Disenchantment

Beginning to read research from the perspective of a researcher, not responding to the content or argument (alone) but simultaneously studying how the work is constructed.  It’s a process of partial disenchantment, of no longer just responding to things the way that those who construct them or author them want you to, but also considering how those effects are produced.  This helps you read critically – and you also add their strategies to your own toolbox.  Part of this process of learning to see something in terms of how it works rather than superficially from an aesthetic distance was nicely captured by Mark Twain, writing about learning to pilot riverboats.  When he first rode the boats, he remembered:

I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river’s face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion: This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody’s steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling ‘boils’ show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the ‘break’ from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark.

No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat.  (Twain, Life on the Mississippi).

You develop an analogous way of reading academic texts, strange as it may seem.  It’s not less pleasurable, but it’s different.

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