January Update: Minor Concept Changes and Writing Goals

Since I returned back from winter break, there have been numerous developments to my thesis. First, my thesis advisor and I went through his comments for the chapter I wrote on film portrayals of social identity. I was happy to see such thorough comments on the draft, as after working on the chapter for nearly a month, I just wanted to submit it and come back to it once I had had a break. His comments are helping me rethink my chapter in numerous ways: One, how has my chapter changed since I started writing in August; two, how have these changes improved my argument and make use of the key examples I have outlined; and three, how do I need to translate these changes in my argument and theory into my other chapters. Once I identified that first factor, it has made my approach to the rest of my thesis chapters much easier: after discussing it with my advisor, he suggested limiting the amount of attention I give to strictly sociology theory on social identity. Originally, I wanted to have an entire section or stand-alone chapter focused on what social identity is and tailoring it create a connection to my focus on the Royal Flying Corps. I ultimately agree with his suggestion though, as although I understand aspects of the theory, I don’t feel completely comfortable focusing on it for an entire chapter, as I don’t have the sociology academic training or background. We decided to define social identity and create a definition as how it pertains to my thesis, but relegate it to either a short paragraph or detailed footnote in the introduction. My thesis will still interdisciplinary in nature, but will be more focused on historical analysis of culture rather than sociology. 

After receiving comments and suggested edits on my first chapter, my advisor and I also outlined the process for the next chapter. Due February 9, this chapter will be more historical background and factual, focused on the background of the Royal Flying Corps. In this chapter, I will give a brief history of the formation of the RFC, recruitment tactics, squadron demographics, and the attitude towards mental health (including shell-shock) in the branch. I added in the section about mental health in the Corps after writing my film chapter and realizing that it plays a major role in how squadron members interacted with one another. Although everyone was suffering under the conditions of total war and possibly having pre-existing conditions exacerbated in this environment, the idea of a “masculine ideal” pressured many into hiding their problems and ostracizing those unable or unwilling to follow that path. With my other chapters outlined and key examples queued for each, I think this chapter will be the easiest for me to write, as it is factual information I am very familiar with through several years of reading and researching about the subject. I intend to have a thorough draft of all the body chapters completed and rough drafts done of the introduction and conclusion by spring break.