Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Engaged Reader and the Bibliographic Essay

As I was reading Matt Sandler’s book The Black RomanticRevolution: Abolitionist Poetry at the End of Slavery (2020), I was noting to myself that he’d done a lot of reading to produce this work. I mean, I realize such reading is a normal part of the process in our field.

Still, something was different, or enhanced. I felt that I was reading an especially engaged reader. That feeling was confirmed when I encountered Sandler’s bibliographic essay at the end of the book.

“In what follows,” he opens the essay, “I list the research that focuses on the Black Romantics, as well as some of the important academic debates and areas of inquiry that have guided my perspective.”

He then proceeds to discuss a rather large body of works that informed his own views. He mentions indexes, bibliographies, literary histories, and analyses. 

Lists or enumerative bibliographies are the most common approach to citing a body of sources in our field. However, Sandler provides a narrative, pinpointing shifts and developments and key contributions.

I wish I encountered more essays like these where scholars highlighted the many various works and debates that shaped their own thinking on a subject. These kinds of essays would provide us with some good looks at writers as engaged readers.   


No comments: