I haven’t had time to post in a week, because I’ve been working on my paper for the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, which meets in Atlanta later this next week. My paper is on Thursday morning, and I’ve been working all week to finish it. I finally finished a complete draft of it, so I can sit back and let it (and my brain) rest for a day before giving it one last once over.
The paper is on Aphra Behn’s 1681 comedy The False Count. My interest in the play lies in its depiction of a group of men who disguise themselves as Turks and “capture” an Englishman, his wife, and his daughter. I’m trying to figure out how this play’s representation of “Turks” reflects Behn’s participation in partisan debates on the exclusion crisis.
This is a portrait of Behn. I’ve never really worked on her before, but I have taught two classes on her. During my first year at OU I taught a senior seminar on Behn. It was a fun class, even if some of Behn’s works weren’t all that great. It always amazes me how some works are anthologized while others — better ones — aren’t. In general, the scholars who were the first to champion Behn were also most interested in her plays that feature prostitutes and women who disguise themselves as prostitutes. They analyzed these characters as early, proto-feminist figures. So, some of the plays that are available in print aren’t, in my opinion, her best ones. The False Count is a good example. It’s not anthologized, but it’s a great play. (I also taught a junior composition course on her and her work.)
The Restoration period was once taught as the ‘Age of Dryden;’ we could easily rename it the ‘Age of Behn.’ It’s been fun researching her play and rediscovering some of the historical context that informs her depiction of “Turks.” It reminds me that one of the things I really enjoy about writing is the discovery process. As you read one scholar, s/he introduces you to a new concept or quote or fact; you then follow up on that, which often leads to another new concept or quote or fact. It’s like a game or a choose-your-own-adventure book.
Being on leave for the past two quarters has been extremely helpful to my research. I haven’t completed anything yet, but I’ve gotten some really good reading and thinking done. And it’s put me in a position to finish an article or two (or maybe three) by the end of the year.
I’m looking forward to the ASECS conference. I’m excited to learn some new things and make some new discoveries. If research is a choose-your-own-adventure, I’m ready to start reading a new one!