I have mentioned this before, but it bears mentioning again: there is so much information out there. If you need to find anything about anything, I guarantee you will find it somewhere at Gumberg, be it through the databases, catalog, etc. For example, I am writing a paper on zombiesm, voodoo, and race and I assumed I was going to be hard-pressed for research—I could not have been more wrong. It is honestly—and I know I have said this before—overwhelming.
But, I want to focus this idea of overwhelming amounts of information onto writers—just writers. That sounds less “whelming” right? If you even thought yes for a second, like me, you are wrong. Sorry.
When I got to college, I assumed I was well read. I coasted on that feeling for a while, maybe through my freshman year. Then I started hearing other students in my classes talking about authors or books or poems I had never read, and I got nervous. Then I reasoned with myself that I was more well-read than the average bear, okay, no harm there. Then I took a Global Literature class, and having read people like Neruda, Márquez, and Kadare, I felt ready.
*If you have been following along with these bi-weekly blog posts, you will have noticed that every time I feel comfortable, ready, etcetera, I am about to be wrong. That is about to happen here.
On the first day of class I remember my professor, Dr. Mirmotahari, asking what this idea of global literature means. I few people raised their hands, but I cannot remember their answers. Regardless of what they said, it all came back to this idea of reading something “foreign to us.” Which is correct, to an extent. But this idea of the foreign was limited to texts from places like Africa or China or South America, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but then we got this question: How many of you can name a Finnish author? A Norwegian playwright? It may be to no one’s surprise, none of us raised our hands.
For some reason, and I feel like I may not be alone here, I never assumed something Finnish would be “global.” Why? I honestly cannot tell you. Maybe it is what I am used to, this being exposed to “foreign” texts by the heavy-hitter nations (again, nothing wrong with that). But starting with that question, it made me realize I have a lot to learn—a lot to read.
Then I started interning at Gumberg, and I realized I may be well-read in the 1% of the 1% of the writers that exist, and that may still be too generous. It is an odd feeling—a little debasing, a lot humbling. Over the years, I have realized how “well-read” I am not. If you remember from last week, I mentioned how new so many American women authors were to me. And with that guide published (go check it out under Guides to Research on Gumberg’s website) I started working on the African American writers guide. Queue me not knowing nearly as much as I thought.
I still have not read a Finnish author. And I may not ever read 2% of the 1% of writers that exist. But doing this research and making these guides for Gumberg continually opens my eyes to how much information is at our fingertips and just how amazing it is that we can find it, read it, use it at the click of a mouse.
So I may not be “well-read” but I am at least aware, and I think that is a step in the right direction.