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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...

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Talk Concludes!

V.

In both Lorca scholarship and in theatrical homages to Lorca’s legacy, then, there is a tension between the proliferation of multiple “Lorcas” and the centrality of a relatively monolithic Lorca myth. My own approach to Lorca—and to the problem of romantic / modernist individuality that is the topic of this symposium—remains in continual negotiation between these two forces. It is all well and good to question the Lorca myth itself, but without this myth, and the romantic paradigm that underlies it, we wouldn’t be talking about Lorca in the first place, and the we would not have witnessed the marvelously creative proliferation of individuated Lorcas. I have often attempted to call attention to the over-simplifications of Lorquian kitsch, to the grotesque interpretations of his martyrdom and necrology, to the sentimentalities of elegy. In the larger picture, however, it becomes difficult if not impossible to police the boundaries of his legacy, or to have a Lorquian legacy free from sentimentality or kitsch. I have suggested that we remain open to a plurality of perspectives while being wary of oversimplifications, overspecialized approaches, and alibis that move us away from the distinctiveness of his artistic accomplishments.

Lorca subjectivity should not defined by a single explanatory key, such “the conflict between homoexuality and traditional Catholicism.” The problem is not that this view is wholly mistaken, but that it is artificially limiting. Lorca himself, we should remember, rejects monolithic conceptions of his own poetics:
es imprescindible ser uno y ser mil para sentir las cosas en todos sus matices. Hay que ser religioso y profano. Reunir el misticismo de una severa catedral gótica con la maravilla de la Grecia pagana. Verlo todo, sentirlo todo. En la eternidad tendremos el premio de no haber tenido horizontes.
[It is indispensable to be one and to be a thousand so as to feel things in all their nuances. To be religious and profane. To join the mysticism of a severe Gothic cathedral to the marvels of pagan Greece. To see, to feel it all. In eternity we will reap the reward of not having had horizons.]
This conception of Lorca, while authorized by his own words, might be self-serving, in that it simply makes the author over into our own image: a plural, multivocal postmodern subject, the heir to the visionary company of great romantic and modernist poets but uniquely open to multiple readings. In this sense, I may have fallen prey to the same idealizing impulse I have criticized elsewhere.

By the same token, my critique of the “alibis” and displacements of Lorca studies might be subject to a parallel critique. Doesn’t Lorca’s own work invite us to read it “elsewhere,” to interpret it through a series of slippages and displacements? Do we really ever read Lorca for what the texts seem to be saying on the literal level? My final thought, then, is that it impossible to purify the study of Lorca by excluding approaches that displace the meaning of his work onto extraneous concerns. The best we can do is to honor Lorca’s memory by approaching him with the best version of our own subjective experience. In this sense, our postmodern culture will get the Lorca that its deserves.