Reflections one week into research semester

As last week’s post explains, I have completed first week of one of two semesters devoted to research on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in particular, on the editing of it. As I began, one of my first tasks was to unburden myself of other tasks and distractions. So far, I’ve been reasonably successful.

I signed off of Twitter, or, rather, tweeted that I was taking a Twitterbatical of six weeks. I miss Twitter less than I thought I would. And I work much more productively without Twitter, which distracts me. I follow many interesting people, so the distractions are usually worthwhile, but distractions still from what I consider my main work. The losses seem like more personal things. I had forgotten that I use Twitter to track the Friday night football game. Also, my spouse realized that conversations elicited by my Twitter feed are her secondary source of news, after NPR.

One of my next tasks was to set up a daily schedule, which has been reasonably effective so far.

  • MWF early mornings are for writing and late-mornings are for reading scholarship
  • MWF afternoons are for electronic collation, variant narratives, and textual scholarship tool refresh
  • TTh mornings are for reading, library book retrieval, and print collation.
  • TTh afternoons are for variant narratives and German
  • Evenings are for making up what was skipped.
  • Weekend mornings are for intensive technology, and afternoons are for German, reading, and service activities. All weekend things are optional.

I knew the initial schedule expressed an ideal, but I did not realize how much of one, as all of the following other tasks joined my week.

  • Service, urgent Melville TextLab testing and AAUP meeting, some 4 hours
  • Annual report on scholarly activities, to new reporting system
  • Several student matters, which cannot be avoided because not teaching, as the responsibilities to students remain.
  • Computer repair for son, who had received new video card which, when installing, led to crazy silliness: no DVI cord, wrong style DVI cord from store, cracking of wireless card connecting and seeming crash, repair and ordering new wireless, reinstalling, probably 5 hours in all.
  • Bizarre Google Drive experience with missing files, which had to be restored from backup, probably 4 hours, after wasting 4 hours transcribing something that I had already transcribed but was missing inexplicably from Google Drive. Because had been 3 years, I did not remember I had done it. [still have not figured out what weirdness was leading to lost Google Drive files, and now have a lot of anxietyand no good answers]
  • On trying to test electronic collation, discovered that my work on Illustrated Edition was remembered as more complete than it was, so had to go back to collate and correct files. [Over years, my encoding styles have changed, and I need to apply greater consistency].
  • Other personal and family responsibilities that I had not anticipated specifically, but are just life with a family.

Despite all those, I succeeded at correcting and updating encoding for 1.5 copies of Illustrated edition, read and sorted through some 40 Stowe letters, and sight-collating half of an Illustrated edition, transcribing several pages of Melville’s Billy Budd, and read several articles.

Below are a few notes gleaned from return to close study of textual detail of Illustrated Edition and Stowe’s letters and Melville.

  • The Stowe family had a dog named Carlo, same name as George Harris’s dog, killed by George Harris’s owner in chapter 3 of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • Stowe’s early MS is in a very lightly punctuated style. Her manuscript pages from later in the book echo punctuation of Jewett edition.
  • H.B.S. gave Calvin hell about accepting the Amherst position. She believed that an adjunct position at Bowdoin would surely be converted into a permanent one. (Another time, indeed).
  • There are at least 3 legit variants, altered text, in 1853 Illustrated Edition, if one includes title page and illustrations. Also, several illustrations were moved slightly.
  • Harrison Hayford and Merton Sealts were freaking brilliant.
  • In illustrated edition, an em dash to signal omitted letters is flush with letters, so d–n. When used as syntactical punctuation, no thin space separates.

I apologize for cryptic notes. I constrain myself to protect family privacy, to honor obligations to rights holders, and to pursue informality, which is born of desire to publish notes to prod myself rather than to seek public consumption. I no longer delude myself about broad cultural interest in my scholarship–though I continue to believe framing can broaden public interest. But for this purpose, I assume that people who read here care about this stuff.

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2 Responses to Reflections one week into research semester

  1. Sharon says:

    Realistic progress is still progress, even if it isn’t as much as you’d planned. And the summary has a reasonable level of cryptic obfuscation. I have a similar-sounding issue with shifts in personal encoding habits over time and have begun leaving myself comments at the tops of files to indicate oddities of vintage when I don’t have time to fix them right away….

    Enjoy your next months of sabbatical!

    (RSS/Atom syndication FTW. Though we’re acquainted via Twitter, I don’t read it more than once in a month or two myself.)

    • wraabe says:

      Thanks for replying. Setting Twitter aside for awhile was somewhat scary, as I’ve come to rely on it to keep up. But my overall feeling is that its power as tool for distraction exceeded its value.

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