I know that I’m at the phase of my doctoral work when I’m supposed to be “reading around”–getting to know my field from every conceivable angle and reading everything I can get my hands on that might even vaguely be a little bit related to my ever-changing topic. The thing is, every time I read something new, I wonder whether I should be including it into my dissertation.
For example, today I re-read Women Beware Women as part of my ongoing effort to become familiar with most of Middleton’s major works (Rowley’s are on order from the British Library, which is apparently the only library that actually has any of them). As my research continues, I’m tending more and more to gravitate toward late twentieth and early twenty-first-century productions–basically 1946 and later–and so I’m not totally sure what I’m accomplishing by reading these other plays besides completeness. (Not that completeness is undesirable). And yet, reading Women Beware Women today, I wondered whether that play should be included in my overall topic. After all, it gets performed about as often as The Changeling, and it gets talked about quite a lot in most of the critical writings available on Middleton. True, the choice to include Women would skew my research in Middleton’s favour (over Rowley), but I’m not really focusing on authorship. At least, I don’t want to focus on authorship, despite the fact that I seem to be talking a lot about authors lately, particularly other playwrights in relation to Shakespeare.
Are you confused yet? Because I certainly am.