Well, until last night, I had, I thought, the beginnings of an interesting argument for a paper. Then, last night, I read these chilling words, "a plebian, who took the surname," and the whole of the argument crumpled under the weight.
How wrong is it that I want to do something very, very nasty to someone who's been dead more than two millennia? And for what heinous crime? For confusing me by changing his name.
And how stupid was I to think that two not so very major political figures whose major moments (neither got much more than fifteen minutes, to be honest) of fame came within 15 years were the same person.
Now, at best, my argument would have to be something about early moderns not being aware, so I could pretend they are the same. But it's silly, and doesn't really work well. And is worth at most, a footnote in a real argument.
I wanted to whack my head VERY hard with a LARGE reference book. Instead, last night, I just gave up and went to bed, hoping that when I woke this morning the whole sentence would have vanished or something. It didn't.
One of the things that's really changed for me over the past several years is that I really resent dead ends in research now. When I was a graduate student, I felt that the goal was learning, and even if something I learned didn't directly contribute to a paper or argument, if I learned from it, I got excited and happy. Even when I was working on my dissertation, and really focused on trying to make an argument, I enjoyed dead ends, enjoyed tracking stuff down, dealing with the things I found that I didn't expect.
I still love learning stuff, even when I don't have an immediate need for the knowledge. I learned about double-marked plurals in Middle English the other day, and I was goofily happy about them.
But lately, I really resent dead ends in my research. I have so little time to pursue an argument, to test my assumptions, to understand the historical and theoretical issues, that when I hit a dead end, I feel way more defeated than curious. I've put off grading to figure this out, and now, argumentless, having spent a fair bit of time without even the satisfaction of having something useful done, I have to turn back to those essays, and to the day to day of class prep for tomorrow. I love teaching what I teach, but it takes me in three different directions, none of which helps me with my research right now. (Yes, I really have to put in for classes more carefully... but but but teaching Chaucer is so danged fun, and we have to have someone do it.)