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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Engagement / Estrangement

I have felt uneasy about my current project for a while. It has seemed too much a repetition of my book The Twilight of the Avant-Garde. The idea of retracing the genealogy of late modernism in Spain is fine, but too much "inside baseball" for me and my projected audience. Sure, I care about late modernism in Spain, but who else does? So I am now going to make the book What Lorca Knew about Lorca. What I really need to do is to follow up on Apocryphal Lorca, without repeating anything.

So I have the article I've already published that would have formed part of What Lorca Knew in its original form.

Lorca and Beckett
María Zambrano
Guillén / Cernuda

I also have at least three articles I can now publish without conflicting with the book:

Strange Islands: Late Modern Spanish Poetry and the Spanish American connection
Verse Paragraph
Valente and Late Modernism

What tipped the balance for me was a comment by Z's about being engaged in one's own research or estranged from a particular project. I realized I had really been engaged in my other Lorca book, like no other. I also realized that I represented myself as a Lorca scholar in public, that there was a principle of "dancing with the one who brung you" here.

I also feel uneasy about Valente. In some sense, it was Valente, not Lorca, who was the center of the other book. So I shouldn't write a book about Valente with Lorca, not him, in the title. Valente, whom I admire a great deal, is an inward-looking, "essentialist" poet, like Juan Ramón Jiménez. Lorca is a poet of fractured and Protean sensibility, not the self-contained modernist like JAV. Valente is too much the official poet of my particular "school."

I can really do anything I want in research, so I don't have to worry about scrapping a particular table of contents. If I get a Guggenheim, that's fine. I can still work on the book of the same title, even if the contents have shifted.

So the new book will consist of the following:

What Lorca Knew: [Informative Yet Clever Subtitle]

Chapter 1: Was Lorca a Poetic Thinker?
Chapter 2: The Grain of the Voice: “Play and Theory of the Duende”
Chapter 3: Postmodern Lorca: Motherwell, Strayhorn, García Montero
Chapter 4: Lorca and Contemporary Spanish Poetry: The Anatomy of Influence
Chapter 5: [How, in spite of everything, Lorca has not yet been fully "queered"]
Chapter 6: Lorca Studies: Agenda and Critique

Only one of these chapter is published, so the book will be substantially original. Only one chapter reprises material from AL.

So I will have enough extra articles to buy myself some time while I put together this book. Although I could go a year or two without publishing much I don't feel right about it. I won't be working on the book in Spanish Lorca / modelo para armar. Instead, I will have someone translate What Lorca Knew into Spanish.

Instead of being bummed about my project having shifted shape, I feel re-energized. I will be submitting unsolicited articles again--something I haven't done much of lately. I am ready to kick some [scholarly] ass, so watch out. Mayhew is back and never really went away.


Andrew Shields said...

"Informative But Clever Subtitle": this made me laugh out loud, quite literally. :-)

Jonathan said...

That was what I wanted to do. Make you laugh. [Not you particularly, but anyone.]