That seems to have got the ball rolling. Let’s all thank Katherine for her excellent reply to my post. Don’t let her reply slip your attention. I know everyone is busy, but please give blogging a chance. Once again, evaluation time is very near.
Here are a few more points, some of which pertain to the readings.
I’m a strong believer in established research formulas. Before I entered University of Toronto as an undergraduate I attended several tutorials offered by one of the undergraduate writing units. I remember one of the tutorials—I was there with a friend who eventually became a professor at University of Chicago. The then director of the unit introduced us to a system called the Cornell Note-Taking Method. The idea behind the Cornell method was that the student must be attentive while taking notes—that he or she must not slip into a daze or daydream while listening to a lecture / seminar. To improve comprehension and retention, the Cornell method encouraged students to extend the left margin of an A4 sheet of paper. He or she would then insert in the left margin questions pertaining to the material. At the foot of the page there would be a summary of the page’s main ideas. This site describes the method in greater detail: http://lifehacker.com/202418/geek-to-live–take-study+worthy-lecture-notes.
Here are two methods of studying more effectively: (1) No matter how heavily you annotate your copy of a text, reserve space at the top of the page for a word that summarizes the page’s main ideas—early bibliographers / bibliophiles, like Revd Alexander Dyce and William Gladstone, used a similar technique with endpapers; (2) read in 25-minute blocks—neurological studies suggest that the human brain is optimized for short periods of attention.
I found those methods very effective in my youth. Now I write notes in small books, and I take notes with different colours of ink and highlighters: pencil = first reading; pen = second reading; highlighter (yellow) = important; highlighter (pink) = darn important, nota bene, memorize it, or at least know the concept.
And now onto my own research, and what I’ve taken from the readings …
What really amazes me about both books is the way that they attempt to reduce art to craft. Ever attend an art class only to be told how to paint in a predictable way? I have. As I mechanically learned how to produce art I thought about all the craft passed off as art at garage sales, flea markets, and even (occasionally) at one of Yorkville’s more swanky galleries. It seems to me as if the difference between good art and good research isn’t (or shouldn’t be) that great. Good research isn’t formulaic. Just as Van Gough and Picasso became perceived as geniuses by challenging social norms, the good researcher must defy his or her predecessors. Thirty years ago positivism became an institutionally accepted standard. Deconstruction and literary theory emerged as scepticism to reposition history in favour of the marginalized other. The current trends of genre, thematic, and periodization criticism—trends which underlie Knight’s models (p. 11)—became standard. And here’s how I’ve been trying to challenge these norms in my writings and research.
(1) Scepticism (Deconstruction, etc) emerged as an academic standard because it facilitated a culture of over-production in the humanities. It’s much easier to develop an extensive list of publications if the so-called scholar need only summarize the ideas of Derrida, Foucault, etc, for the first half of his or her article. Every article I write begins with an important document which repositions the meaning of the text historically. The act of discovery seems to be a methodologically appropriate technique for entering into discourse because we live in an age of unparallelled access to information through search engines and digital resources.
(2) Factuality. The main adherents to the sceptical-literary critical model try to deny the existence of a quasi-infinite body of fascinating, potentially theory-busting facts; and, thus, they direct their efforts to connecting the dots between disciplines or redefining a concept which has been “defined too narrowly or too broadly, and / or … measured inappropriately” (Knight 11). (Note here that this method often allows them simply to reframe other scholars’ research, thus freeing them to devote their time to developing their skills as rhetoricians and making them more valuable commodities as well-trained language instructors.) Some of my work, which may superficially appear as bibliography or codicology, is, in fact, intended to bust a large, gaping hole in humanities dogma—the lie that we’ve found everything.
(3) Time. In an age of near-instant access to information, words are cheap. What’s the difference between an academic and a journalist? How about between a journalist and a blogger? Or between a popular blogger and a first-time blogger? Value is often a product of time and dedication. Why, as we move towards an age of e-print, should we locate value in fast (and inherently superficial) analysis? Certainly we’re moving away from a consumer culture of low-cost, low-quality goods. Why shouldn’t we as scholars think about what makes for good research?
I hope this all makes sense.