Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Tentative Idea

I'm toying with the idea of starting another blog under the name of the person behind Clio Bluestocking in order to write more about my research. Clio Bluestocking Tales has been a personal blog, without much division between personal and professional, but always a personal reaction to the professional. Recently, however, I started thinking a bit about ways to use this medium in which I have played with for -- jeez! How long has it been? -- four years and put it to a more concerted professional use.

This line of thought began with a book that I'm reviewing. It's certainly a fresh look on the subject, but the subject is also fresh to the author. In other words, the subject of the book is not in the author's usual area of specialty, and that shows a bit in the lack of historiographical grounding. The book was published through a respectable trade press, and trade presses tend to move the bulk of the historiography to the footnotes if not out of the book altogether. I find that distressing in general because, as happens in popular history books, ideas that came from other historians can easily be passed off at the author's ideas and the author may not at all have intended that.

I think, in particular, of a particular author who, in his text, seemed entirely surprised that the Almighty Founders actually discussed and included protections for slavery in the Constitution. Now, that could easily have been a pose for the audience, but the lack of historiographical footnotes seemed to suggest that said author had no idea that other historians had also discovered this fact long before even his grandfather had been born. If said author was aware of other historians on the subject, you would think that he would want his audience to know about this, as well. He may well have been wholly ignorant; or, he may not be ignorant, but his publisher thought that such a discussion in the text or the footnotes was superfluous or boring or unnecessary for the lay reader. I'm sure we all know of similar cases.

I also think of a historian, well-respected and aware of the historiographical background of his subject, who wrote lovely historiographical footnotes. His publisher, however, removed them. In his case, the historiography was implied in his text because he is a much better historian than the one described above (being, in fact, a historian). Nonetheless, he was so proud of those notes and wished his audience could have read them. We have all probably been in similar circumstances.

I, in fact, was in similar circumstances with the Tourist Book. The nature of the publishing venture, the scope of the project, and the word count for the book precluded the use of any citations. This became a problem when a rival historian on the subject (or, actually, just a small part of the subject) challenged both my interpretations and my facts. "This is just wrong," he said. Well, no, it was not. Gentrification was, as stated in documents, a response to fears connected with urbanization; and, a war against the Native people of the area has been interpreted by historians as genocide, based on documents stating the goals of the war. He could have looked all of this up himself if I could have had footnotes. Instead, he's now going around telling people that my book has "mistakes."

Of course, he says that about all books written about the area and subject that are not written by him or someone he has anointed. He thinks of the history as his territory, a tree on which he has peed.

I digress into bitchiness there. Clio would continue to engage in the bitchiness. The person behind Clio would edit that out.

Meanwhile, at the time, I thought that I would like to have a place where I could publish such things that the publishers would not include, or that I might not include because they were essentially footnotes to footnotes. You know, the note that you took, the little story that you came across, the interesting concept that you can't include in the larger project and don't know if you will ever or could ever turn into something else? Trivia, even; and pictures that you have taken that would not really fit in with the book. I feel the same about the current project, some of which has shown up here.

Then, as I shifted the time that I spent on the Reverb writing to time spent on hashing out ideas on the project -- that is, the project journal or what I call "project free writing" -- I began to realize that I would like to have the possibility to engage in a conversation about some aspects of the project, and that I would like those conversations to be in my historian's persona. This became especially acute in the past few days when I've come across a fascinating angle about the afterlife of the two wives. Not ghosties, mind you, but what I suppose would now be called the memory of the two women as they relate to the memory of their husband. I know a particular major historian has that memory angle covered in the biography that he is writing; but this is a particular gendered angle.

Also, I have received e-mails about my subject directed to this Clio email; but I'm so torn about responding to some of them because of this Clio/person behind Clio split in my persona and my ambivalence about the depth of that division. In regard to the research project, I could end the ambivalence and be less hesitant about corresponding because I would know better what role I would be playing. That sounds weird, I know, and I'll try to explain it more another time; but right now, this is how it works in my head and I have to go with it. I never, when I started the blog, thought that I would be in a position to deal with these sorts of persona questions because I never thought that I would be actually writing this book, much less writing it under contract with a Big Deal Press in their trade division.

In any case, for interested parties, I'll let you know what I decide. I won't link, in order to maintain at least some cyber division in the two persona for my own comfort (although I am just fooling myself); but you will know the search string to find it.

8 comments:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Well, I'd be interested, even though it's not my area of research. I'd just like to see how it's done, and how it works out.

Rose said...

I'm interested too, though it's not my research field. (I'm a fellow historian and migraineur. I was so sorry to read about your horrible migraine.)

Feminist Avatar said...

This reminds me of when ye olden day (early 20thC) journals still did 'notes and queries'- the place for all the random thoughts and sources. Now I know some journals claim to still do this, but you never see it anymore. Perhaps, that is because of the historical blogosphere?

Digger said...

I've had similar thoughts re: my research and pseudonymous blog, so I'm totally interested in your take on it. And I don't think the ambivalence about role is weird at all. We all have personas for different contexts; when the contexts or personas leak or overlap, it feels weird.

But its totally awesome that you've gotten into the research far enough to hit this point. Somewhere you're making the time to do the work :D

Clio Bluestocking said...

Thank you all! It's done, I'm just trying to figure out how to help you find it.

Digger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Digger said...

Oooooh! *waits*

lhahn said...

I'm hoping you will be able to share.

 

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