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Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Our library here has almost 200 volumes starting with the call number PQ6085, beginning with After the War and ending with a book by Concha Zardoya. Basically, this is my territory, twentieth century Spanish poetry. i know personally many of the authors in this section of the category; my own book is there as well, one of my books. Have I read all these 200 books? No, but I should basically know what they are if I claim to be a specialist. Some I've not only read but reviewed in print. Many are on my own personal shelves as well. I've spent a lot of time in the library just looking at that section and imagining what I could contribute to it. I want to be the Master of the domain of PQ6085... or something like that. That's my turf, my neighborhood and bailiwick.

That's one way of conceptualizing your work: where on the library shelf would it end up? The authors on that shelf will be your influences, your friends and enemies, your reviewers. Go a little further away you'll find more specialized books on Spanish poetry in PQ6073... Studies of individual Spanish authors will cover the rest of the PQ6000s. Latin American is PQ7000 and PQ8000.

The call number for Apocryphal Lorca starts with PS159.S7. (PS is American literature.) Here I'm with a few other books that compare American literature with literature from the Spanish speaking world. There is plenty of room on that shelf to make a contribution, since there are only 3 or 4 books there.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I like this exercise. It helps you (ap)perceive your finitude. An important aspect of the formation of scholarly expertise is the passage from a perception of your field as a vast and amorphous "body of knowledge" to a perception of your field as a "distributed network of exchanges" between scholars, i.e., a particular set of relations between particular persons and particular texts, whose names (and dates of publication) you know.

Imagining this network by way of the call numbers in your library is certainly useful. Your field is not (vaguely) "what is known" but a (definite) group of people "who know". In what sense, you can then ask yourself, are you one of those people?