Monday, 30 July 2012

Weighing the mischief with the promised gain

Back in March, I decided the time had come to begin a blog. I intended it, as I said, to act as a platform for dialogue between the lonely researcher (me) and the plethora of similarly isolated researchers evident from the sheer amount of other blogs on the subject, publicised often through the various phd/researcher hashtags on Twitter. It had a wider aim, too: to disseminate my research on the extensive Coleridge clan. These two aims, as it turned out, rather predictably, did not sit together well. A choice, I felt, must be made, between researcher and research. And, well, there's a reason (many, in fact) that there isn't a worldwide community researching me.

I imagined in my first post what Coleridge would have made of this expanding online world. He would, I thought, have been:

"among the Stephen Frys of the online world: his notebooks and letters acted then in much the same way as the tweets and blogs of today. His notebooks recorded fragments of his thoughts, and, although they were written for his personal perusal, he was always aware of their potential to be published. His letters, meanwhile, discussed all aspects of contemporary life, from his own deeply private issues, to long theses on, amongst other things, politics, religion, travelling, finances, publishing and biography. Again, Coleridge was constantly aware of the ways that his correspondence was disseminated beyond the person to whom it was addressed."

The same is, of course, true, of all the Romantics: think, for instance, of Byron writing his letters to John Murray, knowing they would be read to an audience. Coleridge advised his son, Derwent, that 'old Books' would 'dissipate [his] time and thought', in the same way that new technology is constantly deplored now. The great thing about media like blogs is their ability to look back to the old whilst engaging with the new, but it is an area seemingly neglected by Romanticists; a quick browse through Twitter reveals the extent to which the field is being left behind, among those 'old Books', whilst other fields (notably Victorian studies) have shot off along the tracks of technological advancement. A quick 'Blogger' search reveals the same trend (but you're in luck if you've a penchant for trashy romantic novels). It's always changing, of course, and that's the great thing. So what I said in my introductory blog six months ago no longer holds true. I've moved a couple of the posts from that old one - the ones which fit in well with the principles I've learned and established since, and aim to continue to apply - but I introduce my new blog as a site to share research tales and odd facts found about that strange old group, the Romantics.

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