August 13. This is my (would-be) July and August post since I didn't realize how long it had been since my last one. To be honest, July was uneventful for the most part - in the sphere outside of my research that is. The library kept the afternoon distribution closed to the general group of students and scholars, but they did read my letter and decide that since I'd come so far for such a short period of time this summer that I deserved special consideration (I suppose it helped that I made good friends with the lovely librarian, Isolina - this is how it works in Italy... even, or especially, in their national libraries!). They allowed me to consult the ancient books inside the Manuscript Room (otherwise closed in addition to the general consultation distribution), so as not to provoke attention by the other scholars.
This was useful and extremely generous on the part of the librarians, but I only had to take advantage of it a couple times (given that the mornings were open). This field that I am working in is not the most developed. That is to say, there are not ten thousand books that are the basis of any scholar's general understanding of the discourse. This is a small field, underdeveloped and by many unknown. What I found was that I'd often reach a point where there would not be that next book waiting for me. I'd have to go search through the giant catalogues, review contemporary articles online for other sources I may have missed, even pick a new approach in order to really "find" the next work to consult.
As my time was short here, this was not frustrating as some research without a clear road may have been - I did always come across a next book to read or article to direct my study. What this research was was exciting. An underdeveloped field, without "the book" - that's what my mentors and professors in the field have told me. There is no main text on the topic, which means that more or less that spot is open, and potentially to me.
On August 5, the library closed for two weeks of ferragosto. The only other spot (in the entire city) that was open was the Museo Galileo - I can't complain because the research library that the Museo has is incredible, especially for my work. I had already gotten the student pass for the library through a collegue of one of the professors I've been consulting with this summer, who is a dantista himself and who helped me get orientated at the beginning of the summer. So, I spent last week up on their third floor (in the midst of the Museo's tourist season), working over the beautiful view of the Arno river and the Ponte Vecchio. Lucky for me the air-conditioning was working.
Now we've arrived at the week in Florence - the hottest, the biggest, the emptiest (in terms of open stores and actual Italians in the city). And NOTHING is open at all. So, as my roommates have all gone home to their various families around the country, I've commandeered our kitchen with all my work and I plan to plan. I've filled three notebooks with handwritten notes, that's 180 pages of research. I've typed up my bibliography of works consulted (an important step in the research process!) and have a list of 41 essays, books, manuscripts and other works that I've thoroughly reviewed this summer.
But the most exciting news of all is that in the past few days I've gone over all of my notes, page 1 to 180, making notes on the notes, writing comments in the margins, highlighting special sections, and with all of this work, I am pretty sure I have a book. In fact, I've been brainstorming potential structures and I've found that the book I want to write, I actually can write - I have the notes and the ideas developed pretty well already. It's an incredibly exciting point where I'm at. And I am going to spend the next couple of weeks working on sorting my notes into ideas for this book.
Unfortunately, there are few weeks left in August and I don't think I am going to be able to dedicate the same kind of time to writing this when I get back to Brown in September, but in any case, I am putting things in motion for the future. I am excited that I've been able to develop an idea for a bigger work of original research (!) years before I planned - I thought this would be my PhD thesis. In any case, very exciting! My plans as of now are to continue planning and taking notes on my notes, and to revise my grad school sample paper on the same topic!
Very successful time here so far and I am excited to head into the development period... all while Florence has been consumed by the oven of hot, bright summer air and sun!