Interview with Jenny Goetz '15
1. Tell us a bit about the general focus of your research. What questions did you initially set out to answer?
Professor Roberts is currently working on a project about how the domestic lives of French Enlightenment savants intersected with their public lives. I started my project by investigating if the trends she discovered in France also occurred in 18th century Britain. From there, I narrowed my topic to just the eccentric Lunar Society, a philosophical society in British Midlands.
2. How did your interest in this topic develop?
I took a class on the Enlightenment with Professor Roberts in the fall, but honestly I feel like my interest in the British Enlightenment has developed more and more as I have worked on the project. Studying a single group so closely has been fascinating, and I definitely want to explore the broader topic further.
3. What types of sources and methods have you utilized in your research?
I have mainly been using the correspondence between the members of the Lunar Society as well as their memoirs, which seem to have served as lengthened eulogies. These documents have given me enormous insight into their private lives and the various relationships they developed with each other. A lot of recent work in the history of science focuses on the social aspects, so I’ve been able to frame my findings within a large body of knowledge.
4. What has it been like working closely with Professor Roberts?
Professor Roberts has been an awesome research advisor! Along with guiding me through the process of researching and writing my own project, she has encouraged me to think creatively and independently. This project would be impossible without her help and support, and working one-on-one with her has been a great experience.
5. Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about undertaking an independent research project?
Before you commit yourself to a specific question or topic, make sure the project is both feasible and original. This means outlining which primary sources are available to you and reviewing the current scholarly work on the topic. By reading what work has already been done in the field, you can both find new possible primary sources while checking for the originality of your own idea.