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Friday, June 28, 2013

Still here

I'm still here. I decided to give my self a break from exceptionalism, and start a commissioned article on the poetry of Olvido García Valdés, an article I'm writing in Spanish.

Once July 1 comes I will work on Barcelona course for study abroad and return to cultural exceptionalism.

I decided that OGV's poetry exemplifies something highly valued in the humanities: the toleration of a high degree of ambiguity. I say tolerance because this does not come naturally. Students tend to want clear-cut answers to things, while humanities professors tend to emphasize fuzzier ways of thinking. This can be frustrating, because, what does this professor want? Not his answer, but the student's answer. It is difficult because not everything goes: there is a requirement for precision in writing. Yet it is easy to see how the student will just say, if everything is subjective, why is not my answer acceptable? Olvido's poetry is a very precise description of a very ambiguous and difficult to define set of subjective experiences. Of course, how do you know it's precise if you don't know what the original experience is? That's the paradox.

I'm approaching it through prosody, in the first place. The prosody avoids easy rhetorical effects, symmetrical rhythms. Also, there is a heightened attention to the prosody of the world, both the social world and nature. It would be like listening to a conversation in a foreign language in which you can't hear the semantics or syntax, only the pragmatic dimension of the tone of voice, the power relations.


Vance Maverick said...

In science, a distinction is drawn between precision of a measurement (fine detail) and accuracy (how close it is to the truth). For literature, we can interpolate the idea of an effect of accuracy, the reader's feeling that a possible reality is evoked. Knausgaard is great at this, for example, though we can't evaluate the truth-claims.

Vance Maverick said...

I meant to say that the "reality effect" of fiction is often attempted by simulating precision, in this specialized sense, but success comes in terms of accuracy (same caveat). And the distinction resolves, I think, the problem of subjectivity.

Jonathan said...

Right. In some sense, you can't have more precision than accuracy. I mean, you have to be more or less right in the first place before you start worrying about fine detail. Like Mother Teresa who at night wondered whether god existed, but had no problems dogmatically insisting on church's teaching on birth control.