Friday, April 30, 2010

While I was sleeping...

Well, not actually sleeping. More like agonising over a literature review (why is it that you ALWAYS find five articles that totally change your thinking just when you think you’ve finally nailed it??), trying to figure out if I can produce something worthwhile for the SMFS graduate student essay competition (my supervisor is very enthused about this), and getting to grips with oral history. The latter is a requirement of my last taught postgrad paper, in historical methodology. If you want to work in any kind of professional history job in this country (and there are actually quite a few, given the whole Treaty of Waitangi claims industry), it seems you need to understand the theory and methodologies of oral history. For pretty obvious reasons, it’s not relevant to my interests in medieval history, but it’s kind of fun all the same. My efforts to come up with the most interesting project for the least amount of effort have me interviewing a few friends of my partner on their experiences of ‘coming of age’ as a male in the 1980s. Not as frivolous as it sounds, because it was a period that saw big shifts in the experience of ‘manhood’ in NZ, including the challenges posed to the entrenched rugby-racing-beer culture by the huge Springbok tour protests, and the bitterly-contested passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act.

Not posting here for ages turned out to be a kind of an unintended social experiment. Everything I’ve written so far was just sitting there, waiting to be read or not read, as the case may be. I figured that with no new material, I’d probably just disappear into digital oblivion. Not quite, as it turns out. One thing that happened was the last post I happened to write, on cross-dressing, took on a bit of a life of its own, even getting linked from I Blame the Patriarchy, one of my favourite blogs ever. (Though I’ve never yet had the guts to comment there. Like the best lovers, it scares, amuses and stimulates me all at the same time.)

In other news, we’ve been watching the HBO series Carnivale on DVD. I’m a great movie lover, but in many ways I prefer series, because they get the chance to really develop complex characters and plot lines. Deadwood is probably one of my favourite entertainment experiences ever (though to be fair, I’ve had a bit of a thing for Ian McShane ever since Lovejoy). Carnivale hooked me in pretty quickly with its nasty 1930s travelling show aesthetic (reminds me of all those sinister small-town ‘museums’ we used to drive past on our trips to South Carolina or Florida when I was a kid). I love all the allusions to Gnosticism and Templar myths (cheesy as they may be - though not quite to Dan Brown proportions). But overall, this series is not quite doing it for me at the moment. It’s almost like the writers have tried to cram too much mystical weirdness in there, at the expense of a really strong central narrative drive.

So, this was a bit of a random catch-all, just to let you know I’m still here. I can’t promise to be a better poster in future, because I know I’m the kind of person who tends to be totally passionate about things for a brief period of time, and then entirely loses interest. It’s terribly flighty, but at this point in my life, I’ve accepted that it's who I am. I just make the most of the passion when it strikes. Thanks to all of you who’ve still been commenting, even on the old posts. I’m still reading your blogs, and I’ll be back to commenting soon.

9 comments:

RPS77 said...

It's nice to hear from you again. It's been so long, it was like you were on the other side of the world or something ... oh, wait ...

Seriously, though, I hope that things are going well for you, academically and otherwise.

stu said...

I suppose you can at least use the theory of oral history to understand something of the relationship between ordinary individuals and those who recorded things about them. Plus, if a time and space travelling type should happen to show up...

White Horse Pilgrim said...

I am glad to see you back.

Your previous post was interesting and did take on a life of its own - just skimming the top of the subject of cross-dressing too I suspect.

Oral history is important, chiefly for negative reasons (sadly). Think of the Balkans. Living out there, I was told that much conflict stemmed from the fact that grandparents could tell childen that "they" (neighbours from another ethnic group) had performed this or that atrocity. (Frequently they had, sadly. During WW2 Croats measured "progress" by the numbers of baskets of Serban eyes that were delivered to HQ.)

What tales people tell, with what basis in fact, and to what end, is a vitally important subject.

tenthmedieval said...

It's also worth remembering from a medieval point of view that a reasonable amount of the written information we have probably spent some time in oral circulation before being recorded. There's a really neat little mini-conference in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society for, er, 1999 which makes the links (as well as including some Antipodean oral history questions, albeit not NZ sorry). Almost no knowledge is useless for medieval studies!

Also, glad to see you blogging again even if only briefly!

Digger said...

Glad to see your post, and also hope you're well!

@ 10th: I'd never made that connection; something new to think about!

ZACL said...

What a lovely post. You have a naturally flowing writing style, a pleasure to read.

Hear from you sometime.

Bavardess said...

Thanks to you all for continuing to read and comment!

I have been getting into my oral history project a bit more and am indeed finding more connections than I expected to my research in medieval history, so I'll post some more on that soon.

Good Enough Woman said...

I thought I'd already written a comment here to say "hello," but since I don't see one, "Hello!" Hope research is going well.

Bavardess said...

Thanks, GEW. Research is throwing up some intriguing issues, so I will try to pull my finger out and put up a post about it later this week.