I've been doing a lot of emailing about this project. I'd already been in correspondence with a few friends about the problem I mentioned in that post, and the post itself generated more ideas and more emails--including several wonderful readers who contacted me off-blog (and in some cases then put me in touch with their wonderful colleagues and friends).
In the interim, unrelated problems have arisen: I'm working on the very fringes of my area of specialty here, with genres, authors, and political or cultural events about which I know only the general outlines. So I keep firing off quick messages to people I know who work on this or that corner of the field: "hey! what do we know about the reception history of this work in that decade? Was anyone reading it?" "Scholar A claims that X isn't possible. But doesn't your work on Y say the opposite? Is this still a live debate?"
Of course, I'm not just emailing people--I'm combing through library books and journal articles trying to make myself a reasonably competent interlocutor. And someday soon (maybe even today!) I'll sit down and start writing.
But as exciting as starting a new project is, it's equally exciting to be doing it in this semi-collaborative way, and to have so many people seemingly interested in the questions I'm asking. This experience touches on issues I've written about before: it's important to have a professional network. It's all we've got, if we've got anything, after we're cut loose from our dissertation advisors and no longer reside in a department or at an institution chock-a-block with World Experts in our field.
The fantasy of the brilliant scholar working in splendid isolation is bullshit. We need our peeps.