That's what research is like.
You think you've gotten down to the essence of a subject, but when you look closely you see there are whole worlds inside that; look a little more closely, even more worlds.
"''It's certainly,' Smoky said, remembering the guidebook, 'en extensive estate.'
'The further in you go, the bigger it gets,' said Hannah Noon."
--John Crowley, Little, Big (1981)
"'I mean by this that the other world is composed of a series of concentric rings, which as one penetrates deeper into the other world, grow larger. The further in you go, the bigger it gets. Each perimeter of this series of concentricities encloses a larger world within, until at the center point, it is infinite. Or at least very, very large.' He took a sip of water.'"
-- John Crowley, Little, Big (1981)
"'Of course, Daughter of Eve,' said the Faun. 'The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.'"
--C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle (1956)
I despair of ever being finished. Every time I work, I discover something new.
Today, I discovered systemic functional linguistics, in which M.A. K Halliday articulates and justifies everything I was struggling, without the proper language, to say.
Exciting to discover a new area of research (old, actually, 1989), like finding lost treasure. But disturbing too: Does this mean what I am struggling to say has been said before, so why bother?
Is my purpose to say something new or to learn and get out of grad school and go teach?
And why didn't the linguists who have read my drafts not mention systemic functional linguistics? Why did they let me struggle with awkward, ill-defined terms like "sociolinguistic approach" (or is that the same thing and now I've finally stumbled on the right body of research?) and "socioliteracy."
Of course, I am juxtaposing Halliday's writing against several other more modern things, perhaps in a fresh new way. I just don't know.
Then again, I was told to define discourse, which seemed like an odd request at the time, like being asked to define academia. Maybe I was being subtly pointed in the right direction? This is all so esoteric. Like feeling around in the dark.