I can tell it is nearing the end of May as I’m starting to feel more energetic and inspired. The May blahs happen every year and I don’t know why. You’d think it would be the most exciting of months — spring flowers are blooming, the promise of new beginnings in terms of research projects and travel, etc. But instead I usually spend the entire month feeling wrung out, tired and guilty for not being able to jump head first into my research. On an intellectual level I know that the transition from teaching days to research days takes time (and, yes, I know that good pedagogy involves one’s research, but I’m talking about what the day-to-day pattern looks like — am I prepping for class or am I at my desk writing a draft of an article?), yet each May I struggle with this. And, just as regularly, towards the end of May I start feeling energetic and excited about research projects I’m working on.
I’ve spent this week in the archives doing research on a really interesting woman who I first learned about 13 years ago. I’d sort of forgotten all about her in recent years, but she popped into my mind the other day and, on a whim, I decided to spend some time digging about in the archives this week in an attempt to piece together more of her story. It is fascinating. I’m still processing all that I’m reading, so I am not ready to post it here yet, but I will one day. I spent the entire day today reading letters, wonderful handwritten letters that are so tender and intimate. I fell in love with the story being told through these letters and was completely mesmerized. I slipped into that weird state of mind that only happens to me when I’m doing archival research — I zone out and ignore all else but the documents I’m working with. The hours just fly by and sometimes I even forget to eat! When I’m doing this kind of work I’m struck by the play between the very personal stories and the way those stories fit within the broader framework and context of visual culture studies. With each of the letters I read today I learned more about the day-to-day reality of being a photographer prior to WWII. I also saw a side of a woman who was much more than a “historical figure,” and this became especially evident as I read about her fears, her loves, her dreams and her ideas. I can’t wait to go back and read more tomorrow. I’m most certainly going to run out of days on this research trip!