Unwieldy bodies of work

It’s a semi-interesting odyssey, and pretty typical of my usual process, in which I write way too much to make a point, and wind up hacking and chopping and eventually trimming it all down to something more manageable. (Though often it’s still pretty darn long, and that’s not unique to my scholarship; I have a friend who, if she receives a short email from me–which means anything under three or four sentences–will call and make sure nothing’s wrong.) Perhaps not the ideal approach, but it helps me work out my thoughts. The biggest challenge for me, though, then becomes wrapping my head around the big picture, since the unwieldy output digresses frequently, incorporates everything I thought of, and repeats itself as I try to work out the best way to say something/explain.

To whit: The article on which I’m currently at work (working title: “The Body of America: Anatomical understanding and geographic knowledge in English colonization,” though as the argument has evolved that title grows even less compelling, and less appropriate), was at one point a dissertation chapter (originally written in 2008, officially submitted in 2010), but is now significantly transformed. In Summer 2012, I did a bunch of reading on related topics to give it more context in terms of imperial claims and rivalries, specific details regarding English colonization, more substantial information on the natural sciences and anatomy, etc, and it turned gigantic (think 24,000+ words, not counting notes). In Summer 2013, I cut it down to less than half that length, though still left it too lengthy (around 11,000 words) and not focused enough.

And that’s when I called in reinforcements. Sharon Block (UC Irvine) graciously agreed to revisit a piece she’d last seen in a much earlier iteration over three years prior, and Allyson Poska (UMW) has said she would give it a read after I’d worked with Sharon’s input. Sharon suggested that I in fact had two major topics: (1) human and geographic anatomy, and (2) natural sciences and geography. The two didn’t quite line up, and the obvious thing to do with the piece being too long was to separate them out.

With any luck, this piece gets some love during spring “break,” which is really just an opportunity to do work in my pajamas and without putting on shoes. More to come.

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