Itinerant Scholarship

Hello All,

My deepest apologies for being silent for so long, but the last few weeks have been quite busy to say the least. Last week I visited Dublin and had a very nice time looking around the city, and the week before I was at the London Summer School in Palaeography, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in brushing up on their document analysis. I wouldn’t say that it is for the complete beginner, but I found it extremely useful. We spend a day at the Victoria and Albert museum looking at their amazing manuscript collection and medieval and renaissance exhibit, and I was fortunate enough to go to the ‘Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe’ exhibit at the British Museum. Once again, highly recommended.

Today i’ve been thinking, as the title implies, about the implications of travel for scholarship. Since i’ve been on the road for quite a while staying at hostels etc, I am an odd mix between a student and a backpacker right now. For the time being, here are five advantages and five disadvantages of this process that I have identified:

Pros

  1. Wireless is available everywhere. I have an iphone that I can tether to my laptop for 3G internet, or I can just look for the nearest Starbucks
  2. The simplicity of travelling without huge piles of books. I am a very low paper student, so this doesn’t bother me much.
  3. Travel is good for your creativity. I always feel inspired when on the road.
  4. I am learning to travel in a minimalist fashion, and to study in a minimalist fashion. This article has been very relevant to me of late.
  5. I have really got to test my computer based scholarship practices. I have found that stashing lots of information on the cloud has allowed me to have most of my notes/books/drafts etc. available to me.

Cons

  1. Constant change isn’t particularly good for one’s concentration. Since my surroundings keep changing, I feel like my brain is keeping me overly alert, thus stopping me from settling into a comfortable pattern.
  2. Having a research space to call my own is valuable, even if only for administrative purposes. As those of you who see me around campus know, I wander back and forth with my laptop quite a lot, preferring to work from a base and roam the campus. And yet like an aeroplane (wordpress tells me that I can’t spell it this way, but I am Australian so that ain’t how I roll), a scholar still needs a carrier or runway to return to in order to refuel.
  3. It is difficult to be alone. I don’t really care about this, but I think that a scholar needs some quiet time to get certain tasks done.
  4. I haven’t got anyone to talk to about my research. I learn a lot from discussion, so this is a big loss for me.
  5. Even if books aren’t always necessary, I love having a nice pile of them. Call it a crutch, but i’m sure that many of your will agree.
This makes me wonder: could I go on a research backpacking trip? Could I, for example, gain some kind of institutional affiliation, pack my bag and roam the world, visiting universities and institutions wherever I chose? The idea intrigues me as a post-PhD option – a part gap year part research trip. An intriguing possibility that requires some thought.
Anyway, I will leave it at that. I have a two week Latin Summer School starting tomorrow at University College London, and then a conference to prepare for. After that, back to Australia.
Take Care!
James
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