Video Reflection here, with video of site-in-progress: youtu.be/sYAvsXHwtg8
There is a definite difference between the project that I had at the beginning of this summer and the way that my project has shaped itself. I say “shaped itself” because as I have found, over and over again, research has a habit of veering away from the plan I start out with. It reminds me of interviews with authors where they discuss their characters as having a mind of their own; although I designed this project with the goal of better understanding and being able to articulate the lives and works of Leigh Hunt’s circle, I still came to this project with presumptions that I knew how these writers thought from reading published works and scholarly criticism. However, one of my biggest lessons this summer was the reminder that these Cockney School writers, these Romantics that we have built up as scions of literature, were (to put it bluntly) just people, and not characters. Their actions and words did not always fit popular perceptions of their personalities, but in a way, this has raised my admiration of their work; after reading through and organizing the private correspondence of the same people whose works I study, I feel that I have gained a better understanding of Hunt and his circle as people, rather than Romantic writers. In thinking of them as a circle with common ideals, I had not realized the nuances of their relationships: excitement over friends’ triumphs, minor quarrels, stress about money and publishing, and concern for health. As my planned site is called “The Romantics for Our Time,” recognizing them as relatable rather than distant and inaccessible is all the more fitting.
I discovered that research into any public life has layers that can take the researcher off into very different directions; there was first the more superficial knowledge of Hunt that I gained from web searches and a short-term study of his life and circle, a deeper engagement that came from reading his published work, a fuller understanding of context from scholarly works about Hunt, and finally, this summer’s descent into Hunt’s correspondence. Going forward, I plan to continue to build on this project; I want to incorporate more reoccurring themes that I find with the Hunt circle, and I want to create a site that will not only store and analyze information that I have gathered about Hunt for my own scholarly work, but that will also become a site for public viewing, which will help me to develop the links between my scholarly research and public-facing work.