I've been hard at work seriously revising my Frederick Douglass's sister article for the past few days. The good part about revising is that you already have stuff on the page, some of it even good. The bad part -- especially if you are doing something that might better be called an "overhaul" than a "revision" -- is that you may have to lose some of that good stuff. You have to figure out how to fit it seamlessly into the new version, and then it might not even serve a purpose after you have done that.
We won't even get into all of the unturned stones that you feel along the edges. You have a pretty good idea that nothing will be under those stones, but you just have to turn them to make sure. I'm always certain that the big smoking gun or key to reshaping the historiography of the history of the world will be under that one little pebble in the back of the record garden.
My first version of the article was strong on narrative and the transparency of my research, but very weak on analysis. When Gentleman Caller read it, he said that it was more of an extended annotation -- which is what it started out as, anyway -- than a full-fledged, polished article. He was right. In fact, he named exactly what bothered me about it. Since most of the research had been geared toward writing an annotation, and since the longer version was initially a paper for an organization that cared deeply about annotations and the stories behind them, I remained stuck in the rut of that approach. Now, I'm attacking the material with the "so what?" question in mind.
You know what? It's a fan-effing-tastic revision, even as undone as it is. In fact, I'm starting to explore an idea about Douglass and class, and how his class and his status as a free man affects his abolition -- all in contrast to a close friend who approached abolition with an entirely different set of needs. This might play into what I end up writing about Anna, who I am starting to suspect identified herself with a different class than Douglass did.
Oh, and the League of Gileadites in which this "sister" was involved? Bad. Ass.