Inspired by the ongoing process of reading 100+ books on historical fiction for a bibliographical essay.
- Where's the context? Those of us studying historical fiction frequently encounter that dreaded mental block known as Goodness Gracious, I Don't Know a Darn Thing About This Novel's Subject Matter. And since a key part of the historical novelist's craft is the ability to transform recalcitrant facts into aesthetically pleasing shapes, GGIDKaDTATNSM usually sends us shooting off in directions well outside our regular line of work. Since we cannot and should not reinvent someone else's wheel, that means hitting the scholarly books. I find myself getting unhappy, however, when literary critics simply appropriate another critic's (or historian's) interpretation of a wide range of materials and turn that interpretation into the "context." Granted that my own work is intended to save people from slogging through endless reams of H. E. Burch and Emma Leslie, but at a certain point you just have to stop and do some spot-checking. This remains true whether the texts at issue are sermons, conduct manuals, or medieval chronicles. Moreover, it should be the right source material.
- Where's the voice? Ack! Endless unqualified citations and quotations of other critics in the main text! Build on the point or argue with it--don't just leave it hanging there.
- Where's the original? While it's one thing to go the "quoted in" route when you haven't the proverbial snowball's chance to see the original, I don't quite understand the point of quoting well-known work X from secondary text Y. Um...hello? The library? Interlibrary loan? What gives?