This is the summer of productivity! This is the summer when I write my prospectus!
At least, in theory.
I decided to start with Robert Louis Stevenson. I like Robbie.* I have encountered a lot of authors in my reading years, and no one else has described a character’s face as “like a ham.” But Robbie — he does it. Apparently Long John Silver has a face like a ham. And it works. Of course, Robbie also forgets from time to time that Long John Silver is one-legged and makes him perform gymnastics that no one-legged man supported by a rickety pirate crutch is likely to attempt. Like stamp his foot. Possible, but unlikely.
In any case, I’m reading up on Robbie. I’m still in the middle of Kidnapped, and I’m finding his essays useful. I’ll probably be writing about the intersections between his literature for adults and for children, so I’m going through some critical work on imaginative play and doubles, which appear in both genres. I also went to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie (pirate research!) and, when my intellect needs respite from such strenuous activity, I watch another episode of What About Brian on abc.com. In the next few weeks, I plan to see the Alley Theatre’s current production of Treasure Island. Personally, I think the English department should pay for my ticket. And maybe dinner before, so I’m well-fed and attentive during the production. And a nice glass of wine afterward, so I can look wise and learned while reflecting on stage adaptations of Stevenson.
Speaking of stage adaptations, I just finished reading an article on the first dramatization of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. An American actor named Richard Mansfield played Jekyll and Hyde, and while the critics thought his portrayal of the good doctor left much to be desired, they loved his dastardly Hyde. In fact, some of the critics mentioned that quite a few faint-hearted ladies passed out from fear during Mansfield’s performance, and these ladies had to be carried out of the theater. Now, that just doesn’t happen anymore. We need more dastardly villains who inspire lady-fainting. Then again, I suppose some people fainted during Mel Gibson’s The Passion…
What all of this incoherent drivel essentially means is that I’m having a dissertation crisis. What exactly am I doing in graduate school again? Luckily I’m far enough along in the program that I’m used to this feeling and it no longer brings on a a fit of the spazzums.
In the meantime, however, I have discovered Zotero, courtesy of my friend Pamela. It’s a wonderful program that attaches itself to Firefox, placing a little icon in your navigation bar. Whenever you visit a site that catalogs books or articles — meaning not only library websites and databases like Project Muse and JSTOR but also, for example, Amazon or Abebooks — you can click on the navigation bar icon and Zotero will automatically cache the bibliographic information for the book(s) or article(s) on your screen. You can categorize these bibliographic entries in any way you see fit, attach personal files and notes to them, and Zotero will even create a bibliography for you, which is wonderful. I recommend it to anyone doing research, especially in the humanities. It’s free and you can get it here: www.zotero.org.
Of course, due to my OCD tendencies, I’ve always found documenting sources kind of soothing and methodical. It’s like folding the laundry, a mindless and a welcome distraction from actually using my brain. Half, half, triple fold. Author name, title, publication information. But a program like Zotero is useful when I want to move through library catalog search results quickly, and it makes me feel productive. I have expansive, exhaustive lists of sources for everything I want to study. I haven’t read any of these sources, of course, but I know exactly where to find them. And I can transform them into a bibliography! In Chicago or MLA!
Off to read Kidnapped.
* Turns out that no one really called Stevenson Robbie. His friends and family called him Louis. But I like Robbie better. It makes him less threatening, and anything that makes my dissertation less threatening is worth it.