What Is This Blog? Why Does It Exist?

This blog is a highly idiosyncratic and personal attempt to document an aspect of my daily work as a professor and scholar: reading and taking notes.

I take notes to compose my thoughts before teaching, to remind myself of lines of inquiry and interpretation that I would like to pursue further, to prepare for formal writing or research, to have a conversation with myself as well as with absent others (authors, colleagues, publics).

There is a common belief that professors simply know a lot of things and that they walk into their classes with all that knowledge spilling naturally out of their heads. Hence the corollary: that professors have easy jobs because they only work nine or twelve hours a week when they’re in the classroom.

It is easy to attack that presumption by reminding people of graded papers and administrative labor. But none of us like grading papers, and defining what seems to be bureaucratic labor as a keystone of your professional work, however true that might be, is fairly unsatisfying.

The work of thoughtful reading and note-taking, on the other hand, seems to lie at the heart of the scholarly enterprise. There are numerous precedents for the sharing and publishing of notes (both unplanned and planned) but digital media permit that sharing on a wholly new scale.

I’ve wrestled for some years with how to begin this project, and whether to build a more elaborate kind of integration with existing databases. In the end, I’ve decided for something more personal and less collaborative, though I would be delighted if other scholars wanted to start their own “Making Scholarship” blogs or other digitally distributed collections of notes. I simply came to a point where I decided there was no clearly correct way to carry out a project like this and no way to absolutely guarantee its sustainability or preservation.

So here it is. As time goes on, I will try to improve some of the metadata I build into the project and explore possibilities for pushing out the notes to other locations. I’m trying for the moment to duplicate the notes as “reviews” in LibraryThing but that may simply not be sustainable.

Whether or not these notes are directly useful to any other reader in their own engagement with these texts, I hope they will serve as a document, however homely, of the labor that goes into scholarship.

I gave a Prezi presentation on some of the ideas behind this blog at a ThatCamp in 2012, which may or may not clarify some of my thinking in this project.