Thinking about last week’s class & the very detailed, section-by-section oral report makes me want to make a suggestion: as graduate students, you should read a little more self-interestedly. The idea isn’t necessarily to record or remember everything a given author writes (even if the author is your professor). The idea is to find things you can use in your own work.
To make this suggestion a little more concrete, I’ll ask all future presenters (starting with Rich next week, on Josiah Blackmore) to focus less on summarizing facts or even analyses and more on the big picture. That means three things: 1) methodologies (ie, how does the author approach his or her material, what sorts of questions get asked and answered), 2) conclusions (ie, what’s the next step that the book asks to be taken?), and 3) bibliography (what great new stuff can you find through this book?).
The fastest way to find these things is to look first in the introduction (esp for methodology), second in the conclusion (for the next possible step), and third in the notes. (Grad students often read back to front, or up from the small print on the bottom of the page.) Not to pile on Christianne, but she didn’t talk very much about either of those parts of my book — and for grad students those are usually the most important parts.
To clarify quickly in regard to my book, here’s what I mean
1. Methodology: As I show in the short intro (and also in the article), I’m interested in engaging and combining ecological studies, post-colonial studies, global studies, and technology studies. For graduate students who might be interested in one (or more) of those, that’s the most important gambit of my book. (You have to decide for yourselves if I pull off that combo.)
2. Conclusions: I emphasize a critical stance with regard to certain kinds of ecocrit (in the conclusion) and I also want to correct the tendency I see in both New Historicist first contact narratives and “Atlantic History” of rushing over the sea to focus only on the New World. Again, you can assess the results as you like — but it’s worth recognizing what the project tries to do.
3. Bibliography: All the books and articles for this class are in the book’s biblio (plus lost of others), and I characterize them variously as “the new thallossology” (a borrowed term), “blue cultural studies,” and “the new maritime humanities.”
I don’t want to oversell my own book (though I hope you like it), but I do want to tweak the way that you all read. Graduate students aren’t in it for the details of the readings or even the pleasures of the texts so much as for the intellectual structures that they can use.
See you on Thursday.