biggest hurdle.

As for the actual content of the first “chunk,” I think I have been distracted with focusing one minor characteristic of paper instead of writing on the core and essence of my research. I wrote a solid seven pages on the University of Illinois Navy Pier campus instead of focusing on the ethnic roots of Little Italy, Garfield Park, and Bridgeport, Chicago. I need to prioritize and center in on those neighborhoods and focus on the tensions between the community groups and the Daley administration with regard to the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago. As an aspiring historian, it’s my inclination to want to write everything down because I believe everything is important, but when given limits, I need to sift through what’s necessary and what’s not. In this case, seven pages on the Navy Pier campus is not. Perhaps a page at most is best. That’s why we edit. 🙂 Additionally, incorporating digitalized history into my project might be useful as well -especially with respect to garnering sources that prove that Little Italy overwhelmingly voted for Daley during his mayoral election. Unfortunately, the talk last Wednesday skipped over Richard J. Daley’s tenure in office; however, I do plan on digging digitalized archives in order to find the empirical evidence I am looking for.

Moving forward, I definitely do plan on focusing in on the places and the people of the Harrison-Halsted neighborhood as well as their correspondence with the Daley administration. Additionally, I want to look into Daley’s youth to find evidence of a growing prejudicial sentiment against Italian-Americans. I believe isolating that fact will prove most useful. If anything, I need to work on factoring in the Catholic Church’s role in this decision. From the beginning, this has been the hardest bridge to build, but I believe analyzing the role of the Church in these neighborhood burrows could provide insight into how cognitive biases have developed historically.

 

Inverse Outlining and Samples

This week’s blog post was quite the task, and I hope that I successfully complied everything I needed for this entry.

To begin, we need to provide a page of notes from a source we have been reading throughout the week. For this assignment, I chose to provide a brief sample of my own personal notes and thoughts on Robert Orsi’s The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950. I am using this source in an effort to cultivate a definition of religion, which I will then use when viewing both Italian and Irish American notions and practice of Catholicism.

Next, I was also tasked with providing a small report of an interview I had with a specialist in a potential scholarly field relevant to my research project. After conducting three interviews so far, I decided to type up my written notes from my interview with Dr. Carla Simonini from the Italian studies program at Loyola.

My notes on Orsi’s work and my interview with Dr. Simonini can be found here: Recorded Notes

Next, I was tasked with reading and outlining the article “‘How About Some Meat?’: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946.” In an effort to adequately understand how historians craft academic arguments, my own personal thoughts on the matter can be best described as a bit overwhelming but also ready for an academic challenge. Before becoming a Ramonat scholar, the longest paper I’ve written was a 15-page research paper for my Theology class, which I wrote on female autonomy within the Biblical books of Ruth, Esther, and Judith. I did an extensive biblical analysis of this theme, how these books overlap, how they differ, and finally what implications of female autonomy can arise from this synthesis. This proved a fun task; however, this previous assignment was much easier to develop since it was only half the required page amount of Ramonat’s research project. Currently, I am drowning in sources. I have somewhat of a direction of what I seek to prove in my current research project; however, I still need to consolidate my themes before I get to overwhelmed and misguided about where to proceed. This article showed me that it is okay to have a lot of sources backing up a position, and that these longer scholarly articles should have many themes they hit upon. For now and for me, it becomes a matter of determining what these themes are, and how I should support them. The outline of the scholarly article assigned from class can be found here: Inverse Outline

Finally, at the end, I was asked to supply a small primary source. This can be found here: Growing Up on the Near West Side in the 1920s

 

 

Honing in My Research Questions

Essentially, my focus on this research project is to provide a narrative to the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and identifying evidence of ethnic bias against Italian-Americans during its development. Essentially, this topic will explore the political atmosphere of the Daley Administration, protest movements against the construction of the UIC campus, how the construction affected the Hull House and Little Italy, differing notions of Catholicism between Irish and Italian Americans, and how these notions factor into UIC’s development and construction in the 1950s.

Five research questions I hope to center my paper around include:

  1. Addressing the basics/ setting the stage: Who is involved? When did this occur? How long did it take the Daley administration to get approval? What’s the already established tension between Irish and Italian Americans?
  2. Drawing a comparison and contrast between Italian and Irish notions of Catholicism: How do these two ethnic groups practice Catholicism differently? Where can this be distinctly shown throughout Chicagoland neighborhoods (what specific Churches?) Is there hard evidence pointing to a tension between these groups over these different stances? Additionally, is Irish and Italian tension singularly a product of Catholicism, or also a product of eugenic rhetoric?
  3. Establishing a conflict: What two (or more groups) stand in opposition against one another, and how does this manifest itself in the public media? Why is the construction of UIC in Little Italy detrimental to Italian American community? How is religion a factor? What was the Daley administration attempting to accomplish by building UIC in Little Italy?
  4. Determining the resolution: Who ultimately succeeded, and who suffered loses because of the decision to build UIC? How have their respective communities adapted to the construction of UIC? What are today’s consequences?
  5. The “why does this matter” component: What are the moral and ethical implications of such a decision, and was the choice to build UIC an ethical decision? How might similar occurrences today be dealt with given this now established narrative? Is ethnic bias still an issue in today’s society, and what can be learned from the construction of UIC to help prevent such biases?

Finally, in terms of sourcing, I have so far scheduled two interviews for this week with Loyola Professors (Dr. Carla Simonini and Dr. John Donoghue) surrounding the competing notions of Catholicism between Irish and Italian Americans. I also plan on researching different news articles which cover the construction of UIC through a political framework. Moreover, visiting historically Irish and Italian Catholic parishes around Chicago will help me gain an understanding of how these differing notions manifest themselves in a physical space. I also plan on sifting through historical scholarship covering the Daley administration and its initiatives, as well as how these scholars ultimately responded and critiqued them.