Summer Summary

Now is the stage in the student’s progress where he or she records all that one hoped to do over a break, and in doing, reflect with growing bitterness, on failures that outnumber successes. That’s melodramatic by design because I have set myself up for this sort of disappointment from the start, and I suspect most students in my place do the same.

I got back to Canada on July 9 and I will head back to Oxford on October 1 (via Chicago this time, which isn’t fun, but it is better than going through Calgary).* I had plans for this break and most of the domestic projects were accomplished but I did not exactly meet my academic goals. Again, mostly because they were unreasonable but a reckoning is necessary:

Writing:

— I revised and resubmitted a paper, rejected in May (first submitted in March 2012). That revised paper was also rejected, but it only took the readers two weeks to do it and that’s a blessing. The opinion of the editor was that it didn’t contain enough original content, and honestly, I must agree. It was my attempt to squeeze something useful out of a 2008 MSc. thesis and there just wasn’t enough original content there anyway. While disappointed, I am now content to shelve it and move on. I have lots more to do anyway that will make more sense on the CV.

— I had hoped to revise a prize paper submission from back in December and submit it someplace but this was low on the list of priorities and it was high in potential labour. Other than a few little tweaks, I didn’t work on it really at all but I will probably return to it over the Xmas break (when I am not working on a book chapter, due at the end of the year).

— Related to the last paper was a transcription and short explanation of a previously unpublished (or inaccurately published) primary source. There was some over the break but it’s very far from a readable draft. This would go faster if the USTC people would finally launch their new and aerodynamic search system but the July launch date came and went and who knows.

— Aaaand that collection of conference papers I have been editing…. My fervent hope was to have that done and out the door before my return but, because this isn’t down to me but to the caprice of my contributors, I am 4 papers short of a complete manuscript. I have not pestered the tardy authors lately because 1- I don’t want to deal with their work right now, 2- the publisher is in no rush to get this (or the other 2 volumes out) and 3- one of the 4 authors I am waiting for is the publisher so nothing goes ahead until I have his paper anyway. Odds are that all of these will show up in the first or second week I am back and it will mess with my schedule in uncomfortable ways. I have, at least, gotten a copy of the 16th ed. Chicago Style Guide (in the form of an 8th ed. of Turabian’s Manual for Writers). All I was told about format for the text was ‘Chigaco style notes’ but there is considerable variation in what counts under that name and I now look forward to an awkward conversation with the publisher about the dead certainty that the style I have used for all my papers will differ from the other two volumes and, if he is serious about reaching an academic audience with these books, we need to make the style consistent. That probably means I will be doing it, because only I will really care.

— And then there is that book project. When I spoke to the publisher at Leeds (and that’s a different publisher from the edited book) I asked, and he suggested, that I send him a sample chapter of the revised plan and a synopsis of the revised structure in September. That wasn’t a writ-in-stone sort of deal so I know I am not inconveniencing him but I do feel behind and I hate that. That was a reasonable goal but August was not a good week for the efficient version of me I like to imagine is in charge most of the time. I do have about 80% of a first draft done and if I am disciplined (and that’s not complete wishful thinking) I should have a good draft in another week. I will let Z read it and once it is cleaned up, I will send it on to the publisher with the improved outline.

Research:

— The sampling of king’s bench cases did not go as far as I had hoped. I am getting better at the Latin and the internal structure of the rolls and the working of the court are clearer to me now than before. I have gone over three rolls so far (one legal term every 5 years, starting in 1450) and that represents about 140 rotula, and several hundred cases. Part of the delay is my own uncertainty about recording cases, and how best to do so.

I recently started adding data to a spreadsheet, but it’s awkward and of course, it isn’t designed for text (and I don’t know how to make it work like that). At least I can read the cases easier now so data entry goes faster. I will probably spend about 3 hours each day on these cases for the first week I am back so I can show my supervisor some real, measurable, progress with the rolls themselves, and not just my facility with them.

And for the future:

I have about half a dozen blog entry starts sitting in the folder where drafts go and I would like to actually post some of them. The blog was, and is, little more than a tool to maintain a writing habit but that does not work if I only do half the writing (the initial drafting of text) and skip the rest (editing and revising drafts to a state where they are readable). Creating prose is important but the editing and revising of prose is just as important for the end product and the habit. Therefore, I expect (and will hold myself to the statement) to post a little more regularly.

That ‘pretty smart people’s guide to the records of King’s Bench’ series should return in the near future.

NOTES

* I really shouldn’t complain as the flight is on air-miles and it’s costing us a pittance. YYT does have the advantage of free wi-fi. O’Hare does not so it’s radio silence from me until I get on the bus at Heathrow.

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