I work on, and enjoy, medieval romance. I have to admit, however, that I find it difficult to distinguish some of the more episodic romances from one another (or from Harry Potter 7, for that matter), or to remember the sequence of plot events.

So when I read a romance I intend to write about, I take detailed notes, with line numbers, plot summary, reaction, and sometimes interwoven commentary from critics. It might read like this: “2001. Wyrm appears in heavens, hero prays before attacking. Wouldn’t that risk getting cooked in own armor? Dude, attack first and pray afterwards. Critic Z says this indicates change in attitude, learning to appreciate piety, but really, there are better places to learn piety, like episodes at 1700 or 2350.”

Sometimes, especially when talking with certain colleagues, I feel that this is a total waste of time. I should just write an actual article or at least conference paper, looking things up as necessary, rather than spending weeks noting a single romance. Product! Excelsior!

HOWEVER. I am now engaged in writing a conference paper on one of these obsessively noted romances, and it is SO EASY because I have 30 pages of word-processed notes. I don’t have to spend ages trying to figure out whether I mean the first or second wyrm attack; I just hit control-F and sort it out quickly.

Note to self: taking notes is not a waste of time. I should do more of it in general. But most especially in desperately busy semesters when I can’t get my mind around a sustained piece of work, it is perfectly, totally, completely fine, nay, praise-worthy, to set aside a couple of hours a week to read another medieval text and take notes on it. It will pay off down the road.

So am I the only one who thinks HP7 is like Guy of Warwick, only more predictable?

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One thought on “On reading and romance

  1. I worry constantly that I’m wasting time with my note-taking. I’ve been traveling in this particular handbasket for 13 years, and I’m still not satisfied with the efficiency of my note-taking. Part of the problem is that I enjoy the physical act of writing, so how can I tell when I’m just being self-indulgent?

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