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Friday, November 30, 2012

What I wrote in the last three days

Would you read a book that started out like this?

Introduction: Lorca / modelo para armar

Apocryphal Lorca: Translation, Parody, Kitsch (2009) is “not a book about the Spanish poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca” but, rather, an exploration of Lorca’s problematic reception among poets in the US, including Jack Spicer, Robert Creeley, and Frank O’Hara (xi). In this sequel, What Lorca Knew: Lorquian Poetics for the Twenty-First Century, the subject is, once again, the poetic afterlife of one of the great poets of European modernism. In this case, I have written a book that is more directly about Lorca, but my focus remains on his lasting presence in literary culture. Instead of limiting my scope to American poetry, I have chosen a set of critical problems relating to his critical and poetic reception in his native Spain, and to the academic industry devoted to his work around the world.

Unlike many other books on Lorca, What Lorca Knew does not consist of interpretations or explications of individual plays or books of poetry. Precisely because other capable scholars and critics have dealt adequately with his major achievements, I do not think another volume of this type is the most urgent task at the present moment—at least not for a critic of my particular disposition. I have not put forward new interpretations of Romancero gitano or Bodas de sangre, works that have been studied in great detail by countless other scholars. Instead, I have examined various dimensions of his ongoing cultural legacy, with particular attention to the ways in which his poetry is re-imagined in “hermeneutical situations” of multiple kinds.

These situations are, in principle, endlessly varied, but I have chosen three main areas of concentration. My primary interest is in Lorca’s poetics, especially as they take shape in his lectures on Flamenco music, Spanish folklore, and the duende. My aim here is to treat Lorquian poetics as the self-conscious construction of a poet who knew what he was doing, rather than as an anti-intellectual and naïve genius. Having defined “what Lorca knew,” my second aim is to study the ongoing influence of Lorquian poetics in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, with particular attention to his influence on two rival schools of contemporary Spanish poetry, whose uses of Lorca are diametrically opposed. I also remain interested in the larger cultural uses of Lorquian poetics, both in Spain and in the United States. Thirdly, I am interested in the academic reception of Lorca in relation to this poetic and cultural legacy: my hermeneutic construction of Lorca’s self-conscious poetics requires that I, too, be self-conscious of my own position as an academic specialist in the field.

Together with Apocryphal Lorca, What Lorca Knew forms part of an ongoing larger project that I am calling Lorca / modelo para armar [Lorca / model to construct]. There may be additional volumes in this series as well. The title comes from a novel by Julio Cortázar, 62 / modelo para armar, which in turn is derived from Chapter 62 of Rayuela [Hopscotch]. The idea here, quite simply, is that an author like Federico García Lorca is a construction rather than a truth or essence to be discovered. This assertion should hardly be controversial, but it leads to some surprising conclusions. The hermeneutical enterprise does not lead to a better understanding of who Lorca “really was,” but to an open-ended exploration of what he might mean for us.

The hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer provides a way of understanding the ongoing legacy of a hyper-canonical figure like Lorca, who presents interpretative problems of dizzying complexity. Because Lorca has been the object of endless translation, transformation, and commentary, he...


Clarissa said...

I would definitely read it. This is a great introduction because it grabs a reader's interest from the start and makes her want to keep reading. Very clear, very engaging, and it made me realize that I need to rewrite my own introduction from scratch.

Writing introductions is very very difficult because it's hard for me to cut away all the fluff and just say what I want to say directly. This introduction is a great example of how to do that.

Jonathan said...

Thanks! I realize I was fishing for compliments... I guess that's ok to do once in a while.

Clarissa said...

I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it.

It's great how your work contributes to creating one big, important whole. It's like creating a building from different small parts.

My work is kind of all over the place. Maybe I need to look for an organizing idea, too.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I would read and I would also give a class with it. Class, for seniors and MA students, on doing literary criticism. The author would be Lorca and we would read a bunch-o-criticism.

Thomas said...

i would read it, but only because it announces that the author of this book is the author of AL. Frankly, however, I don't think starting a book with how it follows from another book (even if it is a sequel to it) is a good strategy. I also don't like the way it tells us what the book is not about. (In AL the sentence you quote worked well because it was an ironic allusion to the title.)

I think you are right that you need to be self-conscious. But I don't think your writing needs to be self-referential.

Here's how I would start the book:

Julio Cortázar's novel 62 / modelo para armar was derived from, or, perhaps more precisely, made out elements from Chapter 62 of his preceding novel, Rayuela [Hopscotch]. As the title suggests, it is a "model kit", something to be constructed...[here I would unpack the way 62 is "constructive", etc.] Still more precisely, then, it is the kit from out of which chapter 62 of Hopscotch was made.

[I know nothing about this, and Wikipedia wasn't very helpful.]

I have written this book as model kit too. I believe that an author like Federico García Lorca is a construction rather than a truth or essence to be discovered. This assertion should hardly be controversial, but it leads to some surprising conclusions. The hermeneutical enterprise does not lead to a better understanding of who Lorca “really was,” but to an open-ended exploration of what he might mean for us.

Anonymous said...

Disagree with Thomas but maybe it is because I am in field but not subfield. If I did not know AL and picked up this book, it would be useful to know it was a follow-on.

Jonathan said...

Thanks (to both of you). Obviously I will make my own decisions, but hearing what other people think if always illuminating.

Thomas said...

@profacero: I'm not saying Jonathan shouldn't inform the reader about the connection between the two books. In fact, that's the point of starting with the account of how 62 and Hopscotch go together. A paragraph about AL is definitely in its place. I was answering Jonathan's specific question about how to start the introduction, not what it should contain. So we agree that the information is useful.