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Friday, March 28, 2014

Is "Lorca Studies" a Functioning Field?*

I would say yes, on some level. The people who do basic biographical and bibliographical and textual criticism are cited by almost everyone. So everyone recognizes the importance of Andrew Anderson's definitive critical edition of Poeta en Nueva York. There is a core group of people at the center of this, like Anderson, Maurer, Soria Olmedo. I myself am not a Lorca specialist in this sense, though these people do read my work, for example.

The rest of the field is in overlapping circles, but sometimes there will not be much overlap. What defines these circles is geography (European vs. American), critical approach, genre (poetry vs. theater), etc... A narrow project will have to cite only a fraction of existing criticism. Also, there could be preferences for citing more recent work.

There will be gaps in even the best work. To cite everything in every project would be paralyzing. On the other hand, I have to cite a lot of things just to be legit in making a case for what Lorca studies ought to strive for.

I would hope that the circles would overlap enough to make the field functional.

Another question is the existence of a lot of work of really low quality in the field. I'm thinking that is not as bad a problem as it was, but I'm not sure. A bad talk in a conference about Lorca will be worse than a bad talk about anything else. A bad book about Lorca will be worse than other bad books on other subjects. This might be the function of sheer quantity, or something that makes Lorca attractive to unintelligent people. It is interesting in terms of the social epistemology of the field. What Lorca Knew means also What do we know about Lorca. How we know it, how we justify our knowledge, what we are trying to discover about him.

*To answer a question posed by Vance in comments on an earlier post.


Vance Maverick said...

Thanks for this (which you didn't owe to me, obviously, J. Random Kibitzer). It does suggest how one might choose between citing whatever one feels like and trying to cite the whole field. Do you take this on in introductory matter? It wouldn't have to be aggressive, just an explicit act of choice and orientation.

Jonathan said...

It was more for me than for you, honestly. It's something that's been on my mind. I have to justify why I am writing a book when there are more than 100 already on this author. And it's my second one. I have to justify not writing about that many works by the author, and not citing every damn thing either. I do this a bit in the preface, but I think I'll be ok if I cite more than most people do. I may even spend another two months just beefing up the documentation.

Vance Maverick said...

Aformative experience for me was the International Computer Music Conference of 1991, at McGill, where I gave a paper. It came out in conversations at the margins that, as far as anyone could tell, nothing had been rejected. There were some really embarrassing papers there -- obvious CV-padding exercises for computer scientists, and crankish reinventions of the wheel by lone tinkerers. Let Lorca studies be not so.