zero time

There’s a moment when you’re crossing all the time zones at 625 miles per hour, when the light in the sky no longer looks normal, when flight attendants have brought you a meal and you’re not sure if you’re supposed to be hungry or not but you eat it anyway. There’s a moment when the hands just fall off the face of the clock, the gears slip loose from the spring, and you have no idea what time it is. I started thinking of this as “zero time.” The passage of time eludes your senses. I kept doing the math, and it didn’t seem to help. The inside of the Boeing 777 offered no usual indicators of time, and the trip here to England seemed to be over before I knew it. I managed only about 2 hours of fitful sleep.

I’m researching Methodist communications networks in eighteenth-century Britain: preaching, letter writing, diaries, publishing, reading, writing, listening, sharing. The first day in the library was pretty spacey due to lack of sleep, but I managed to get some good work done, returning to the inventory of books that was completed upon John Wesley’s death in 1791. It’s a very detailed snapshot of Methodist publishing activity in the late eighteenth-century.

Next, I returned to the Bible of Methodist lay preacher Samuel Bradburn, obsessively recording as many details from it as possible. This book is filled with marginalia, most of it in the form of fat “iron crosses” next to particular verses, which I take to be his system for reminding himself which texts to use when he preaches. Over a thousand of them are spread throughout just about every book in both the Old and New Testament. As far as I know, no one has ever written about the ways in which preachers customize their Bibles to improve their use as tools like this. I don’t know how many Bibles that look like this survive from the eighteenth century, and I did not expect to find it: I just opened what I thought would be a box of Bradburn’s personal papers and there it was.

I also got a tour of the boxes and boxes of manuscript material downstairs. Librarians and archivists are wonderful people, listening to what you’re interested in and then pointing you towards what you need. And each box seemed to contain something unexpected. There are dozens of boxes containing thousands of pages, and as with most special collections, the level of cataloguing with most of the material is relatively general: you know the box contains the papers of so-and-so, but you don’t necessarily know what those papers are. Diary? Receipt book? Letters? It’s a treasure hunt. Fun and scary at the same time. What if I miss the best stuff? What if what I hope to find isn’t here? What if it doesn’t exist?

If you want to see something silly and fun, Manchester is currently doing the CowParade.

And just for yucks, here’s a brief playlist of Manchester music in roughly chronological order:

  • Buzzcocks, “Just Lust”
  • Joy Division, “Digital”
  • New Order, “Blue Monday”
  • The Smiths, “Boy With the Thorn in His Side”
  • Badly Drawn Boy, “Pissing in the Wind”

Note: last year’s Manchester Adventure starts here.

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what i write & where i’m going

I’ve decided to try to cut back on the blogging for the rest of the summer, limiting myself to no more than one entry a week. I need to finish up some writing of a different sort before classes kick back in this fall. Specifically, as I mentioned on my task list:

  • A book proposal.
  • An article on eighteenth-century Methodist periodicals.
  • An article on eighteenth-century Methodist preaching nope, I’m going to focus on my article on eighteenth-century Methodist reading habits
  • an article on authorship attribution concerning a particular preacher’s sermons. Well, this one I’m going to get started, at least.
  • Revising a few grant applications for resubmission and mapping out grant deadlines. This i can surely get done.

Here’s the thing: I am untenured, and the path to tenure is lined with publications. I go up for tenure in 3 years (yikes!). Blogging is very rewarding to me, and I do not intend to give it up. The contacts I’ve made and maintained through this medium are wonderful. But I do need to consider how many words I put out there into the blogosphere versus how many I am putting down on the page leading toward scholarly publication (and thus an ongoing academic career).

One thing I’m going to try to do to get the most out of my writing is to blog what I’m working on. My book project is a significant expansion of my dissertation; my focus is on Methodist communication networks in eighteenth-century Britain, a time and place of new technologies and habits of communication triggering significant cultural change. This is a topic that has particular relevance now as we find ourselves in what is often termed the “late age of print,” electronic communication technologies triggering another series of significant cultural change. More details as my writing progresses this summer.

Next Sunday I leave for a month in Europe. I’ll be mostly in the Methodist Archives and Research Centre (MARC) in Manchester, but also at the British Library in London. Additionally, I’ll spend five days in France at the 2004 meeting of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing.

In Manchester, I plan to continue work I started last summer, reading the diaries, letters, and administrative records of preachers and lay people. Conversing, preaching, listening, reading, writing, publishing, exchanging books, recommending books, selling books, giving books away. Combing through personal papers looking for references to these very basic, but very important, activities is a slow and painstaking process, but it’s also very rewarding. I found some remarkable evidence last year, and I am confident that more remains to be uncovered.

At the British Library, I’ll be examining The Gospel Magazine, one of the periodicals that inspired John Wesley to begin publishing his competing project The Arminian Magazine. As you can see from this entry in the English Short Title Catalogue, the British Library is the only place in the world with a complete run of this publication. I am particularly interested in The Gospel Magazine because it was edited by Wesley antagonist Augustus Toplady, about whom I wrote last summer. To be able to make the most of my time in London, I spent today reading volume one (1774) of TGM at KU’s Spencer Research Library, which has a world-class collection of rare eighteenth-century British materials and is only a forty-minute drive from my apartment.

Last year, I paid a very reasonable 40 pounds a night to stay at a bed and breakfast in Manchester (At least I think I did. The site lists a lower rate right now.). This year, I’ll be staying in university accommodations for an incredibly affordable 75 pounds a week, and I believe the walk from my room to the library will take me all of about 5 minutes.

As I was last year, I’m nervous about travelling. But this year I know my ATM card will work, I have a brand new credit card, I know where my passport is, I know my plug adaptors will fit the plugs, I know how to get from the airport to where I’m going, and most importantly, I know my way around the collection at the MARC. Once I get to London, I know two or three people there already, so I’m less nervous about that aspect of the trip. As for France, well it’s been a very long time since I’ve been there, but back when we lived in Belgium, we went to Paris all the time, so I guess I’ll find my way.

This will be my longest trip to Europe since (pre-EU) 1988, when I went home to visit my parents and stayed pretty much the whole summer. Heck, I’ve never even seen a Euro.

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Book Production and Distribution, 1625ñ1800

Reminder for GHW: check out this entry by H. G. Aldis in the Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1907-1921) at I certainly need to learn more about James Lackington, one of the most successful booksellers of eighteenth-century Britain and an ex-Methodist. Megan Benton first told me about Lackington when I met her at SHARP 2003. He published his Memoirs in 1791, and it looks like they’ve been reprinted in a modern edition. also lets me know that Lackington gets a mention by James Raven on page 180 of The Practice and Representation of Reading in England.

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charles wesley’s birthday

My standard disclaimer: I’m not a Methodist, but I research and write about eighteenth-century Methodism.

My Aunt Donna forwarded me the following info from the Thursday, December 18 edition of an email newsletter sent out by The Writer’s Almanac at Minnesota Public Radio.

It’s the birthday of hymn writer Charles Wesley, born in Epworth, England (1708). He went to Oxford University, where he formed a small religious study group that included his brother John and a few other friends. They were nicknamed “the holy club” and later “the Methodists” because of their methodical worship and strict discipline. The group eventually broke up, but a few years later John and Charles Wesley founded the first official Methodist Society, laying the foundations for modern-day Methodism.

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ìAn insatiable thirst for knowledgeî

I feel a bit weird about doing this, like I’m leaving the keys in the ignition or something, but I’ve decided to share with y’all this proposal I’ve just submitted for an ASECS (American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies) 2004 panel on the history of reading. This grows out of research in Manchester that I wrote about earlier this summer and will eventually make its way into my book. I welcome feedback.

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