That is, to write an academic essay. For a graduate seminar six years ago I wrote a draft of an essay after reading Thomas Heyrick’s profoundly weird late 17th C ode “The Submarine Voyage” and a doing a great deal of research on old-timey diving technology. Now, after countless revisions, rejections, revisions, crashes in motivation, and more, the essay has been published by the good ppl at Eighteenth Century Fiction. In an ideal world, it would be accompanied by this drawing by Ignacio Calero and Sean Parsons:
For Heyrick’s poem is his fantasy of traveling the world’s seas as a man transformed into dolphin imaginatively projecting English power to the deepest depths of these seas, much as, I’m sure, dolphins dream of transforming into cyborgs, rising from the seas, and, I don’t know, smashing capitalism? Or–gentler–traveling the cosmos, joining the constellations whose pull is threaded through the fabric of our beings?
Bunk geophysics, Defoe’s terrible investments, King James’ plan to build a submarine fleet in the early 1600s–I went down a lot of rabbit holes before I started to build meaningful connections. And what I wanted to do, at first, was to continue to understand the imperial imagination and how poetry and poetics participated in empire in ways that seemed innocuous and fanciful. The idealism beneath that: understanding one of its many forms in a particular time, we can guard against it as time bends backwards to touch itself as it sometimes does. Though, really, a lot of that gets clipped away in transforming a nest of thoughts into a focused journal article and this is just an essay dutifully lodged in and perhaps already lost in an infinite Borgesian library. Long 18th C scholarship doesn’t have much purchase on anti-imperial thought now. And maybe it shouldn’t! Dolphin house:
What was the point? I’ve been asking myself this in regard to this article and graduate school itself after I turned down a decent teaching job. One salvage: I was learning how to build an archive, to track down every last thing on a subject. To build something, patiently, over time. Though I’m deprofessionalizing as an academic, there are more contemporary subjects I want to do saturation jobs on. And the process taught me to value more and more those researchers that can pursue a subject for years, that can keep alive the fires of their obsessions while still not ignoring the rolling crises of hours and days. How do they do that? How will I?