Here we are, enjoying another beautiful day in the semi-wilderness. The menfolk are off to Denali and some mountain climbing. Although I am a ‘Fourteener,’ Jelly Bean and I not going along on this trip. We’re staying home to enjoy the peace and quiet. I think we can underestimate how much a location influences and effects how we think and feel, or how important it can be in the texts we read for pleasure or study. No matter the sense of isolation here I am working remotely on both academic and professional projects, and thinking about themes like location for my study plan.
Even here an important professional project required a lot of my time and attention. To stay on track now I reviewed my preliminary goals. My three goals to refine my focus for this term were: 1 – plan my academic calendar for the next 28 weeks, 2 – locate tools to improve my organization and outcomes, and 3 – to identify courses, texts and secondary reading. Two of three are complete. I have a calendar planned, and I found Scrivener as well as a few research tools like my local library’s digital database of texts and articles. My library’s system is the perfect complement to our Online Library which is available to students studying in the University of London’s International Programmes. For my third point, I have selected courses and now am focused on texts and secondary reading. Those decisions are centered on what I will study, like themes and areas of special interest, like how Austen uses location.
Finding secondary resources can be a sticking point. During this busy week I decided to use my research tools to learn a little more about what scholarship is available to me about authors and themes that I might want to study. Finding scholarship can be interesting because, for example, it might discuss an author or theme but not necessarily a primary text I have read or have on hand. Sometimes it is difficult to find enough material on particular themes. That combination has left me quite short at revision time. I am not taking anything for granted, like assuming because I am reading Jane Austen there will be sufficient scholarship.
Last term I had real problems with finding scholarship on some of Chaucer’s Henry Fielding’s texts. I wanted to study narrative strategy and technique in all of my courses last term but could not find the scholarship I needed. Fielding’s novels, like ‘Amelia,’ are quite long and required a lot of reading time. Unfortunately it was too late in the term to locate and read other primary texts. The particular tales in the Canterbury Tales that I chose were not discussed in any scholarship I could find. That created two problems: 1 – I had nothing to cite in my papers and 2 – it is very helpful to have different points to construct arguments around while studying or in exams. Last term I waited too long to begin organizing my secondary reading. This year I mean to solve the secondary reading problem first, before immersing myself in primary texts.
For the rest of August and September I am focusing on background reading and researching secondary sources before deciding what texts to focus on for intensive study. Primary texts are easy to find, but the very valuable scholarship can be rare. You can ask the Online Library team for access if you are a U of L student. You can also ask your local librarian about tools that might be available in your area. In my case, the reference librarian had to set up my account with a user name and password. It can take some times to work through organization points and make sure you are on target. I found that not investing in that aspect of study now can be costly later.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes.