Thursday, January 18, 2007

waiting for the storm

i cant get over how insanely hot its been here. i must be feeling it worse this summer because i am at home most of the time - last summer i retired to the national library to work. but this summer i am actually writing not researching so all the stuff i need is here. or should be.

i have discovered in my attempt to re-write chapter four that it requires a whole heap of primary evidence i didnt think was relevant 12 months ago and now, of course is. i am a bit peeved about this. some of it is the natural process of phd writing, you think you know what you're doing but the more you read, the more you write, the more your argument changes, becomes more defined, more specific. but part of it was the interference of supervisors sending me on wild goose chases for 'historical evidence' that i should have known just didnt exist. when i read this chapter now (which i wrote the first time 12 months ago) i cant believe how unsophisticated the argument is, the ridiculous assumptions im making, the naive belief that the 'evidence' actually tells us anything. the more 'history' i do, the less i think history is possible, that history is all really just fiction, an exercise in creative writing, taking disparate and unconnected bits of information and tying them together to create something that looks like a story, a continuous seamless narrative, that is neither truthful nor possible, given the infinite chaos, the arbitrariness (is that a word), the contingency of everyday human life.

and so i am not a good historian anymore, in the traditional sense, and find myself drawn more and more to foucault's idea that history can and must be critical, we must be critical always about what we think we know, and critical when we write.

of course, this is seriously problematic when you're trying to write something about people who didnt leave diaries or letters, so all you've got is chaos, arbitrariness and contingency. sometimes i get overwhelmed with the impossibility of this task ive set myself and wonder how i will ever be able to pull it off.

anyway, so i need to go to the library but i am not entirely free to because the situation with the NFH (neighbour-from-hell) is still a little dicey - i think she has realised she would do well to not upset us considering she is having inspections this weekend and i imagine if you were a nasty sort of person you could make selling the house next door a little difficult (if, that is, you couldnt wait yourself for the sale to happen so the people doing the selling are gonegonegone). so she keeps her mouth shut for a while and keeps her kid a bit quiet (i dont mind kid noise, i just mind being insulted by a 10 year old). but trent comes home last night and shes out the front talking to said 10 year old and explaining to him what bad people we are because we 'cant afford to buy our own house' and how this makes us f***wits (hmmm) and then he comes out the back and starts harrassing the dogs, jumping around making noises trying to get them to bark RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, while im sitting there waiting for the storm to come. of course i feel like doing and saying all sorts of immature evil nasty things but i think 'hes 10 years old, ignore it, rise above it' but really. its very annoying. so i dont feel comfortable leaving the dogs alone in the back yard right at the moment for long periods of time, esp when its so hot. its supposed to be a bit cooler next week so perhaps i will just go to the library in the mornings or something.

speaking of waiting for the storm, here are some pix i took while i waited for rain that never came. it looked good and got quite cool for a while there.

im glad we're going to sydney again this weekend where it is supposed to be marginally cooler than here, at least.



Taphophile said...

All I can say aout neighbours who call people names "takes one to know one!" Sometimes the only refuge is private juvenility.

Re your thesis. Are there really no patterns in the chaos and arbitrariness? Just asking as a record keeper who's seen you record interpreters go through this more than once. I do understand.

kylie said...

thats such a hard question, because sometimes i think the patterns are only there because we look for them, eg labour historians find patterns of class struggle, feminist historians find patterns of gender oppression, same with race, all sorts of things... which is why i think its fiction sometimes because 'history' is whats written, whats interpreted. the chaos is in the 'subjectivity' of lived history, real human experience, which structures and economics and all that stuff may or may not have something to do with! (and that would be the summary of my thesis right there). i love the chaos, its the best part i think, but it makes some historians very uncomfortable because the way we live today is based on this idea of linear human progression and i dont think that there is a grand history, like that. but then if you dont find patterns you cant write history at all, which is my dilemma basically. i am hoist by my own pertard, taph, as someone once said! do you think there are patterns, or only what we make of them?

Taphophile said...

Oh I think we can see patterns. Sure they can be imposed but that is the subjectivity of it. You will see different patterns based on your experiences as well as your education - that's why your interpretation of the evidence and explanation of those patterns is orginal. You're explaining the patterns you see, not imposing patterns on the evidence. It's valid. Also who was it said to assess the history first study the historian, or something like it? Historiography 101 probably. But yes, I think there are patterns.

kylie said...

i was going to write this morning and say sorry for my rant, but i think it was worth it to have this conversation! i like the way you put it, "explaining the patterns you see". some people do history the way other still, which bothers me, esp when history is used to justify some crap in the present. and thats so true about historians, maybe thats why i feel like its creative writing, because i am so obviously drawn to people or events that speak to something in my life!

do you know there is precious little of this type of conversation happening in the professional history world? there are so many still who think history is a given, you just have to find out the 'truth'. i think i started out that way and maybe thats why it feels like a dilemma, the realisation that there is no one truth!

only lots of patterns, perhaps?
k :)

Taphophile said...

Ah, lack of questioning of what we do and why we do it is common in all professions. We are so invested in the one true way it can be very difficult to allow that other points of view/approaches may be valid - particularly if our livelihood or precious professional reputation is potentially at stake.

Heretics are historical catalysts, K, and your professional colleagues know that and are afraid. They probably should be.

I will concede lots of patterns :)