Friday, 1 January 2016

A Return

Over 18 months ago I posted a short piece announcing my intention of resuming this blog on a more regular basis again. I outlined some ideas for continuing the blog, looking to overcome a few of the impasses I had reached with it in the previous period.

There’s nothing like foresight.

At the time of writing that piece I was at the beginning of a known medical situation that I expected would see me out of action for a month. As it happened, complications left me hospitalised for several months. After discharge I continued to have ongoing serious medical problems. I am definitely on the mend at long last, but I have been out of action for over a year and am even now still not 100 per cent. I am expected to be back to full health before too long, but I am still in the process of recovery.

The physical impact is easy to assess. I have not been able to return to fieldwork yet, and have only been gingerly easing myself back into work more generally.

The mental impact is harder to gauge. My intellectual stamina and concentration levels are still diminished. For a long period I avoided attempting to engage with theoretical questions, even reading articles, because I wasn’t really up to it. That is, happily, changing now, but I am still not back to my best. (I have always had unreasonably high expectations of my ability to engage with arguments, however, regarding this as a proper part of any engagement with a discipline and its theory).

I am, though, now beginning slowly to get back into thinking about folklore. Earlier in the year Professor James Grayson, the current President of the Folklore Society, was kind enough to read a version of a paper of mine at the Society’s AGM Conference on ‘Folklore Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’. An earlier version of the paper can be found here. I can hardly claim to have been actively involved in the AGM conference but I wanted to be present somehow: the future of folklore (and basing that future on the history of the discipline) was definitely always going to be something I wanted to throw myself back into when I could. 

James Grayson
More recently I made it to (and through) the Folklore Society’s 2015 Katharine Briggs lecture, given this year by that estimable scholar Julia Bishop. I confess to bias – Julia was one of my tutors on the folklore MA at Sheffield, and she’s one of the most inspiring teachers I’ve ever been privileged to study with – but it was also an excellent overview of a century of collecting children’s lore. Hearing a lecture on research outside my usual areas of interest may have made it easier for me to manage, but it also gently set me thinking again about more general theoretical questions. I’m starting again to read on folklore, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to start writing about some of these things again before too long.

Julia Bishop
It wears me out, but it’s what I want to do. It’s nice to be back, even tentatively. Thanks for bearing with me. See you again soon. Happy New Year.