Saturday, September 25, 2010

learning as luxury and chore

It is soooo nice to have time: to focus upon my own research, to gain new perspectives on my work (as well as my academic & personal life--and THAT is surely why universities make you come back for a year following sabbaticals--because otherwise, you might jump ship entirely--versus simply jumping to another ship), and to chip away at the enormous body of work that relates to the issue I'm writing about. Lately, I've been reading some straight history, and it is both humbling and exciting to realize how much information and analysis is out there already. Hmmm, mostly humbling.

There are three broad genres of literature that I have to get a handle on; I tend to gloss them as historical, theoretical, and substantive/comparative. I try to move between (versus through) genres, so that I don't become bored, and also because I find great value in that particular dialectic; it means that ideas and disciplinary perspectives constantly ricochet off one another in a critical and productive fashion. For each work, I make hand-written notes and flag impt. passages as I'm reading, and then finally, I produce a word doc (abstract, summary, or sometimes just a  list of relevant points)  that can be tied to the endnote reference and to the appropriate onenote page or sub-page. I have a self-imposed rule about this process, which is that I cannot move on to new material until I've typed up my notes for the last article or book.  It is working for now, but I notice that I must force myself to write it up. If the material I am currently reading applied only to this semester's project, then I might be able to forego that, but such is not the case. So logging my notes and thoughts in a more formal context helps me to learn (literally, via inscription) and to preserve my thoughts on the theoretical or historical value of a work. And, why am I bothering to blog this? Because I have just finished a dense historical treatise and now I've got to type up my notes. Damn.

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