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Friday, December 16, 2011

Experiment (Part II) How much can I write in 25 minutes

The book I am writing in Spanish will be called Lorca: modelo para armar. The idea is to present my views of Lorca, in more or less complete form, in a way that is accessible to Spanish readers, updating some of the conclusions in two previous books: Apocryphal Lorca: Translation, Parody, Kitsch (Chicago, 2009), and What Lorca Knew: Spanish Poetics and Intellectual History (in progress). I took the title from a novel by Julio Cortázar, 62, modelo para armar., which in turn refers to Chapter 62 of his novel Rayuela (Hopscotch). A modelo is obviously a model, and 'para armar" means "to be built." I want to construct and image of Lorca, then, and to argue that our image of Lorca is already a constructed one, not one given naturally by the details of his biography or the circumstances surrounding his death.

Another title for the book might be "The uses of Lorca." I might use that title if I were to write the book in English. I want to argue in favor of certain uses and against others, but most of all to point out that these uses have both causes and consequences. I believe that the monograph will make a serious contribution to Lorca studies, building on the increased emphasis on Lorca's "afterlife," of which my own book Apocryphal Lorca is a prominent example. Nevertheless, I want to balance the interest in the uses others have made of Lorca to something that I want to call "Lorca himself." Now the idea of constructing Lorca (or Lorcas), obviously is incompatible with the notion of a true Lorca (against which falsifications can be measured). That will be a theoretical problem for me to resolve in the book. What I mean by "Lorca himself" is not Lorca as he really was, but Lorca as I want him to be. A modernist poet comparable to others in Europe, a poet of radical modernist subjectivity, a poetic thinker, etc...

So this book will be about my Lorca. A third title I would use is Mayhew's Lorca. That phrasing puts me, as author of the book, front and center. A fourth title I have used in speaking to myself about the project is even more facetious: Another Damned Lorca Book. This title has two implications: do we "need" another book about Lorca? And do I need to be the one to write it. It turns out that I think the answer to both questions is "yes." My book won't duplicate any other, and nobody (or almost nobody) else could write this book, or one similar to it.

I have great respect for Lorca criticism, especially the work of Luis Fernández Cifuentes, Cristopher Maurer, Andrew Anderson, and Roberta Quance. My feeling, though, is that I also have to "have my say" in a few more books. Part of this is the idea of "dancing with the one that brang you." I owe a lot to Lorca: writing about him was the best thing that happened to my career, and I feel that the good effects will continue for a few more years.

I am interested in the way that hypercanonicity works. Other writers could not be approached as I approach Lorca because their work does not give rise to as many "uses." The order of magnitude of difference is enormous. A hypercanonical writer is subject to constant rewritings, translations, homages, parodies, song settings, political disputes. There is controversy over digging up his bones. The rules change completely: the hypercanonical writer has a biography in the way that most writers do not.

What is distinctive about my approach is that I don't really like the fact that Lorca is so canonical. I don't care for a lot of those disputes, or misuses, even though I find them interesting. I think that if I were more enthusiastic about uses of Lorca I would be less adept at making distinctions between them.

What I have found extraordinary in working on this project is how fast I have been able to develop ideas. I can turn on the computer or the pomodoro timer and the ideas just flow out of me about as fast as I can type the words. I guess all the hard work of being a scholar and professor has given me more ideas than I even knew I had. This is also a sign that the project is going to go someplace and make an impact on the field. I will be blogging about it on both blogs so that you will be able to track my progress as I work. This is a book I wouldn't be able to write if I were not a blogger with great readers.

4 comments:

Jonathan said...

785 words

Andrew Shields said...

Is that idea of "hypercanonicity" yours? An incredibly useful idea.

Jonathan said...

Yes. I take credit for that.

Andrew Shields said...

The reception of hypercanonical texts and authors might constantly shift, as trends in scholarship come and go, but it would be very surprising if they ever became non-canonical. It's the tiny core of the canon that everybody always returns to. Unfortunately for the expansion of the canon to include neglected categories (women, "minorities", etc.), the hypercanon really does not give a damn about any of that stuff.