[note: I’m trying to write this blog post in five minutes. Sorry if it stinks.]
It seems that I need to learn how to write bigger stories. That, at least, is the message from my dissertation committee, the members of which have universally signaled that my chapters are short on long narratives: things like the Rise of the New Right, the Cold War, or the environmentalism movement. It’s taken me a while — three chapters, to be precise — to understand my committee’s advice, because of two things. First, I have been focusing on straightening out my dissertation’s particular story, which is complicated and nuanced enough on its own. I haven’t done justice to the detail of my own story as it is; the thought of stripping out some of that detail in order to make room for bigger connections makes me feel a little dirty. Second, I have, in fact, been making some of those big connections…just not in the right direction, apparently. I’ve been using bigger themes and contexts to explain the origins and causes of the events within my story, but I haven’t flipped that arrow to show how my story explains those bigger historical trajectories. So, I know how the Cold War shaped the events in my narrative. But now I need to explain how my narrative shaped, or at least helps us better understand, the Cold War. Sounds (a) super interesting and (b) super difficult. Whee!