For most of my academic career, I didn’t think much about methodology. I read, I think, I write (and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite). This changed when I took an introductory Digital Humanities course, a survey of digital tools and methods. My biggest takeaway from this course (other than that computers are frustrating) was that methodology affects not only the results of research, but also the way we think about our data and the types of questions we ask. This not a new idea for many scholars, I know, but for those of us used to the read-think-write strategy, it bears thinking about.
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
‘Tis the season—to become a crazy hermit living under a pile of blankets and books as a tangle of charging cords threatens to spill your very full coffee mug or wine glass (or both, no judgment) onto your laptop. The worst time of the school semester is upon us as the holidays collide with final deadlines. Student grades need to be finalized and seminar papers written, all while family and friends inundate you with invitations to various shenanigans. Personally, this is the time of year where I struggle to get everything done while still enjoying the holiday cheer and remaining sane. So I have compiled a list of the best technologies tested by yours truly to help you reach your deadlines, whatever they may be. Good luck! Continue reading Trick yourself into productivity: the best technologies to keep you focused
In my composition class this semester, we’ve been talking a lot about education: teaching methods, evaluation, structure, etc. There’s a new documentary out called Ivory Tower, and, though I haven’t seen it yet, we read a few articles about it in class, like “The Hi-Tech Mess of Higher Education,” which links panic over the value of education to increasing emphasis on technology. It’s not new or surprising to say that online education is on the rise. More instructors are offering online classes, and more students are electing to take them. Not only will they allow you to pursue your education from anywhere with an internet connection, but many of them will allow you to have a flexible schedule as well. Personally, I will probably always prefer the traditional classroom setting (and my current students told me they would, too), but there are undeniable benefits to an online course, alongside many challenges for those of used to the face-to-face interaction with students and/or teachers. Continue reading Online and Off Kilter: Navigating the Online Classroom
Prologue: Advisor to Student
Don’t you have family in LA, and New Rochelle? Or was it Manhattan? Both?
The Huntington is an amazing place to get work done—not just research but also writing. Everyone goes to the BL [British Library] but the Huntington also has outstanding holdings for scholars working on Romanticism.”
“Yes, I do have family near LA, but they live in Orange County. And you’re right about my relations on the east coast, too. My great aunt has a place on the island and her son, Michael, lives in New Rock City with his wife.”
“Ok, great. Draft your fellowship application materials and send them to me this weekend. Let’s start with the Huntington. If you get money, perfect, you’ll go there; if not, let’s shoot for NY since residing in OC would mean a commute. That’d be a waste of your time.”
Actual Log: Goodwill Huntington
The advisor was right. The rare books I consulted during my time as a fellow and reader at the Huntington Library’s Munger Research Center have proved invaluable to my dissertation project. However, from my first day on the Huntington’s sweeping and gorgeously curated grounds, the congenial spirit cultivated by the reader services staff impressed me most. After hearing a handful of stories about graduate students enduring long waits or general disregard at renowned research institutions, the Huntington handedly dispelled this academic urban legend.
Given my enduring interest in both Romanticism and science and the history of science and technology, I punctuated my visits to the Ahmanson Rare Books Reading Room with trips to the Burndy collection. The Burndy Library and Dibner History of Science Program house fascinating historical documents and artifacts that allowed me to supplement my archival research with necessary secondary readings.
When I needed to take a break from the reading room, I walked through my favorite of the Huntington’s botanical gardens. Otherwise, I strolled through the many beautifully curated exhibits on display. True to form, I was captivated by the permanent exhibit “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World” now showcased in the newly renovated Dibner Hall of the History of Science. Additionally, during the month and a half that I was in residence at the Huntington, I was also lucky enough to explore various rotating exhibitions, many of which catered to my broader interests in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. First, I visited “Born to Endless Night: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints by William Blake Selected by John Frame” and “Revisiting the Regency: England, 1811–1820.” Just before my time there ended, I took special pleasure in frequenting the exhibit “Pre-Raphaelites and Their Followers: British and American Drawings from The Huntington’s Collections,” which was curated by my friend and colleague Matthew H Fisk.
All such glorious distractions aside, I’ll leave my reader with one very sage piece of advice. Returning again to borrowed words, I would like to share with you the most valuable and counterintuitive information my advisor imparted to me before I made my first foray into the Munger Research Center.
Epilogue: “Try not to spend everyday at The Huntington performing research”
“It will be tempting to spend your allotted time (in the Ahmanson Rare Books Reading Room, from 8:30 to noon, and more, from 1-5) on nothing but transcription, research, reading. I battle the same impulse myself. But I would never write a page if I left this impulse unchecked.
Break up each day. You have a dissertation to finish. Research is of course an integral component and necessary to the completion of your project, but keep in mind that mining the archive is only part of what you do, and thus should only be part of your daily routine during your 6 weeks on fellowship. This time will give you the opportunity to forge habits that will help you to remain productive and to lead a balanced life after graduate school.
If you still work well in the morning, settle into a schedule where you write in the productive atmosphere of the Huntington during the am, and then, in the afternoons, gather your documents as ye may.”
This past Monday we hosted two great talks, here at CU, as part of our “Circulations: The Futures of Romanticism” series. Michael Macovski spoke about the history of the Book, with a special attention on the role that redaction plays in Romantic reading practice, and Michael Gamer spoke about the persistent pressures of fame and personal economic stability that accompanied Robert Southey’s establishment as poet laureate in 1813. I feel privileged to have been able to attend these talks, both for the valuable insights they offered relative to book history and economic literary analysis (two compelling avenues of study that clearly have much to offer the field), and for the important presentation strategies they demonstrated.
Since the talks, I’ve been thinking about these and other presentations I’ve enjoyed, mulling over what it is, in particular, that makes for a good academic talk. So much of our classroom experience, both as teachers and as students, is oriented around discussion, where we can riff, where an inchoate idea satisfies to propel a discussion towards completeness, where continuity is not always necessary nor even desirable; as such, the prospect of giving a talk, of owning the floor for fifteen to twenty minutes, uninterrupted, to present ideas for which we are solely responsible, can be daunting. Certainly, it must help to watch the presentations of others with an eye for the specific stratagems they employ, not only in constructing an argument, but in effectively engaging an audience. Continue reading Contemplating Presentation: Part I, Technology