A week or so ago I fell back on this blog because I was unable to get on with writing my next book, which is to be called Tagore Matters in the Twenty-First Century, and will be about Tagore’s current and continuing relevance. For a while I spent a lot of time on facebook (‘FB’ – and I dipped into Twitter which I don’t understand), because I needed to feel as if I was in touch with people who were as devastated as I was over Brexit and the coup against Jeremy Corbyn. Those disasters are about to be joined by the imminent decision – I fear – by the majority of UK MPs voting to spend a mind-numbingly ridiculous amount of money on a useless (one hopes!) system of weapons of mass destruction, when no one believes in deterrence any longer.
Now I must get back to my book. No more blog, no more social media.
On the basis of word count, I have enough material in articles I have written on Tagore’s relevance to fill a book, but I’m not going to produce an anthology of my old stuff with a new introduction. I’ve recently encountered a few examples of single author collections, like George Monbiot’s book of his writings in The Guardian from the last decade entitled How Did We Get Into This Mess? Politics, Equality, Nature. Chris Smaje wrote an appreciative review of it in The Land, but was critical of the ‘inevitable downside of its punchy short-form journalism’ in that it lacks the ‘level of detail you’d hope to find in a book-length analysis’. Another example is Ken Livingstone’s Being Red: A Politics for the Future, which I picked up at the ‘Ways With Words’ festival in Dartington. It’s a little book, with two articles, two ‘conversations’ and an interview, plus a piece by someone else on Livingstone’s support for the Arts, so a bit of a hotchpotch. Another example, quite different, is a posthumous collection of Eric Hobsbawm’s articles on South America from the 1960s and 70s, reviewed in The Guardian on 9 July. Those three authors are well known, but I wondered if it’s standard practice amongst scholars and commentators to assemble books of their own articles, essays, blog posts etc. I gather that in academia this is not an approved practice, unless one has the security of ‘tenure’: guaranteed permanent employment, and self-publishing such collections can damage your career, it was said. I’m not a career academic, but the award of my doctorate allows me to hover on the sidelines with the occasional conference paper or journal article. I do have it in mind though to shortcut the writing process by using my old material, but how should I do that?
I have FB to thank for an idea for how to begin. I had found myself joined to a FB group called ‘Confederation of Soviets of the British Archipelago’ (CoSBA) on which someone posted an image I remembered using in a PowerPoint presentation. I spent some time hunting for the one with that image – or my version of the image from the New Scientist article where it had appeared.
That prompted me to put together the slides and notes into a pdf document and add it to my collection of papers on a platform called ‘academia.edu’, my papers are at: https://independent.academia.edu/ChrisMarsh.
The paper I wrote from expanding on the presentation is to be published in the first issue of a new peer-reviewed journal called Gitanjali and Beyond (http://www.scots-tagore.org/#!gitanjali–beyond/c1wax) and will appear in the autumn – quite a long time coming because of putting the authors through a thorough peer review process, and waiting for final revisions to come in. Many of my articles originated from conference presentations. Perhaps because of my business background, I have always presented with PowerPoint slides, rather than read out my academic paper – and in fact postgraduate students in the English Department I attended at Exeter encouraged the use of visual aids. It is a different form of communication, more structured probably, but also stimulating feelings as much as intellectual interest. That seems appropriate for writing on Tagore, so that presentation is where I shall begin Tagore Matters.
Will someone out there who knows my home phone number please let me know when Jeremy Corbyn is UK Prime Minister, and I’ll get back on FB to celebrate with my friends.