Eureka Moments

Eureka is a town in far northern California, and I have never been entirely clear if the expression "Eureka moments" came from the name of this town, or if the name of this town came from a discovery of gold in the area that made everyone yell, "Eureka!"

I was reading something Franco Moretti wrote the other day that talked about scholars, and scholarship. The popular perception of scholars, portrayed in such works as the DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones films, is that scholars are investigators, sleuths looking to solve some big mystery. The idea is that they, sitting quietly alone in a library, will suddenly make a discovery that at least warrants a loud "aha!" or on some occasions even "Eureka!".

Part of me likes to think I made a discovery of sorts with my dissertation, and I suppose I have had other intellectual "discoveries" I might consider eureka moments. But I would hate to think I am therefore a victim of the popular media depiction of scholarship, or that I am in any way dependent on such moments for my intellectual satisfaction.

These days, as I am writing my dissertation, what I want most of all is to feel I have a secure footing in the subject, and that I know what I need to know. Then I am happy.


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