📚 Research methods in Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

📚 I am a very specific kind of nerd. In this book, set in 1909, a scholar studying faeries says she’s going to use naturalistic observation and ethnographic interviews as her research methods. I immediately thought this was anachronistic, because I knew Naturalistic Inquiry wasn’t published until 1985.

I was wrong. It’s not anachronistic, but it does show that Dr. Wilde is using cutting edge methods. While ethnography was first developed as a science in the 18th century, naturalistic observation wasn’t formalized until the turn of the 20th century.

So. Who cares? Well, me, because I’m a qual nerd. But I’m also a book nerd, so I feel like Wilde’s choice of methods reveals something about her as a character.

The way she writes about her research shows that she thinks of herself as a natural scientist, observing faerie behavior much as one would observe animal behavior. At the same time, the questions she’s asking and the way she treats her research “subjects” (a term that isn’t cool to use now but is absolutely what you’d use in 1909) shows that she can’t help but treat her research as social research, because surprise! in her world, faeries are people, not animals.

(What distinguishes people from animals? I’d say for Wilde’s purposes, speech and self-awareness.)

And now that I’ve written 200+ words about an imaginary scientist’s research methods, I should probably get back to bed.

The book Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Hannah Fawcett
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