"Too much traffic"
Dear Jenny,Do you have any tips/pointers for coping with the insane drudgery of research? The 6-hour reading stints, the reference book consulting, the online database searching, the many deadends, the quickly to deflate into despair overenthusiasm of finding something wonderful only to realize it doesn't QUITE fit the demands of your thesis, the stubborn catalogue search engines that refuse to even list an author's existence? I'm finding myself a little haggard and am curious how you deal with the burdens of discovery.
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Oh dear, really I shouldn't say it, but I am shaking my head in horrified amazement at the idea that research might seem like insane drudgery! Particularly a 6-hour reading stint is my favorite thing in the world, of course (I chew up 18th-century books like one of those wood-chip mulchers); and at this stage in the semester everything to do with writing and research just sounds impossibly alluring because I have so little time for it. I wonder whether your project (a dissertation?) needs some tweaking, or perhaps you just should have a bit of time off for refreshment. Dead ends are sometimes unavoidable, of course, but usually there's something fascinating along the way; same thing for these reference books. If you're a historian, it's more challenging than it may be for most literary scholars, this question of having a thesis and its relationship to evidence: but is it not possible that you need to modify your thesis to admit the wonderful things? I don't know--I wish you luck with it (I like your phrasing, I could use "a little haggard" as a blog post title!), you're welcome to write me at my Columbia e-mail if you've got more questions.
Dear Jenny,I agree. Literary writing can be... out there.. unexact.. speculative. I'm writing on something that demands the most scrupulous adherence to the facts and only the facts! (Linguistics...)My main energy suck is just the intimidation I feel before the massive amounts of literature and my fear of having nothing original to contribute.
Scrupulous adherence to the facts is admirable, you must just give yourself over to it and enjoy it. The originality question is of course necessarily anxiety-provoking, but I must say without knowing you at all that surely your work is at least modestly original, it is very unlikely that you're really re-treading anyone else's footsteps. There are times when it's better to forge ahead with your own work & consult the scholarly research later; it is rare that we find a scholarly article in obscurity that actually really and profoundly affects our understanding of a topic, though I'm not saying it's never the case...