… is how I likened the work on a piece I am writing up to a dear colleague who has offered to read a draft. The feeling is not new as such, but it is a little more intense, and a lot harder to ignore, when it is marked formally by being outside academia. The practicalities of getting hold of niche literature are merely one case in point. Why bother at all?
Because in this instance it feels like finally taking ownership of the project that might have been, or what it could have led to. After settling on medieval German–Scandinavian literary relations, most of the work involved turning the concept into a proposal framed in terms of crossing modern national borders and engaging with questions of European identity. I learnt a great deal from that process; but it was also, in hindsight at least, a rhetoric that was not my own and one that I did not, as a consequence, fully understand.
By the end of the the Marie Curie, however, I had arrived at a clarity about what it does mean to me and how relevant indeed it is to the specific case of Germany and Denmark. Much of my hobbyist research since then, in the corridor Starbucks at SDU, Nelles, various cafés in Dunfermline, the National Library in Edinburgh, upstairs at the desk surrounded by half-unpacked book parcels, has been directed at and by this in one way or another. So approaching the end of a chapter that at last, however briefly and imperfectly, articulates it, feels like the end of something more as well.
It is questionable whether I can do more of this practically, whether a single person could do it all anyway, whether I want to keep being reminded of the vacuum (why do I recognize that name in the TOC oh yes it’s the person who said X had been known to sabotage projects and then had a long-term position arranged for them by X). But those are all now just secondary reasons for not feeling the same need to keep, as it were, bothering. Time will tell …
The chapter? Well, it is the written-up version of a talk I gave in Berlin at a symposium on openness last summer.