RESOURCE: Note-Taking Seminars at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study – NYTimes.com
…the conference was more than a celebration of quirky marginalia and academic navel-gazing. The study of notes — whether pasted into commonplace books, inscribed on index cards or scribbled in textbooks — is part of a broader scholarly investigation into the history of reading, a field that has gained ground as the rise of digital technology has made the encounter between book and reader seem more fragile and ghostly than ever.
“The note is the record a historian has of past reading,” said Ann Blair, a professor of history at Harvard and one of the conference organizers. “What is reading, after all? Even if you look introspectively, it’s hard to really know what you’re taking away at any given time. But notes give us hope of getting close to an intellectual process.”
Not that note-taking was presumed to be an entirely wholesome activity. During the first panel, when asked if enthusiastic note-takers weren’t more like “compulsive hoarders,” Peter Burke, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Cambridge in England, recalled one of his own teachers warning that any student caught taking notes would be sent out of the classroom for inattention.