OK, so this isn’t an update on my earlier post, though I have more or less finished my mind-map of the issues I think my research touches on. Though by finished, I mean completely covered an A5-ish sized notebook page in dozens of scribbled phrases like ‘reading cultures’, ‘interpretive communities’, ‘exclusion’, ‘authorial intention’, ‘collective identity’, ‘cannibalization’, and ‘forms of dissemination’. Will maybe scan this later to provide a different form of documentation. I could still keep scribbling away at this, and I might buy an A3 piece of card tomorrow and see where that takes me, but I’ve also been thinking about mind-mapping software, as it would be handy to be able to move these ideas around, and make connections that I can play with. Will look into Flowing Data and also see if there are any good mind-mapping applications that I could try for free.
I’m in the British Library today, and I had a good chat (or monologue) with one of my academic buddies, in which I rambled lots of my ideas at her. And, in trying to distil them, it came down to one basic problem that I seem to be returning to — how to represent McSweeney’s. My thesis seems to be about different ways of describing McSweeney’s as an enterprise, as a project, to accommodate all the interesting things that are going on there. For instance, the problem of defining a periodical, of pinning it down for critical discussion. The problem of its constantly changing form. To combat these issues I’ve been thinking of ways that I could describe them, different strategies to represent what it is doing. And so I’ve been thinking about the different forms which I can adopt, what they can offer me. What are the outputs of certain approaches, that could give something useful for investigating McSweeney’s?
I’m quite excited about the way my thoughts are developing at present, partially from this anxiety I have about discussing McSweeney’s in an academic context — this seems like it could offer a solution to that. Though I have to be careful to ensure that these ideas give me genuinely interesting results, and not just innovation for the sake of it (though some critique McSweeney’s for this same issue). I want to get really in-depth into researching these approaches that I have in mind, as for the moment a lot of it is coming from brief exposures, like snippets of blog posts I’m reading, some quality non-fiction, but nothing academic at the moment. Well, that’s not true — been reading some Jonathan Culler writing on theory (not literary theory, but theory in terms of how looking at different disciplines can help to understand larger problems, e.g. the relationship of individual experience to larger structures).
So what kinds of approaches am I thinking about? Ways of approaching McSweeney’s through visual representations, explosions of its ouevre in photographic terms. Diagrammatical analysis. Timelines. New historicism (or cultural materialism? careful of distinction) and looking at texts in their literary/cultural/social contexts. Perhaps synchronic analysis of slices of time. Diachronic analysis for the development of the journal (or the movement/project?) over time. Think about quantum physics, how we approach represent different dimensions? Psychoanalytic criticism, getting into Lacan, reading texts symptomatically, as representing unconscious or collective anxieties or tendencies.
So. What reading do I need to do? What tools can I use? What do I need to learn? These are the things that I have to be thinking about in the coming weeks.