Writing elsewhere

Just as I’d hoped, I am spending a considerable amount of time reading. I knew this would prevent me from blogging for the time being. I am sure, though, that in the middle/long run, it will open up new perspectives for this blog. It seems that every day that passes makes me want to do nothing else but keep reading – forever. This won’t happen though. But I keep hoping for it.

The topic of my class is so wide that I have the feeling to stay on the surface of things even when I spend an hour on an aspect. I am constantly longing to go into some more depth. As it is, I am almost always basing my analysis on critical literature, while I spent the last years using critical literature almost only as a theoretical frame, the important matter itself being the unpublished material that I was talking about. The requirements of such a class are in a way the absolute opposite of fundamental research, in which you present Indiana-Jonesque discoveries. But such a class is fundamental is another sense – in the sense that you reassemble a wide spectrum of critical literature and try to make sense out of it for one specific question, considered in a very, very long period of time. It has a lot to do with my research of the last years in that it is another way of questioning the canon, observing how it has been constituted and thinking of new paths to see the history of literature differently.

But even by staying on the surface, there are so many aspects deserving to be taken into account that it is difficult to move on in literary history. I am slowly but surely approaching the middle of the 19th century, which will leave me only half the term to go through the second half of the 19th century and all of the 20th. I know I have to move on faster in the centuries, but on the other hand, I don’t want it to be to dry. When I get into examples, I need at least 15 minutes to make a point out of it. And as big as Goethe is, it can’t always be Goethe I take as an example.

The result is: I am not blogging, but I have never written so much in such an accessible way. My text for tomorrow has 60 000 signs, and it certainly displays a respectable density of information. But it is in no way comparable to either a blog post or a research paper. First of all, the sessions build on one another. Then, I am working very hard to keep my sentences short and to repeat the bits that are essential to the correct understanding of what I am saying. There are bits that are not written out at all in order for me to summarize more freely. Sometimes I don’t even read what I have written, but having written it makes me remember the way the different argumentative moments connect to one another.

As a writing process, it has neither really much to do with blogging nor much to do with writing papers or presentations. It is another way of writing, of presenting, of exposing that, just like blogging or research papers, allows you (or more accurately: requires you) to have a style of its own. And like for blogging, dissertations, research papers and other forms of pedagogical communication, you have to find your style. This takes time, too.

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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