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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jumping over the pond (iii)

If you are considering moving (partially) into a new field, as I am, you'll have to think systematically about what this would entail. As I took inventory of my scholarly base in Latin American poetry, I found some strengths and quite a few gaps. I came up with a list of questions that looked kind of like this:

Who are the major scholars in this field? What journals publish the most (or the best) articles in this field? What are the dominant modes of writing about poetry? What are the main narratives that these scholars put forward and share as a group? How do their ideas relate to larger debates within Latin American Studies? To what extent is the field divided into national sub-fields (Peruvian poetry, Chilean poetry, Mexican poetry) or into critical industries devoted to major authors (Neruda, Vallejo, Paz)? Is it a field that doesn't know itself, in that scholars working on one part might not know poets from other national traditions? Is it valid to see Spanish American poetry and Spanish poetry as parts of a single, transatlantic tradition, as some have argued? Who would be in a position to make this kind of judgment? Are the Spanish American poets best known in Spain also those are best known in their own countries or across the continent as a whole?

How does the success of the Latin American novel beginning in the 60s effect the status of poetry? How about the dominance of cultural studies generally? What kind of dissertations have been written over the past 10 years in this field?

And so on. Even to be able to formulate a list of questions involves a certain amount of knowledge, or at the very least an approach to finding out more about the field.

Now suppose you aren't moving into a new field, but simply trying to stay abreast of your own. Now, instead of just a similar list of questions, you would have some answers too.

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