It’s super important to place the writer and their work within a historical and personal context, so my first step would be to gather information on the author and the time period, in this case, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I might head to the library and check to see whether she has an autobiography or a biography, but the bulk of this background research could be done online. I find the sources in Dacus Online to be very helpful, specifically Academic Search Complete. I’d use these sources to gather additional information about the turn of the century and more specifically this time period in Maine. Search terms for this section might include: “Maine,” “Turn of the Century,” or “Background.”
I’d really want to gather information on the author’s religious background and use this knowledge to unpack the religious allusions and themes that serve as the backbone of “Renascence.” I unironically employ google scholar (I’m sorry) because of its highly navigable interface and the sheer volume of content. Search terms for this section might include: “biblical allusions,” “religion,” or “sin.”
I always find it useful to gather critical reviews and analyses by critics and writers of the period, as well as more recent perspectives and interpretations. I do not have a large breadth of sources I use and would likely return to those previously mentioned. Some keywords for this section might include: “analysis,” “review,” or “critique.”
There are several other figurative techniques and themes the author relies on and explores. Along with the name of the poem I’d search keywords like “imagery,” “rhyme scheme,” or “figurative language” among others.
I am absolutely the type of careless researcher he's describing. I’ve honestly never been much of an active reader and find it incredibly hard to stay focused. Though I harbor a deep love for literature and the critical analysis we engage in as writers, it’s not my true love. I’m deeply fascinated by politics, law, and the interworkings of government. “Powerskimming” is a useful skill in political science literature, as not every word needs to be read to be understood, and the data it conveys is most important. My bid in life is to grapple with and harness the complexity of language, perhaps even helping to craft legislation that is both succinct and full of intent. Despite this rift between myself and the creative, my failure to sustain my attention will always challenge me.