Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問

The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I want to write a paper on the character of Emily Dickinson. However, her life was so different from mine that I fear I will not be able to grasp the totality of her being. Should I write about someone whose life more closely mirrors my own?
我想寫一篇探討Emily Dickinson人格的文章,不過她的生活經驗與我實在相差太遠,我很擔心無法捕捉到她的全貌。我是不是該研究另一個生活體驗與我較相似的對象?

The American poet Emily Dickinson was an eccentric personality, of that there is no doubt. She was a slow starter and something of a misfit. She squirreled herself away as a young woman to write intense poems about men and love and God and other things of which she clearly knew nothing, being a recluse. You say you aren’t much like her? Well, good for you.
美國女詩人Emily Dickinson為人特立獨行,這點無庸置疑。她並非早慧的天才,而且與週遭環境有點格格不入,年紀輕輕就一點一滴地創作尖銳的詩篇,抒寫人類、愛、上帝,顯然與世隔絕的她,還寫了許多她一無所知的事物,你說你和她沒有共通之處嗎?算你運氣好。

But that is the whole point, isn’t it? Unlike novelists, who often are encouraged to write about what they know so they can create authentic fiction from personal knowledge, academic writers are required to venture into the unknown. They are entrusted with the greater task of conceiving, developing and justifying an idea. It needn’t be an idea fondly held by the writer. In fact, a topic’s strangeness—which is to say, the writer’s unfamiliarity with it—can be an asset, because it forces more thorough research.

So, personally not identifying with Emily Dickinson is no more a liability for you than personally not having stepped on the moon is for a writer psychoanalyzing an astronaut. Fresh thinking on any subject, when buttressed by comprehensive research and clear and forceful writing, is not dependent upon one’s personal identification with the subject. Just proceed with an open mind, and relish discovery. You might find you have more in common with Ms. Dickinson than you think.
所以跟Emily Dickinson缺乏交集並非研究上的障礙,就像作家不需要親自登陸月球,照樣能對太空人作心理分析。只要你有詳盡的研究與清晰有力的文章做基礎,未必要認同研究對象本人,也能在任何主題表現充滿新意的作品。只要抱持著開放的心胸,享受發現的快樂,也許你會發現,其實你和這位女詩人的共通處意外地多。

Posted at 2011-04-28 14:53:46

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