Thursday, July 23, 2009

More research blogging.

Okay. Illiterate scholar can have his introduction. In the course of wrestling with his over the last three days, I've been able to articulate much more forcefully what my own project concerns. I think I'm over my envy of his brief survey of our small corner of theological history, because my project might not require that same kind of survey. Because I'm doing something else. But I sometimes think that the general educated reader would be happy to have a quick course in theology. I really have no sense of how much of the stuff that I think about every day is just common knowledge for folks who work in Renaissance studies.

What about you, reader? Are you someone who likes to have the historical situation established at the outset of a book? Or do you get impatient reading the same set-up at the beginning of every text in your field?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Damn that illiterate scholar.

I'm making my way through my introduction, and find that I covet the argumentative arc of the introduction in that book I keep complaining about. I really need to touch many of the same bases, in fewer pages, as a sort of scene-setting, before I explain how he's failed to do what I plan to do. I HATE that guy for having finished his PhD before I did, for having finished his bad book before I could get there.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Calling all unsatisfied readers:

A brilliant former student of mine is considering this program at Boston University. This program's dissertation is a scholarly edition of some text or texts, complete with all the requisite scholarly apparatus. As my student ponders this career path, she has started to think about what KIND of project she'd be interested in doing, reflecting on a number of early-moderny writings that need good editing or re-editing.

I quote from my brilliant former student:

"They don't necessarily have to be literary folks--they can be historical figures, theologians, etc., etc. Is there a collection of Renaissance documents that doesn't exist that you wish did? Or some work that is currently presented in an edition that is crummy or incomplete or really out of date or unsatisfactory in some other significant way?"

And so, on her behalf, I turn the question over to you, reliable and smart readers: is there an edition/collection that you wish existed?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More research blogging.

So I've been rereading this scholarly book published a few years ago--or rather, reading beyond its introduction and first chapter, which I read some time ago, and which caused me to fling the book across the room in disgust. Then, I thought that it was a book of competent (if, to my work, irrelevant) scholarship written in really awkward prose. Really, such inelegant prose that it obscures some of the book's ideas. Now I've had to revisit the book, because half of it bears on what I'm doing, and I find that I'm absolutely infuriated by it. Because the scholar is actually making an interesting argument (though it's more and more clear, I'm happy to say, that the author only verges perilously close to my own argument on one page, and that may work in my favor as I demonstrate how he reaches all the wrong conclusions).* But he is making it in SUCH DEPLORABLE PROSE that I have to read without a pen so that I won't line-edit my library book. Seriously: sentences that are not only untangle-able but also ungrammatical. A pervasive lack of referential clarity. Reliance on the same 2 words throughout the book to do all the heavy argumentative lifting, even when their appropriateness to the point at hand requires much expansion. I wonder if the press had laid off its editorial staff when his book went through. On the (de)merits of this book alone, even though it's come to be, in its way, an influential book, I'd never submit to that press.

* Yes, I know I've identified the scholar by gender. It's all I can do not to name the book, and I would except that I'll have a book out there, with any luck, in a couple of years, and I'd rather not pre-cultivate scholarly enemies in this forum.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Splitting nerves.

I'm writing a chapter on George Herbert. It makes an argument that--it is undeniable--relates to a (smart but very poorly written) book written by another scholar a few years ago. But I'm actually making a different set of claims. Very different--having to do with representation rather than religious history. But it's taking a lot of effort on my part to explain how what I'm arguing is distinct from what's been said because so much of religious history is bound up in issues of representation in the early modern period. I feel like I'm back in the anatomy lab, hunched over a section of forearm, working really, really meticulously and painstakingly and exhaustingly to separate out one strand of nerves from another. My early training in science TOTALLY prepared me for my scholarly career.