GuyInTaiwan wrote:archylgp: Wow. That's quite an undertaking. I'm not seeking to become such a specialist, but kudos to you if you can do that by yourself. One of the issues I am finding reading the Iliad at the moment is that there's so much incidental knowledge to do with classics that I simply don't know. I studied classics in my first year of university, and we read the Odyssey then. It was immensely helpful to have a real expert on the subject right there. At some point, I'm going to get around to Shakespeare, as well as people like Milton, Dante, and so on. I know that's going to be really difficult without expert guidance. Are you getting any expert guidance in person (or by correspondence) with your study of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties?
There might be something like "reading companions" that you can you use along with your readings of the classics -- that is, some book that will have the relative background information along with the text. These types of books are called 讀本 in Chinese and they're what I use to read classical Chinese literature.
I've been in contact with one of my former professors but that's about it. I suppose one of the more difficult things about studying on one's own is knowing what is worth reading and what is not -- there's more bad research than good out there it seems. I'm working on getting into a grad program back home, but I want to do it right this time (I just quit a grad program here) and I'll need some funding.
I completely agree with what you said about practice. But I also think the quality of practice is just as important as the quantity, perhaps more.