Ethics & The Archive

This short post was occasioned by a conversation NGSC blog contributor Andrew Welch and I shared on the ethics of archival research while working together over coffee in Chicago this week. Indeed, and because so many of us are engaged not only in grappling with the historical documents that archives provide in support of our research, but also are actively engaged in thinking through the implications of  archival research in terms of travel, the extensive financial resources needed, and the like, I imagined transposing the significant ideas that emerged might be beneficial to readers.

The overarching theme that came to the fore had to do with the locating of evidence for source material with respect to literary antecedents for the primary figures for our projects. Namely, Hume and Adam Smith. The ethical claim that came up immediately had to do with the question of the mechanisms that make, for instance, Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, available to Blake–and the need to chart the social networks that would have rendered a particular text legible in a specific way for a given author. The question was: is it sufficient to know that Smith was widely read and his ideas percolated extensively? Or, is it necessary to get into the archives to concretely ground circuits of transmission? To deal with questions like: how could Blake have accessed this work around 1789?  Was the Smith reviewed in periodicals now archived that could’ve shaped Blake’s thinking? Who owned the text Blake would have accessed–likely in the publisher Joseph Johnson’s circle? Who among the authors Johnson is publishing were dealing with Smith? Do they address the moral philosopher’s ideas in letters that can be located in archives and between other figures with which we know Blake was in contact? And so it goes on.

While these are the research prompts that excite me, I neverthess wonder if there is a sound argument to made for basing inquiry, primarily, on the percolation of ideas. My dissertation being on Blake and ecology, I have to wonder: what about the carbon footprint involved in traveling between Chicago and places as lIke The Yale Center for British Art, the Huntington, the British Museum and Library, etc? Is it sufficient to argue that because a project contributes to the library of ideas that grasps the historical basis for climate change, though its process of production is linked to those conditions,  it is ethically defensible? And then, the question of finance and privilege. To what extent does my project merit the infusion of money, over others–and perhaps more directly useful investments of capital? Add that to considerations of time spent writing the dissertation using easily accessible texts versus time spent on fellowship and grant applications (which I truly love crafting, and believe to be important), the time to travel, research, and catalogue, the matter seems much more complex than I anticipated in beginning the project. And with an ethics to be further explored.

Behind the Scenes: Editing “Studies in Romanticism”

Back in June, I posted some rambling reflections about my current position as Editorial Assistant with Studies in Romanticism. Over the summer, I had the pleasure of communicating with SiR’s current Editor, Charles Rzepka, about his own experiences and expectations with publishing the journal. I asked him to provide N-GSC Blog readers with some insights into the journal’s submission process, editorial decisions, and the dreaded reader evaluations. Here, I offer you some highlights from our conversation:

Continue reading Behind the Scenes: Editing “Studies in Romanticism”

Call for Bloggers, 2015-2016

It’s that time of year again — we are looking for new bloggers to write for the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus Blog in 2015-2016!

Bloggers must commit to one post per month throughout the academic year. Posts can range from in-depth scholarly inquiries, to book reviews, interviews with faculty, and reports on conferences, to humorous quips and original creative work, whether artistic or literary: all are welcome.

To apply, please email the Managing Editor, Arden Hegele, with a CV and a short statement of interest, by Monday, September 7th. Applicants will be notified by September 15th.

Call for Papers: NASSR 2016

The topic for this year’s conference, in Berkeley, CA, is “Romanticism and its Discontents.” See the full call for papers here: Proposals for individual papers are due on February 8, 2016. Deadline for proposing an open-call session is November 2, 2015. Deadline for proposing a complete panel or roundtable is also February 8, 2016.

Dickens in Eden, 2.0

NASSR-time is upon us, and I am very excited to see many of our Romanticist writers and readers in Winnipeg! Readers can expect an update on the conference — and particularly the sessions for graduate students — next week. But first, I’d like to give my report on The Dickens Universe 2015, which I attended for the first time at UC Santa Cruz at the beginning of this month. This annual week-long event is part academic conference, part professionalism workshop, part Victorian reenactment, and part summer camp: it brings together faculty and graduate students from the US and abroad, but also “Road Scholars” of all ages whose admiration for Boz brings them back each year to discuss a new novel. And, while Dickens isn’t strictly part of the Romanticist repertoire, the conference has much to offer for the aspiring nineteenth-century aficionado/a. Continue reading Dickens in Eden, 2.0

Report from the 12th Biennial IGA Conference: Gothic Migrations

I haven’t been to too many conferences yet, but I imagine that blithe comments about necrophilia and incest are relatively rare, and them being met with easy laughter is rarer still. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that this happened at the conference of the International Gothic Association (IGA), but I didn’t expect the atmosphere to be so lighthearted. That’s not to say that there wasn’t serious scholarship happening; to the contrary, the amount of fascinating research presented on everything from Shakespeare to Supernatural was a little overwhelming.

Continue reading Report from the 12th Biennial IGA Conference: Gothic Migrations

Poem: Outside a chapel

Another older poem (although revised for this blog) – in the Romantic tradition of reflecting on older buildings! The chapel I had in mind is at Trinity College, University of Toronto:

Outside a Chapel, the Windows Are Dull

it is the bricks instead, the wall
a jagged ladder –
sandstone scraping itself
up to the prayerful slope
of slate rooftiles that cling
to copper,
broad beam
corroded by contact
with the sky.

Constructing an Academic Self: The Worksheet

This follows up on my previous post, concerning the necessity of renewing resolve and reorienting goals for the forthcoming academic year. Over the last month, in starting to capitalize on the commitments I explored there, I’ve increasingly realized the importance of utilizing reflective writing to actively work through the process of beginning the dissertation, and for the first time really envisioning what type of scholar I’d like to become through that particilar endeavor. As I imagine is the case for most romanticists, certain professional investments have started to become clarified as a result of engaging in the intense, challenging, and rewarding project of dissertation writing–in my case, guided by reading Donald Hall’s The Academic Self, Jean Botkin’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, and Timothy Morton’s Ph.D Advice. To honestly think through these core themes that I’m realizing connect work, communities, and more (and, especially, because I’ll be going on the predoctoral fellowship market next year, and think the activity will be helpful for writing research statements), I’ve developed a series of fifteen questions to answer to better understand how areas of academic research, values, and goals are shaped by a longer history of development, different institutions, multiple great mentors, and romanticist friendships. In this blog–an unconventional one, admittedly–I am posting these questions I’ve generated, in hopes that they might be helpful for other grads to think through. I also invite others to post additional questions in the comments you’ve found helpful in creating fulfilling academic trajectories. Continue reading Constructing an Academic Self: The Worksheet

Confessions of a Crazed Ph.D. Student, or, A Very Honest Account of Exams Preparation

I am currently wading neck deep in the quagmire that is comprehensive exam preparation. Countless fellow students warned me ahead of time that this would be the most challenging aspect of my pursuit for a doctoral degree. While that remains to be seen, I can admit that the last few months have been exhausting to say the least. Below, I will narrate some of the realities I have thus far experienced, both good and bad, with as much honesty as possible. Whether you can relate, commiserate, or completely disagree with me, I hope that my transparency will help prepare others for their own exams.

You will have an “oh, sh*t” moment.

There will come a point where you think you have a handle on your list, that you are on top of your reading and this whole thing will be a piece of cake. It’s not. Continue reading Confessions of a Crazed Ph.D. Student, or, A Very Honest Account of Exams Preparation

Report from the Front: Professor Jeffrey N. Cox on the Waterloo Bicentennial

June 18, 2015 marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, that decisive event that signaled the end of the Napoleonic Wars and, more broadly, constant military conflict on the European continent since 1756. Notable not only for Napoleon’s defeat by the combined forces of England, Prussia, and the Netherlands under the command of the Duke of Wellington and the Prince of Orange, Waterloo remains one of the bloodiest military conflicts in history with nearly 48,000 causalities in only ten hours. Yet, even more than a political turning point, Waterloo left an inedible mark on the period’s cultural productions; as graduate students studying Romanticism, we remember the battle in terms of the massive literary and artistic output it inspired. From Wordsworth’s “Thanksgiving Ode” to a theatrical production at Sadler’s Wells that included the song ‘The Bellerophon, or Nappy napped,'” Waterloo became a permanent fixture in Europe’s cultural memory. Continue reading Report from the Front: Professor Jeffrey N. Cox on the Waterloo Bicentennial

Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism