By Michelle Switzer – Staff Writer
University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) English Professor Kristen Case is in the process of transcribing unpublished, handwritten manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau’s “Kalander”—a series of charts in which recorded observations about seasons over several years are found—into an online database.
Case said, “The manuscripts have been pretty much ignored until recently because literary scholars think they look like science and scientists think they look like poetry.” Figuring out what was “science” and what was “literature” has been a challenge to her, as well as working with microfilm of the original manuscripts that are housed in various library archives.
In reference to the reading microfilm and the project’s future, Case said, “I scan the microfilm to PDF on our library’s wonderful new microfilm scanner, and then do my best to try to decipher Thoreau’s very messy handwriting. I have a technical partner who’s working on building an online archive that will house both images of the manuscripts and the transcriptions. A complete, fully-searchable online archive for the Kalendar project is the goal.”
Getting help from UMF senior Dianna Allen has lessened her work-load a bit, and Case has said she’s grateful for any help she can get.
Having recently finished a published book called American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice, Case is a very busy English professor and with busyness can come multitasking. “I think we’ve actually gotten too good, as a culture, at multitasking. I’m terribly good at it, myself, and as a result I often feel like I’m doing a thousand things and none of them very well,” said Case, “I’m working on multitasking less, trying to do one thing at a time, and to be present for and aware of that one thing, even if it’s washing the dishes.”
Case is a mother, as well as a professor and a researcher which means she has a lot to do in a day, Case said, “Some days I handle it better than others. It’s a constant balancing act, like everyone says, and I fall down all the time. I will say, though, that it helps to try to just do one thing at a time, not to try to combine work and parenting in the same moment.”
Case teaches three classes: Introduction to Literary Analysis and Interpretation; American Environmental Literature; and an honors class called The Idea of the Ordinary. She has no idea when her Thoreau project will be completed. “I think this one will take several years. I’m sure I will write about other things while it’s progressing; though, I’m a little bit restless as a scholar—I like to jump from one interest to another.”
Thoreau has taught Case something in her research, “He reminds me that whatever I’m doing, I chose to do it, and I should pay attention to it, give myself to it—and if it’s not worthy of that kind of attention, I shouldn’t do it at all.”