I’m in the incredibly privileged position of beginning a Leverhulme major research fellowship this week, to work on the Indo-European thought in Twentieth-Century France project. As a note to myself, I’m going to try to work with the guidelines I set myself seven years ago when I had a sabbatical year, when I completed Foucault: The Birth of Power and did much of the work for Shakespearean Territories.
Slightly adapted from the previous time:
- No email in the morning.
- Use the morning to write.
- Use afternoon (and frequently evening) for email, meetings, admin, editing, and reading.
- Facebook, Twitter, Feedly, etc. are not to be used on main computer; you have an iPad (kept in a different room) for that.
- Go to the British Library regularly, even if you don’t need to consult things. The Rare Books room is a place you’ve done a lot of good work before. Renew ticket to the Warburg Institute for the same reason.
- Concentrate on the primary literature; the secondary literature can come later.
- Try to only agree to do talks that move the writing forward.
- You really can’t take on any other writing or editing projects.
- Going to see Shakespeare in the theatre counts as research (for a possible future project).
- Go to Paris regularly.
- Long bike rides help with coming up with ideas.
- Analogue Sunday – or at least, no work.
I’ve begun this week mainly by trying to get my existing notes on Georges Dumézil into some sort of order.
In the last part of the summer I had a couple of weeks away in Wales – one in mid-Wales, near Builth Wells; the other in Penrhyndeudraeth in Snowdonia. I’ve been to the first place a few times, but the second was new to me. Both of these were writing and cycling breaks – basically if I wasn’t on the bike I was trying to write, or reading. I did a lot of cycling, the first week was entirely dry, which is highly unusual for Wales, and the second week I was dodging most of the rain and high winds. I did most of the famous climbs around Snowdonia I hadn’t done before (Crimea Pass, Llanberis Pass, Electric Mountain, Prenteg, Migneint Pass, Drys-Y-Cowd, etc.), including what is probably a new favourite climb in Wales, Stwlan dam. Not only is it as beautiful as many of the other rides, it also has some great hairpins and the road is closed to traffic. I also cycled both ways along the Dyfi forest road, between Aberangell and Aberliefenni, which was probably the toughest ride of the lot.
On these trips I finished the draft of a paper – in the end, the biggest challenge was getting it below the submission word limit. I also began work on another paper on Foucault’s Penal Theories and Institutions. Although I discuss this in Foucault: The Birth of Power, I’d made a pre-pandemic commitment to write something new on it. I wasn’t sure what else I had to say, but I think I’ve found a different way to approach it. With a lot of things I’ve done this summer I’m now waiting on others – reviewers, editors, co-authors… It would have been nice to have moved a few more things from the in progress/under review part of the cv to the forthcoming one. But there isn’t much I can do until some of these come back.
Much of the summer then was taken up with other, albeit often related, work, and quite a lot of reading. But now I’m fully committed to the Indo-European thought project.
I have a trip to Paris next week, when I’ll keep working through things in the Dumézil archive at the Collège de France, and do some work with printed sources at the Mitterand site of the BnF.