Editing Modernism in Canada


March 8, 2011

the student/editor…

A day late and a blogger short…

A blogger (bloggist?) I am not. A doctoral student with a deadline—that’s me. This is not going to be a well-wrought, lengthy treatise. Instead, it is going to be a quick [read short] thought. I’m going to embrace the cursory (this sounds somewhat compelling, or at least it might…I haven’t read all the way to the end). So, please allow me think as I type: though set in electro-stone this is still and always a draft. OK? OK, we’ve agreed. Good. Onward.

While I’ve been involved with EMiC from its beginning, I’ve recently taken a break. I think the break lasted for six months or thereabouts. No scanning, no tei, no collation of variants, no writing of textual or explanatory notes, no reading in the realm of textual studies, no attending meetings…like, nothing. I’ve forgotten my passwords that might give me access to various editorial wonders. I needed the break. The break started when I submitted a MS of This Time a Better Earth to the director and general editor of U of Ottawa P’s Canadian Literature Collection, who also happens to be my doctoral supervisor. And that is just it. It is this tension (and hopefully balance) that exists between scholarly editor and doctoral student that I’d like to write about here… more than write, I think I would like to advocate for the tension/balance in this short “thinking-through-typing” thing (with some reservations…always…with some reservations).

Now near the end of the long haul, I am starting to realize just how long a haul it has been. My seven-year-old niece recently looked at me quizzically and asked if I was still in school. “Yep,” was my simple reply. The quizzical look shifted to one of horror and astonishment: “WHAT GRADE ARE YOU IN?” Twenty-three. That’s right, grade twenty-three. But here is the thing: editing gave me a reprieve. Wrapped up in the institutional mechanisms of a doctoral programme, my perspective was narrowing…the work of putting together a scholarly edition gave reprieve from the effects of what I sometimes think of as the concentric circles of schooling—of specialization. Having a good grasp on one area is all fine and good, but I know that I’m also a bit of a generalist. This predicament may well be unique to me, but something makes me think not. In addition, I’ve talked to many doctoral students who have found it difficult to not to take lengthy breaks between accomplishments (coursework, comps [sometimes 2 or 3 sets], and dissertation). The question (I guess): is a change as good as a break?

In retrospect, I DO remember having a plan when I started my doctoral studies: finish coursework and my qualification exams, then take a step back from jumping through those institutional hoops (17 graduate courses in four years left me a bit harried) and then take the time to jump through hoops of some other kind. Namely, edit a scholarly edition and get some articles out there. And then, after all that, then, write that little thing called a dissertation. Oh yeah, I remember now, that thing I did the planning for years ago while I was in an MA programme.

The plan worked, at least for the most part. I was able to take my leave from things. I was able to switch it up while still being productive. My scholarly research is not like my scholarly editing and the differences kept me out of the doldrums. The trick, methinks, is not to let editorial projects get too big (should doctoral students start career-length projects when the current climate leaves us unsure of careers?) When I sent away my edited MS I knew that I wouldn’t have to look at it for months. That, let me tell you, was a good feeling. And now completing my dissertation has 93.48% of my attention (did you know that 47.34% of statistics are made up on the spot?).

Obviously, I’ve rejoined the editorial fold here at Dalhousie. I’ve written a post for the blog. I’ve even started attending our group meetings again. I’m also back to work on the edition of Livesay’s Right Hand Left Hand…but I’m not getting carried away… I’ve got a dissertation to finish…





One Response to “the student/editor…”

  1. pwebb says:

    I think a break between projects can do wonders in re-focusing our attentions and refreshing our enthusiasms. I recommend having something completely antithetical to academic scholarship to provide an occasional safety valve for the brain.

    John Moss, a great mentor of mine for many years at Ottawa U, used to swim the Hellespont and hike across the Arctic to re-jig his perspective on things. Then he’d come back and write brilliant works of literary scholarship. Obviously, Moss was an extreme in having a hobby “completely antithetical to academia.” But the man was more prolific than any other writer I can think of, so something worked.

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