On essaying and commonplacing

For a long time, the title of this blog was “Academic?” The question mark revealed a simultaneously  serious and tongue-in-cheek interrogation of my”life choice” to pursue a career in academia. I questioned whether or not the material I wrote (here and in my dissertation) was “academic” enough, while also questioning whether or not I was (am) an academic, too. Those questions have not gone away, but as I am now posting on a wide variety of topics, I felt like I needed to change the title.

Anybody familiar with my research knows I study the genre of the essay–its history, its characteristics, its usefulness in the composition classroom. One of my goals as a scholar and teacher is to recuperate the essay (what I call “excavating” in my dissertation), to recover what the genre has been doing since before Montaigne outside of classroom walls. I want to go back to the original meaning of the word, from the French verb “essayer”–to try or attempt something. And that’s what I’m doing in this blog–attempting many different things in both my professional and personal life.

Of course, as I essay along out here in western Oklahoma, I feel the need to collect my attempts here on my blog. A lot of people tend to keep blogs focused on one topic or another related to their lives or interests; in other words, most people would argue I should keep two different blogs–one personal, one professional. There’s a problem with that, though. . .it’s not who I am. My personal and professional interests don’t neatly separate themselves into separate containers, so why should I do that here? And I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, so I don’t mean to make it sound like I had some kind of “special” epiphany.

So I plan on treating this blog as a kind of commonplace book, which also relates to my research interests: traditionally, commonplace books are used to collect interesting and important quotations from a variety of sources. And I do that here occasionally, gathering interesting bits from sources I read, along with links to other sites, videos, etc. (ah, the interwebs). What’s more, I’m gathering bits of my hodge-podge life here, to make notes, make memories, and make sense of what I’ve done and what I’m planning to do. And if anybody enjoys reading (and commenting on) what I’ve written, so much the better. I’m commonplacing your reactions, too.

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