Yesterday, being June and all, I began compiling information for the second chapter of my dissertation. This one contains a "history" of Buffalo, New York and details events, people, performances, music societies, economic decisions, population patterns and other interesting (and diverse) tidbits that will inform the three chapters to come. It also contains a Lit Review of the historical work already published on Buffalo's history. I'm enjoying it. I did so much research during the last year--but didn't write it out in a narrative text--that these next few weeks represent a cleaning out of my dissertation closet....sorting charts, maps, newspaper articles, published articles and books, and so on. So, in a way, it's just as cathartic as the stuff I've been doing around my house since the end of the semester a few weeks back...sorting clothes, shoes, bills, moving my yard around, landscaping. This familiarity of tasks but the alteration in content makes me feel oddly satisfied, like this is what I should be doing this time of year whether it's getting rid of bad grammar and finding a logical flow in the chapter's organization or getting rid of bad weeds and finding the logical flow of things in my garage.
This chapter begins with the thoughts of cultural theorist Raymond Williams. He discusses the term "history" in his book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Williams' writing always impresses me. It's very clear but thoughtful. Anyway, as I try to write a "history" of Buffalo, I begin with Williams as he addresses the problems inherent in the term "history" itself, especially from a postmodern point of view (which is my POV, for sure). His best phrase is, "History itself retains its whole range [of experiences], and still, in different hands, teaches or shows us [his emphasis] most kinds of knowable past and almost every kind of imaginable future." What a wonderful idea, the "different hands" part. It takes some, not all, burden from my mental shoulders as I try to sift through my material to present the best history that I can come up with and not the complete history (which is not possible, right?).
Off to write until this afternoon when I teach eight piano students. Sounds like a good day. I guess someday, maybe one or two of my students will eventually say, "Ya know, I had a piano teacher once who..." and hopefully I'll be a positive part of his or her "knowable past."