I’ve spent the last of couple of weeks re-reading academic books and articles that I first read when I was an MA and PhD student. It’s been fun, tiring and unnerving. I’m mainly reading and pondering for a book chapter that I’ve been asked to write for Jane Hamlett’s edited collection on the nineteenth-century home. This has meant revisiting articles and books I’ve long lain aside.
In re-reading them I’ve been confronted by the development of my academic self. Many of these scholarly works were initially read quickly and with different research questions in mind. They were used in my PhD to examine what I termed, the spiritual imagination of Toynbee Hall and Oxford House. A change of direction and approach has meant that I’m almost starting anew with them. I’m now considering more how domesticity interacted with religion in the nineteenth century. Put another way, I’m investigating how home was experienced and/or understood to be a religious space for (some) Victorians for my book chapter. I’m not only re-reading some home studies writings but returning to some important scholarship on nineteenth-century religious (& secular) history, something I’m keen to do not only for this chapter but because I hope my next project will be on religious domesticities.
What re-reading has taught me:
1. I’m a better scholarly reader now than I used to be. For instance, I’m no longer prepared to skim. I want depth. In the past I’ve relied on indexes: no more!
2. I was very militant and a bit black/ white about what I read in the past. (Argh: my supervisor was right). The further I’ve committed myself to cultural history the keener I’ve become to think about small details.
3. My PhD reading, while not wrong, focused too much on the negatives rather than the positives of what scholars did or didn’t do. Now I can see the beauty/ limitations of the monograph and article because I now understand the writing process better.
4. We are always learning to read academically. I’m becoming a better, more sophisticated critical reader with each career stage.
5. I’ve developed better techniques for reading. I should only read on paper. I don’t remember or engage very well with articles or books on digital platforms.
6. Previous annotations show that I still highlight and make notes in the same place.
7. It’s hard to re-read when you release that the books you once used aren’t stocked in your new institution.
8. Re-reading can be boring.
9. Re-reading can be fun.
10. I’ve read too much in the past. I need to STOP and write!