“The habit of journalizing becomes a life-long lesson in the art of composition, an informal schooling for authorship. And were the process of preparing their works for publication faithfully detailed by distinguished writers, it would appear how large were their indebtedness to their diary and commonplaces. How carefully should we peruse Shakespeare’s notes used in compiling his plays–what was his, what another’s–showing how these were fashioned into the shapely whole we read, how Milton composed, Montaigne, Goethe: by what happy strokes of thought, flashes of wit, apt figures, fit quotations snatched from vast fields of learning, their rich pages were wrought forth! This were to give the keys of great authorship!” Amos Bronson Alcott, Table-Talk of A. Bronson Alcott (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1877), p. 12.

So I’ve been searching and sifting the 1s and 0s of my silicon soul, and I would like to propose something that would fundamentally change this blog’s raison d’être. Previously, I had envisioned this as some “large, loose, baggy monster” encompassing several not-necessarily-overlapping goals: notes to dissertators and proto-dissertators; discussion of professionalization; group “homework” assignments geared toward learning what our field is all about; posting random stuff.

I’m thinking about explicitly making the last the primary function of this blog. So, instead of modeling this on the genre of academic group blog, I think that this should be more like a group commonplace book. (Check out Peter Stallybrass’s “Against Thinking” in the Oct 2007 PMLA for more on the practice.)

First of all, I think this will make this easier for people still doing their coursework to contribute. Noteworthy passages among the hundreds of pages of reading for coursework are worth storing as searchable blog entries for the one posting them, and hopefully for the rest of us to browse as well. Trying to come up with some semi-non-asinine ideas to post on a semi-regular basis, is actually quite time-consuming and might end up distracting us with our work. With a commonplace-categorized entry, you can just cut and paste and avoid that dangerous habit of thinking.

For those of us with specific projects we’re working on, I also think having a bunch of random vaguely nineteenth-century-related excerpts randomly posted is also important, since tunnel vision and an absurdly narrow focus make the stereotypically bad dissertation only useful as a doorstop.

So, less thinking, more working. What do people think?

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