Methodology 2: curiosity and agape
In the 9 Oct blog about a broad methodology for working on the 5000 or so Forbes letters, I commented that curiosity had got the better of me. Instead of just simply revising an article, a chance remark by a reviewer led me to undertake a major piece of work on the collection because I was curious and wanted to be able to answer the question the reviewer had mused upon.
Curiosity is the best driver of research there is, but alas there seems little of it about anymore, or if there is, it’s been squeezed to the margins by ‘research training’. Someone last week told me in all seriousness they couldn’t do something they found really interesting because it wasn’t in their research questions! Perhaps me saying ‘then burn the damn things and follow your nose’ might have encouraged a loosening up, but I doubt it from the shocked look on the person’s face.
And what of agape [AG-ah-pay, not a-gape]? In an earlier 2015 blog, anticipating arrival in the South African National Archives and some weeks of focused work on the Forbes collection, I asked whether it was possible to fall in love with a set of dusty archive boxes, for I certainly had all the symptoms. This was just fun, for of course it is, as every scholar (if not every academic) knows about the things that grab us by the throat and devour our minds and time.
Agape, sundered from any religious connotations, is about commitment and a profound benevolence felt towards the other. It seems a good way of characterising that strange mixture of curiosity and excitement that can overtake us, stop us in our tracks, and send us off into weeks of entrancing work. For Homer, by the way, it encompassed loving respect for the dead; me too.
Last updated: 10 October 2015