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The lute lies rusted in its green case odor of pines is synthetic; sweeteners artificial; even salt!  our tongues crave something dif...

Thursday, June 26, 2014


I am taking the rest of the month off from writing, so the poetry has come back. When I write poetry, it comes effortlessly, or not at all. I often write in sequences of short poems, and then revise by taking out the parts that didn't work.

Wheelbarrrow [popular songs]


20,000 wheelbarrows would fit inside your poem
20,000 red wheelbarrows, blue wheelbarrows, green wheelbarrows

But would your poem fit in a wheelbarrow?
How many of them would fit inside one green wheelbarrow?


Surrounding the university is a town
In the town, down the hill from the university
Is the woman I love

Poetry & Music

Poetry and music. Music and poetry.
Poetry music. Music poetry.
And art.
Lipstick, lipstick, and poetry, poetry.
Like you like it.
And lipstick art. Visual art, just for you.
For you, poetry art. Music art. And poetry (of course).
Punctuation art. Punctuation poetry. Punctuation lipstick.
(Just for you, needless to say.)
Art music. (You thought I’d forget that!
Visual music, for you, without lipstick or poetry,
With or without punctuation.
As you please. Punctuated as you like it.
Poetry, did I mention that? Poetry and music? Yes.
[repeat, improvising freely]


one mississippi
two mississippi
we counted the seconds
playing football
in the street
not to rush the passer
too soon
one mississippi
two mississipi
a car would come through
we’d disperse
then re-gather
one mississippi
two mississippi

Garbage Bag / Box

In the box of plastic garbage bags, are forty bags.
Take out one garbage bag, forty boxes of bags would fit in it.
Which fits more? The bag or the box?

Beckett Lorca

Yerma is expecting a son, Godot.
[repeat, or not]


A flat town in a mountainous state
A hilly town in a flat, land-bound state

The Woman I Love

The woman I love wears no red wheelbarrow lipstick,
no poetry lipstick, no music lipstick

The woman I love
wears no punctuation on her lips

no university lipstick, no town lipstick,
no hill lipstick. The woman I love

without art, without music,

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I finished an article that I only knew I was going to write in late April. Of course, upon finishing it I now have lost the feeling of elation that I had when writing it. I still think it's ok, and have the thrill of finishing, but also an uneasiness.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing and Research

It takes me about as long to write something as to finish the footnotes and references. What I usually have to do is go and make a systematic list of every reference that is missing or incomplete, and then go back and fill those in one by one. I might need a book at the library, or an internet reference. This is very hard, tedious work to do, though not intellectually challenging. Precisely because it isn't intellectually engaging, it is tedious. It can be satisfying in the sense that it provides the sensation of completion. The article is not complete until every reference is correctly cited.

Why don't I do it as I go along? Because I am working very fast and intensely on the intellectual part of it. I might know that so-and-so talks about this in such a work, but I don't want to have to interrupt my writing, go to the library, get the book, and put down the page number. That would be very inefficient. I have finished most of the article I'm writing now, and which I started at the end of the semester. It has been laborious by highly pleasing.

I cannot start the phase of checking every reference until I have every sentence more or less written of the body of the text. Then I make a list. One trick I found is to go through the article and write the words "missing reference" every time there is one. Then I can search the document for those words and clean them up one by one.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I deliberately didn't work at all on Saturday, and won't today either, but I had a very intense dream about working out some problems in my article / chapter. There was another American Lorxa play with a very strange title in two parts, that I can't remember anymore. After I woke up, I continued to lie there and work out actual problems on the chapter in my head, leaving behind the dream chapter. As I got into the shower I came up with the idea of Lorca as "patron saint of American theatrical postmodernism" or something like that.


I was in a car with a woman. We were making various stops in order to accomplish errands. She kept trying to start arguments with me but I refused, saying, "We are not a couple. You are trying to fight with me as though we were involved, but we aren't." It was odd, as though she were trying to establish a relationship in purely negative terms, asserting bickering rights that only come with a close emotional connection. (The woman in my dream was not even a real person that I can identify in real life.) Even in an actual relationship, I feel, some partners want to place negatives in the forefront at all time, keeping the involvement mostly at the level of problems. But you only want to work on problems if the relationship itself is something real and valuable.

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Plan

Completion Plan for What Lorca Knew

February, 2014:

Send query to Chicago
1. Introduction
2. What Lorca Knew
5. Anatomy of Influence
6. New York Variations


3. Thirteen Ways (writing complete)
4. Grain of the Voice (complete the writing of).
7. Queering Lorca (get up to 6,000 words).


Take month off.


Work on theater article.


7. “A Poet’s Theater”—finish 1st draft of article with all “body of the text” complete.


Finish Theater article: all references complete.
4. Grain of the Voice (translations and footnotes).


7. Expand theater article into chapter: all references complete.
8. Queering Lorca (finish writing; translations and footnotes).


Epilogue: “Elegy for Lorca Studies.”
Write talk version of “Elegy for Lorca Studies.”
Query publishers


Travel. Take time off from writing.


3. Thirteen Ways (translations and footnotes).


Extra time.
Submit Manuscript.

My Most Brilliant Article

I really think what I'm writing now is my most brilliant article ever. I'm not saying that to brag (actually yes I am, but that's not the point), but to point out that you should always feel that way, about the article you are now writing, if you are doing it right. This won't always happen, but if this never happens you need to shake things up a a bit.

I began by thinking it would be a kind of descriptive one, a kind of traditional influence study, but it is turning out to be much better than that. I am really surprising myself here.

*It is funny.
*It is one of my first and only articles not on poetry per se. I can only think of one more off the top of my head.
*Thus it draws on things I never thought I would use in an academic article. For example, Breaking Bad. Now all my hours of watching that are not in vain. They have become tax deductible.
*I can now envision myself as a theater scholar. I now realize that I can use certain of my writerly talents to talk about things specific to the theater, in ways that I couldn't with lyric poetry.
*It disproves an implicit assumption I had in Apocryphal Lorca. So I have the pleasure of proving myself wrong.
*Often, you can be brilliant in parts of a research project that seem more routine or mundane. I wish I could teach other people that.
*It has the wonderful feedback loop of being able to comment on a work written by someone who read my own previous scholarship.
*It has Billy fucking Strayhorn in it!
*It has a kind of density of reference and insight, where I can cram a lot into every page.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I guess my background in the theater is stronger than I thought. I remember my theater course as an undergraduate and I think we went through the basics, like Ibsen's naturalism, Strindberg, Beckett, all that jazz. Albee and Ionescu came to talk in Davis when I was in school. Senior year I took graduate course on Spanish theater. I know I read Eliot's plays in high school, and Yeats. My dad had a complete set of the Greek tragedians. I re-read them in my 30s too. I've taught Lorca and Valle-Inclán, seen productions of Buero Vallejo in Spain.

I could say I haven't forgotten anything, but there's stuff I've forgotten and rushes back to me, and other things I don't even know I've forgotten, because you can't prove a negative.

I remember specific things I learned in a class in 1978. How can that even be? A specific question I had about a monologue from Godot, and what the professor said. I remember we disagreed about whether the monologue was a critique of language or not, but I can't remember which side of the debate I was on.


I know Thomas has blogged recently about pleasure and pain. I will take today about pleasure.

If you don't write with delectation your reader will feel none. If you are bored with your topic, your reader will feel your boredom--your pain, whatever it is that you feel, she will feel it too.

Taking pleasure. Well, look at the play I wrote yesterday, playing hooky from my scholarly writing. That was fun and I don't care whether anyone else likes the final result.

The first thing: take pleasure in the raw materials. What you have chosen to write about has value and interest to you. It could be the pleasure of finding something egregiously bad or stupid, even.

Take pleasure in the level of engagement with the material. You are enjoying your spending of the time in this company. With this engagement, you lose a sense of your self as separate from the material.

Take pleasure in the final result, your ability to make something valuable and pleasurable to other people. Write pleasure-giving sentences.


Now I can't tell you to take pleasure in something. Imagine a father telling the child: you will not only listen to this musical recital, but you will ENJOY it. What I am saying is that if you aren't enjoying it, something is amiss.

What impedes pleasure?

*Focus on the ego. Am I good enough? Look how smart I am!
*Focus on rewards / punishments, external factors. Will this be published? Will it lead to promotion?
*Focus on work conditions, everything in academic life that makes you miserable. You let that affect the work itself.

It could be that you have to work unhappily, deriving little pleasure from your work, because these other factors conspire to drain your scholarly work of all enjoyment. What is more, I think this happens for most people, almost everyone at some point. What I am trying to suggest is that scholarly bliss indeed exists and is worth pursuing.


Some never achieve the level of proficiency needed. Some take joy in their own inferior work. More power to them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Dead are Notoriously Hard to Satisfy: A Short Play

(The Stage is Dark. Salvador Dalí steps out from stage left. His mustache is real but looks ostentatiously fake. He is gradually illuminated with yellowish-green light. Several Buster Keatons ride across the stage behind him on mountain bikes.)

DALÍ: "The dead are notoriously hard to satisfy." So wrote Federico in his preface to Jack Spicer's After Lorca, but really...

(MAYHEW rushes in from stage right. He is dressed in Lorca's mono azul. All the KEATONS have crashed by now). The light has changed to purple.

MAYHEW: You're getting it all wrong! That's not what the duende is! Haven't you read my book, Salvador? Why am I ignored? Buster should have been riding a horse, not the anachronistic bike invented by my father's friend, the sociologist John Finley Scott.

ALBEE: (from off stage. Tango music is heard.). As the civil war was reaching its terrible climax, all the artists had left Spain, save one, Friedrich Lorca y Gasset, a distant cousin of Debussy. Lorca's friends, Jack Spicer and Allen Ginsberg, urged him to escape to the Coney Island of the mind, a province near Argentina.

He could have had his choice of Cadillac Granada or a Ford Cordoba. Lorca was GAY, after all... I bet you didn't know that (ALBEE continues to rant incoherently about Lorca; his voice gradually fades away as MAYHEW turns a large imaginary dial clockwise.)

MAYHEW (chanting in a kind of mumbling way): Who's afraid of García Lorca? Of García Lorca? Of García Lorca? Who's afraid of García Lorca? Not me, not me, not me.

(LORCA descends from the ceiling in a bow tie.)

LORCA: (condescendingly, in a French accent) Zees play has no dramatic tension. Have you learned nosingg from my drama-turgie? To seet around and argue foolishly about me, as iv zat mattered. My characters do not just zit around and do nosingg like zis... Also, all the characters in this play are men! Where is Margarita Xirgú? Where is my navaja?

(Enter BECKETT and KENNETH KOCH from opposite ends of the stage. MAYHEW AND DALÍ are arm-wrestling on a table they have set up.)

BECKETT: Excuse, me Lorca, this is not true. From your Yerma, a play about a woman waiting forever to have a baby that never comes...

KOCH (with Irish brogue): And from When Five Years Come, about an impossible wait by sexually confused young man...

BECKETT: And from Doña Rosita, a spinster studying the language of flowers and missing a boyfriend who will never return. From these plays I formed the idea of writing Waiting for Godot, a play in which nothing really happens. It was Lorca, after all, who invented the "theater of the absurd" in "Buster Keaton's stroll" in 1928.

(All the characters freeze in reflective poses. THE COWARDLY LION enters, takes off his Lion suit, and dresses up as LUCKY from Godot. SHAW, YEATS, STRINDBERG, CHEKHOV, ARTHUR MILLER with DIMAGGIO and MARYLYN, SOPHOCLES, IBSEN, LOPE DE VEGA, RACINE, and BARAKA enter one by one from multiple angles and start cleaning up the stage. One of them carries Lorca off stage in a fireman's carry. MAYHEW awakens from his dogmatic slumber and begins to take notes in small black notebook. The curtain falls. No flamenco music is heard.)

MAYHEW (speaking with an indefinable accent from offstage): The dead are notoriously hard to satisfy. Who IS afraid of Virginia Woolf, really? Who's afraid of Jack Spicer, of Allen ... (voice fades out; thunderous canned applause)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

4 against 5 polyrhythm

There will be a total of 20 beats, five measure of 4/4 time.


1234 1234 1234 1234 1234

Accent every 1, that will be your five.

1... 1... 1... 1... 1 ...

Then your four will be

1..... 2..... 3..... 4....

Put it together: 1 / 12 / 1 3 /1 4/1

All the ones will be in one hand, and the 1,2,3,4 in the other. It's about the hardest rhythm I know how to play, except one where I play the six / eight cowbell against the same rhythm half as fast.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cordoba & Arrogance

Bound for Córdoba in the fall to give a talk at a modernism conference. But chance, it is in English. It will be called "An Elegy for Lorca Studies." I almost said a "Requiem for Lorca Studies."

These cities first came into my consciousness as names of automobiles. The Seville is a Cadillac. The Granada a Ford, and the Cordoba a Chrysler, so each of the big three Detroit companies had an Andalusian city car, with the connotation of luxury and Southern exoticism or Latin charm. (There was also a suburb in my town called Rancho Cordova.)


Kenneth Koch has a one-page play about the death of Lorca in Seville. This is too funny because everyone knows Lorca met his death outside Granada. Americans can't seem to get anything right about Lorca. Whether this error is deliberate or not I have no clue. It's almost not funny enough to be joke, but too obviously wrong not to be.


I just decided that I will also be big-name expert on Lorca's theater, leveraging my position as one of the main Lorca poetry scholars. How can I decide this? That sounds pretty arrogant, but all it would take is for me to write about the theater as well. It's not as though theater is so esoteric that it would take me five years to train myself in it. There are good scholars doing work in this area, and I think I can do work that is of comparable quality.


There's a beer I order sometimes called Arrogant Bastard. There is a useful humility and a harmful humility. The same way, there is a useful confidence as well as a useless form of confidence which goes by the name of arrogance.

Useful humility: you know that you can make a mistake, that you don't know everything, and that other people have strengths that are not yours.

Useless humility: the kind that makes you unable to perform. Suppose you were trying to do some absurd bicycle trick flipping over five times. You have to think that you can nail it or you will kill yourself. Of course, you still might kill yourself. If you can't envision yourself doing something, that you won't be able to do it.

Useful confidence, then, is the secure knowledge that you have the tools to do what you want to do. It should almost be factual: I have this much time on my hands, this knowledge of the subject-matter, this particular ability to understand and analyze, etc...

I heard Julia's summer audition tape recently. I told her that she made it sound easy, like she was playing it how she wanted, without struggling to get to a higher level. She said people told her she played "like she didn't give a shit," meaning not a lack of effort or engagement, but a kind self-confidence. There were minor imperfections but in the context of a fluent flow of notes.

Useless arrogance is mistaking your own excellence for some deep-seated superiority. An ability to do something well is just that, and nothing more. It doesn't make you better than someone else, just better at doing that one thing, that you can do better.


On the other hand, I think everyone should find something to do as well as possible. Why do we place such a high value on people who can do something better than someone else? The race may not be to the swift in every case, but sometimes it is. Sports is entertaining not just because of the entertainment value of the action, but because people really like to experience the struggle for excellence, whether directly or vicariously.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Poets’ Theater
From Prometheus in Granada to Lorca in a Green Dress

A remarkable lyric poet, Federico García Lorca also happens to be the best-known Spanish playwright after Calderón de la Barca. Only a handful of European playwrights of the twentieth century—Brecht, Beckett, Pirandello—have a firmer place in the canon. It would seem, however, that Lorca’s poetry has been far more influential than his drama in the US. American poets from Langston Hughes to Larry Sawyer have brought enormous creative energy to Lorca’s work in their translations, adaptations, and apocrypha. A whole school of poetry, identified with the concept of the “deep image,” was directly inspiried by Lorca, and the duende has become a cliché of creative writing 101. In research for Apocryphal Lorca, however, I did not find a parallel effort among dramatists: Lorca’s influence on the American theater seemed far more dispersed, ephemeral, and fragmentary.

Although the modes of cultural transmission for Lorca’s poetics of the theater may be more difficult to define, my subsequent research suggests that his influence on the American stage has been both profound and pervasive. My surprising conclusion, though, is that Lorca influences American playwrights as much through his lyric poetry as through his dramaturgy. Playwrights from Tennessee Williams to Adrienne Kennedy took inspiration from his poeic theater, but it is Lorca the poet who emerges most often on the American stage.

A detailed account of the translation of Lorca’s plays into English, and of the production of Lorca plays on the American stage, are necessary projects, but my chief interest here is in the creative re-visioning of Lorca by American playwrights and directors. This article will consider an examplary performance of Lorca’s Don Perlimplín on the New York stage in the nineteen fifties, the influence of Lorquian dramaturgy on playwrights from Tennessee Williams to Adrienne Kennedy and Sam Shepard, and the more direct presentation of the figure of Lorca himself in a wide variety of plays, including Edward Albee’s The Lorca Play, Nilo Cruz’s Lorca in a Green Dress, and Sam Creely’s Barbarous Nights.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Narrative Rhyme

A playwright I reached out to because of his play about Loa, and it turns out he read and very much liked Apocryphal Lorca in college. He is related to one of the poets I studied in that book. Could my book have influenced a work of literature that will be included in my second book on the same topic?


I guess the word for this is O'Henry plot twists? Feedback loops? Things coming full circle? I know these various stories are different, but they share a common element somehow. Maybe we can call this narrative rhyme.


I was in a public place and saw two men at ten minute intervals, unrelated and unconnected to each other, it would seem, who both had large bandages on their fingers or hands. The beginning of a novel occurred to me: a stranger arrives in a train station and notices that there is a pattern of injuries, taped or bandaged hands. He starts asking questions, but is met with stony silence or evasion. This same fact could be treated as a mere triviality: after all, people do injure their hands sometimes! or as a pattern: what causes the conjunction of so many similar injuries in the same place? The stranger could be a detective, or else someone there for some purpose unrelated to the injuries. To explain the injuries would be banal, eliminating all mystery. In fact, the explanation is fairly obvious, (some shared pastime or local industry that is hard on the hands?) though wanting to know this explanation brings an inherent risk. The end of the novel has the stranger leaving the town, several years later, with heavily bandaged hands.


That is another kind of literary or novelistic reasoning: seeing a pattern out of seemingly isolated events. Making a rhyme out of two strangers seen in a coffee shop.


Imagine at a coffee shop. Two women sitting together, looking like graduate students. One a bit heavy, has a baseball cap, over long and unstyled hair, neither curly nor straight, no jewelry, glasses with heavy black frames, no makeup. Nondescript clothes. Fingernails and toenails, however, are painted an extremely intense shade of violet or purple. Something here does not seem to rhyme. The toes, in flip flops, rhyme with the fingers, but not with the remainder of her appearance. She has a beautifully patterned decorative scarf around her chest. A bad novelist would probably make her all dowdy or all fingernail polish. There is a rhyme, though, in what does not rhyme. The explanation is simple: she has indulged herself with manicure and pedicure, at the same shop, but this does not change her general attitude of wanting to hide her face from view.


Then this post of mine tries to rhyme all these stories and descriptions. There is no common thread except if you want there to be. The similarity is in the observer, not the things observed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

How Social Media Work

So a group of people have an #endfathersday hash tag on twitter. They are probably MRA trolls trying to start something with the feminists.

So of course there are the outraged people saying, look how awful the feminists are!

Then it is pointed out that the whole hashtag is just a bit of trolling. No feminist was actually involved.

Then the inevitable response is: the fact we even thought it was real shows how bad the feminists are! The fact we fooled ourselves with our own trolling shows that we are right.

One More Idea

Here is an idea for someone else to work with, since I might not have time. Lorca under Franquismo. The null hypo is that Lorca was simply suppressed and distorted during this period, so you would have to prove that the situation is more complex than that.


I feel I have the smarts today. I have been working pretty well since school let out, and it's taken about a month to regain the full measure of my intellectual capacity.

I say this simply because this would be a good time for you to suggest something to me or ask me a question. I'm no manic-depressive, but I am definitely manic today. I am manic enough to feel brilliant, which is obviously immodest of me.


Ok, here's another idea: I will take my earlier idea about the fragmentation of the Lorca field, and add to that the relatively unitary idea of Lorca, compounded around two or three major clichés.

These two things seem to be in contradiction, but they are not.

Explain why.


1) With the field so fragmented, isolated work on one aspect or another of Lorca will not have any effect on the total image of the author. Nobody will pay attention unless they are working on exact same, sub-sub specialty.

2) Both are cause or effect of hypercanonical status. The charismatic overall image of Lorca: his death, his charisma, the duende. The hyper-detailed nature of scholarship: he is so significant that no detail is too small. Lorca's commas.

3) The field is bad in a kind of structural way. There are really excellent people in the field, and those who know more about Lorca than I do. But the weakness of the field is structural.

So what I am working toward is:

1) A more general view of Lorca, not hyperspecialized but not introductory. More like an "elegy for Lorca studies." Something that makes major claims without reinterpreting each play and poem.

2) A critique of the kitsch of the duende, but one that takes the duende seriously, its romantic lineage, etc...

3) Just, generally, I want to kick some ass the way Lorca's kicked mine.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stroll or ride?

Spicer translates "feísimos" as "most faithful." This means "ugly," derived from feo, not fiel. The absolute superlative would be "fidelísimo." It is easy to see how Spicer saw a word and mistook it for "fielísimos."

On the other hand, a play on the idea of "faithful" translation?

Spicer has the sense to translated El paseo de Buster Keaton as a "ride" rather than a stroll. You see, paseo can mean a stroll, or a car ride, or a bicycle ride, etc... In Lorca's play, Buster Keaton is on a bicycle. So this simple detail he gets right, whereas many translators unthinkingly call it "Buster Keaton's Stroll." You cannot take a "stroll" on a bike, sorry.

Barbarous Nights

I found another Lorxa* play:
In BARBAROUS NIGHTS, Buster Keaton falls out of his film and into a poetic world, a 1930s both future and past. Grapefruit roll through the sand like tumbleweed. The streets are filled with optical shops. There, a rush of travelers -- a blind maiden struggling with the length of her dress, her nigh Victorian mother, a ridiculously attractive man peddling feathers -- float through Buster's nights like a dream as his sanity and the stoic stone face that made him famous start to crumble.”
This is one of the "funnest" articles I've written.


*I've decided to use the word "Lorxa" for Lorca derivatives.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Beckett / Lorca

I first read Beckett in Ruby Cohn's modern drama class in college. I know we read Godot. I had some notion of Beckett but hadn't read his fiction. There were some performances of Beckett at UC Davis, too, when I was there. I remember people complaining that the works were too difficult. I disagreed.

Cohn was what you might call a descriptive critic. Not impressive as an intellect at all. She was a Beckett specialist though.

I remember reading an article or book-chapter by Perloff discussing Ill Seen Ill Said. I discovered a whole new Beckett here, because, because of its success, Godot had become a bit of a cliché. The most famous play of the most famous playwright of the most influential mid-century movement in drama: the theater of the absurd. At one time I actually memorized great portions of Beckett's short novel, and of a play called "Ohio Impromptu."

I did publish an article [partially] on Beckett around 2007.

Now I'm comparing Beckett and Lorca as influences on US theater. It's no contest, really, because SB is the most famous and influential dramatist of the most renowned movement of the period. While I hate that people only know Godot, this play is just emblematic of a whole existentialist / absurdist movement. But Lorca turns out to be almost everywhere you look too, in a less systematic way. Though it also turns out the playwrights read his poetry as much as they do his drama.

Clarissa Kicks Ass Again

How I get by.

The Research Continues

Adrienne Kennedy:

“After I read and saw Blood Wedding I changed my ideas about what a play was. Ibsen, Chekhov, O’Neill, and even Williams fell away. Never again would I try to set a play in ‘living room,’ never again would I be afraid to have my characters talk in a nonrealistic way, and would abandon the realistic set for a greater dream setting. It was a turning point.”

In other words, what is known in the theater as "naturalism."

Monday, June 9, 2014

The problem with alt-ac

Ok, the problem is having a mistaken notion of how things work. Suppose you want to be an X. What I tell people who want to be an X is, find an X, or a group of them, and then see how they got to be that. So you first have to decide what you want to be when you grow up, and then figure out how to get there. That's the reverse engineering approach.

Now the other way of thinking is the following. You take a particular kind of education or training, and then see what people with that training go on to do. So that is the idea of "what do you do with a degree in Y?"

If you want to be an English professor, say, then you would take the first approach, and figure out that such professors got PhDs in English. That works. But not in reverse because that's necessary, but not sufficient.

But if you really have your mind set to be an X (not English PhD), then a PhD in English is not the best route (unless you find some other field dominated by PhDs in English).

Suppose there is some other job market there for PhDs in English where it is easier for a PhD in English to get a job. What sector of the job market is that, exactly, that would employ more PhDs than academia does? I suspect the market for alt-ac jobs would be just as competitive, if we are talking about any good job. It's great to help people find jobs, of whatever type, but the alt-ac movement feels to me like a siphoning off of excess production, while watering down the PhD itself. So it's like saying we will give you a watered down PhD (with even less chance of an academic job, since your PhD has watered down) that may or may not make you suitable to a competitive and nebulous job market doing other, unspecified things with your PhD, things that don't require that degree. I think an MA is great: it only takes a few years, and gives some of those graduate level skills. It can be in a directly career-oriented program, or in a humanities program that doesn't lead to any direct job title. If you study for an MA in humanities, then you should still know what you want to be when you grow up and reverse-engineer your education, rather than asking "what can I do with that".

File Drawer

The "file drawer problem" is common one. Suppose you have a null hypothesis. You are unlikely to get research published which merely confirms a null hypothesis. Suppose you want to prove that seeing television violence makes little kids more violent, or more insensitive to violence. A researcher might have done 8 experiments, but only one with a result debunking the null hypothesis. That study is published, and the results from the other seven go in the file drawer. So the desired result shows a significant correlation, but the other data is never even seen.


In the humanities this is not a problem, because the data is always cherry-picked. So suppose I want to show that Lorca had a significant impact on US drama. The null hypothesis is that he didn't. I can prove this false by accumulating enough evidence, enough isolated examples, to make an interesting 20 page article. I can show that at least five award-winning dramatists have acknowledged Lorca in very direct ways: Baraka, Kennedy, Albee, Shepard, T. Williams, N. Cruz. The fact that someone has won some awards is rather trivial, right? But that is a measure of recognition that is outside of my subjective judgment. It is someone else, not just me, saying that these are playwrights of note.

It is up to me not just to count examples, but to construct an argument, finding patterns. Once again, I can ignore all the Arthur Millers who have not been influenced by Lorca. Sometimes I feel I am doing some special pleading, but in the end I have to be honest with myself too, and figure out whether I believe my own argument, or how strongly I want to push it. When I began I wanted to show how Lorca was not influential in the American theater, and why. It would be an interesting article, and unusual in arguing for a null hypothesis. As I learned more, however, I discovered I was wrong. There was more to the story than I had suspected. This article is not for the file drawer.


I am a in a moment of transition. I must find a new place to live soon. I am thinking seriously of going out on the job market full speed ahead in the next year, or of moving to an administrative position. I've had a serious personal disappointment recently, but I think it just is going to allow me to kick ass even more in all aspects of my life. Watch out!


Some classic academic smackdown here:
Gelman: You write, “like everyone else I think that honesty is the best policy.” No, that’s not true. Not everyone thinks that honesty is the best policy. Marc Hauser did not think honesty was the best policy. He thought the best policy was to publish statements that he knew were false, to make up data and to falsely describe his data collection. Diederik Stapel did not think honesty was the best policy. Jonah Lehrer did not think honesty was the best policy. Dr. Anil Potti did not think honesty was the best policy. Etc etc etc. Lots and lots of people don’t think honesty is the best policy.
qtd from LL but you can also go back to Andrew Gelman's blog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Questions for JM:3, 4. 5

Is this bridge a secret?

Do some people know this secret?

Did Lorca know?

I have to answer these three questions as a group. I'm assuming Thomas knows my book has the the What Lorca Knew, so the last question, did Lorca know, I would conceptualize as "what did he know?" How do we categorize for this as knowledge. The main word in Spanish we use for this is conocimiento.

Is the bridge a secret? Is poetic knowledge, in general, secret knowledge or shared knowledge? Because I am using Gadamer as my theoretical base, I am assuming that poetry is sharable. In other words, it can't ever be a question of only one poet incommunicado to the world, or of only one reader who truly understands.

There are arcane or recondite dimensions to poetics. It is also assumed that not everyone will understand. So some "know," some do not.

I am assuming there is value to poetics, that it is not there just to be explained away as a symptom of something else, so my work would differ from conventional "cultural studies" which reduces culture to a kind of political barometer of some other, more significant thing. Yet I don't believe in naive versions of poetics, a kind of romantic attitude that stands in awe before the duende, or whatever. I realize either of those two positions would be easier, in a sense.

Questions for JM:2

"Is there a 'subtle bridge' that joins the senses to the living flesh?"

Once again, this question is phrased as an existential one. Does this exist? Once again, I would rephrase this as a question of meaningfulness. How seriously should we take the metaphorical language in which Lorca speaks of his poetics? It might be helpful to see the context of the phrase:
Recordad el caso de la flamenquísima y enduendada Santa Teresa, flamenca no por atar un toro furioso y darle tres pases magníficos, que lo hizo; no por presumir de guapa delante de fray Juan de la Miseria ni por darle una bofetada al Nuncio de Su Santidad, sino por ser una de las pocas criaturas cuyo duende (no cuyo ángel, porque el ángel no ataca nunca) la traspasa con un dardo, queriendo matarla por haberle quitado su último secreto, el puente sutil que une los cinco sentidos con ese centro en carne viva, en nube viva, en mar viva, del Amor libertado del Tiempo.
The five senses: Lorca had written earlier that the poet should be a professor of the five bodily senses. Here he uses the sensory aspect of poetry in a different way, linking it to the mysticism of Santa Teresa de Ávila.

So yes, there is a subtle bridge between the sensory and a more mystical sense of the body. In other words, this is a meaningful way of talking about something of great importance.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Questions for JM: 1

Apparently I have some questions to answer.

First of all, thanks to Thomas for the questions. I am obviously writing an entire book to answer these and similar questions, but it is always helpful to have them posed by someone else. I don't necessarily identify with the way in which they are posed, but this is actually a good thing.

Do you believe in duende?

I believe that people use the term in a way that is meaningful to them. An analogy might be the word "pocket" in drumming. I believe musicians recognize when a drummer is playing "in the pocket," or has a "deep pocket." It is semi-mystical, because it is a subjective "feel" and not an absolute measurement, but I think it has a subjective reality that cannot be disdained. The duende is not the pocket, but it is in the same category of terms. You can probably think of other concepts similar to this if you try hard enough.

Usually, the "do you believe in ... " question is not asked of things that really exist in a tangible way. So, "Do you believe in Canada" is nonsense question for most people. Everyone believes that there is a country called Canada. So you would be likely to interpret the question as "Do you believe Canada has a promising future as a nation state?" By the same token, assuming that the God Odin does not exist, "Do you believe in Odin" is a nonsense question of a different sort. It is not really a question of believing whether Odin exists, or not, but of worshipping him. If you worship a deity, then the existence is kind of subsumed under that, not vice-versa. By the same token, I think the question of whether someone believes in "God" is rather question begging. What does one mean by God in that question, exactly? A whole theology already has to be in place for the question to even make sense. Another way of saying this is that in any religious practice, the language used in that practice is meaningful and hence possessing a subjective reality to practitioners. So the Dharma could be as real as the pocket. The mistake is giving those concepts empirical existence outside of the frames in which they are meaningful.

There are a category of things that might or might not exist, and in that case it makes sense to ask whether tbose things exist. For example, I do not believe the original Lorca poem for Creeley's "After Lorca" exists. In other words, I do not believe his poem is the translation of an actually existing poem written by Lorca. That is an empirical question, and hence my belief could be falsified if someone found documentation for this poem. That is the most meaningful way to talk about the existence of things.

I've gotten off on a tangent, but not really. Asking whether duende or the pocket exist is asking, really, whether people who use language like this use it in a meaningful way. I believe that yes, they do, and hence I believe in the duende, but I do not worship it. In other words, I do not confuse an aesthetic practice with an empirical reality that has an absolute existence outside of that context.