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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bill Evans

Here are some words from Bill Evans. He advises you do something simplistic and precise rather than something vague and over-complicated that you don't understand.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Bad Critic

We all know what the bad student does. He takes literally what he should read metaphorically; he is "plodding" and unimaginative. She answers too quickly in class, with the "easy" version of the answer, as though you had asked a stupid question with a super obvious answer. When asked not to be so literal minded, however, the student will come up with super-convoluted, overly metaphorical answers with no basis in the text. The bad student is literal when he should be metaphorical and metaphorical when she should be literal.

A bad critic will do the same. If there are four doves in a Lorca poem, those represent the four gospels. Why? We have no idea. These far-fetched readings go along with a very limited and literal minded approach, rooted always in biography and authorial intentionality. The bad critic needs to reverse his approach, but how to do this? Isn't knowing when to look accurately at the basic facts in front on you, and when to interpret a bit more, the very basis of being an intelligent critic? We can't just tell her to "be intelligent about it." (Obviously that's not the only definition of intelligence, but it is one of them. You can seem "brilliant" precisely by going for a lot of far-fetched stuff, if you know how to play the game.)

There ought to be a way of formulating this as a hermeneutic rule.


As James Shapiro shows in Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, the biographical subject to whom Shakespeare's works are attributed seems woefully inadequate under modern (romantic) theories of authorship in which literature is seen to be the expression of a self. There is probably no human "self" adequate to Cordelia, Lear, Hamlet, Ophelia, Prospero, Ariel, Othello, Juliet, and Rosalind. In other words, any authorial subject would be inadequate.

With Lorca, the situation is reversed: we know who wrote Lorca's works, and the biographical self is seen to be wholly adequate for explaining these works. It is not anachronistic to apply modern / romantic notions of literature to Lorca. Almost all Lorca critics see his works as an expression of his self, his ideology, his personality, his experiences. Why not?

The literal-mindedness that makes people hunt for Shakespeare's experience (he writes about Italy, so he must have been to Italy!) does enter in Lorquian criticism. For example, Lorca is not permitted to be the author of fictional works. His plays have to derive from "real life."

Even my graduate students know that biographical explanations are out of bounds, but somehow this is the dominant approach in Lorca studies. There is no question of going back to a pre-modern or early modern notion of authorship, but at least we can have one that has learned the lessons of postmodernism.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fairies de Norteámerica

Fairies de Norteamérica

Lorca had just been in New York. He began to write the poem there.

Pájaros de la Habana

that is his next stop; he finished the poem there

Jotos de México

We are still in the Americas...

Sarasas de Cádiz
Apios de Sevilla

Two cities in Andalusia

Cancos de Madrid

We move up from Seville to Madrid and then to

Flores de Alicante

Eastward to the Mediterranean coast

Adelaidas de Portugal

West again, this time to a country, not a city.

Overall, we have three slang terms from the Americas, four from Spain, and one from Portugal. All but one are from the Spanish / Luso world. Of course, the umbrella term covering them all is "marica."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Notes: "A un dios desconocido"

Jaime Chávarri's 1977 film is named after a novel by Steinbeck, To an Unknown God, but has nothing to do with that novel. In the film a young boy who is in the vicinity of the death of Lorca in Granada grows up to be a magician and homosexual living in Madrid. He takes several trips back to Granada and meets up with a woman, Soledad, who belongs to the family that hid Lorca, and Pedro, who is also gay. The characters are somewhat difficult to keep straight, and the plot is rather meandering. It is more of a portrait of the main character.

When he goes to bed, the main character José listens to a reel-to-reel tape of (himself?) reading Lorca's "Oda a Walt Whitman." When he turns out the light the tape stops, but he continues to recite the poem himself. The first time, the fragment is from the first part of the poem, and the second time (the conclusion of the movie) it includes the famous harangue against "maricas de todo el mundo." This second time, José's lover is watching him get undressed, changed into his pajamas, and going to bed, but does not react in any way. it does not look like he will join José in bed.

There is certainly no joy in the recital of the poem at the end of the movie. The lover has apparently no understanding of Lorca. In an earlier scene, José had hid the photo of Federico before going to bed with Miguel.

Chávarri is also the director of "El desencanto," a famous film about the Panero family of poets, which also symbolizes the moment of "disenchantment" with the Spanish transition to democracy.

Areas of reception for Lorca

Poetry & Poetics

Drama / stagings [stagings of Lorca plays / plays about Lorca // inspired by Lorca]

The Novel [there isn't very much Lorquian novel that I know about]

Filmography, including filmography of the plays

Music & Dance

Museums & Touristic Spaces / Lorquian kitsch [including a refrigerator magnet I bought yesterday]

Photography & Other Visual Arts

Memoirs & Biographies / Historical Documentation

Political Discourse

Literary Hermeneutics & Scholarship, including the scholarship about all the categories listed above

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rare Creativity?

I often wonder whether creativity is actually pretty rare, hard to find. It's all very well to talk about "creative writing" as a field of studies, but most of it turns out to be very uncreative in the more profound sense. Even a very great writer might at some point just fall into uncreative self-imitation. Periods of intense creativity are also very rare in human history. You can have hundreds of years in which nothing much is actually created.

It's hard to have an original thought.

I'm sure I'm wrong about this, that the very way I'm setting up this problem is question-begging in the extreme. Still, I can't help feeling that this is so. I think that roughly from Garcilaso through Calderón in Spain is an extraordinary outpouring of human creativity in literature. Literary modernity, from Baudelaire through Vallejo, Beckett, and Celan, is another one. The T'ang dynasty...

So the idea is that mediocrity is the norm, and that there are these upswells of something better, from time to time. Once you known what this looks like, it's hard to take seriously a period in which everyone just walks around pretending that mediocrity is something of real value.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Contra Guernica

I found a book today called Contra el Guernica by the Spanish painter Antonio Saura (1930-1998)(brother to Carlos the film director.) It's not really an attack on Picasso's painting or on Picasso himself, though sometimes it is disguised as that, as much as on the use of the painting as political and cultural capital. It was first published in 1982.

It is an amazing book. Every sentence starts with a verb meaning "I hate": detesto, odio, desprecio... It admits of at least three readings: an attack on a sacred cow, an attack on those who made it a sacred cow, an ironical and ambivalent homage to Picasso.

This is pretty much what I want to say about misuses of Lorca. The preface by Félix de Azúa is also brilliant. I was thinking I could cite this book and transpose the analysis to the sacralization of Lorca.

After all, Guernica and Lorca are the two major symbols of THE TRAGEDY OF 20TH CENTURY SPAIN. They are sacred cows in a very similar way. This I think should be the conclusion to my book.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Science Fiction

My idea for a science-fiction novel is very simple. An old person walks by a group of young people talking and realizes that they are speaking an inhuman, alien language. How did this occur?

The infiltration of the aliens has been very slow and subtle. Almost unobjectionable. All this begins in a small town in a wooded area. The human survivors of the first contact never speak about their experience, but begin to notice incremental changes over the years. The influence spreads through the surrounding towns and the city is largely indifferent, until enough of the younger townfolk move to the provincial capital. And so on. There is no resistance, since only the very elderly can notice what is happening. Even the middle-aged become complacent (even!) since they have developed a degree of tolerance. In one or two generations, the bloodless conquest is complete.

Only a traveller returning home after many years will notice that something is amiss. Perhaps this traveller could narrate the events?

The novel admits of two interpretations: as a science fiction novel in which the aliens are an invisible presence, or as an allegory of the passage of time.

I realized I blogged before about this novel here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I'm in ORD, having left from MCI, and will arrive tomorrow morning in MAD. I hope my luggage will arrive there too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wikipedia page?

I've noticed that some of my colleagues and friends at KU have wikipedia pages about them. Some of them are less distinguished than I am, or about the same; some, of course, are much more so. In short, it is fairly typical of someone to have an article on wikipedia as an academic, sometimes as just an Associate Professor with a single book at a Great Plains University. It's still a minority, but I am going to keep watching this.

I don't have one about me, and I'm certainly not going to write one about myself, though I imagine someone with a vested interest has to have taken the effort to write articles about relatively obscure academics like some of my colleagues. (There is only one from my own dept. and it is not necessarily who you would expect.) It seems clear that the "notability" criterion has become quite relaxed of late.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Quiz

How well do you know Jonathan?

1. What specific thing does Jonathan have in common with the baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr?

2. What type of headgear would you see him wearing?

3. Who is he writing a book about?

4. Define "Mayhew's fallacy."

5. What is a "Mayhewianism"?

5 answers correct: you are Jonathan! Or someone who knows a lot about him.

4: you know him very well.

2-3: not so much

0-1: who are you again?

The Talk Concludes!


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.

Fourth Section

Plays devoted to Lorca (of which I have found several) depict scenes from his life and death while quoting amply from his own words, and thus provide abundant examples of the four most common ingredients of American Lorquismo: (1) the sacralization and political exploitation of the author’s biography and execution; (2) the folkloric or Spanish Lorca (3); the exaltation of his genius, and in particular his own theory of the romantic genius exemplified by the duende lecture; (4) the evocation of surrealism, often linked to Lorca’s frienship with Salvador Dalí. Of course, these same elements also pervade Lorca’s legacy within Spain and elsewhere.

These four elements are found in different measures in different plays. Norman Rosten’s radio play Prometheus in Granada (1940) is the earliest example I have located. Rosten, a new obscure left-wing poet, treats Lorca as neo-popularist kitsch. His prologue describes Lorca’s work in well-intentioned but highly inaccurate terms:
Federico Garcia Lorca was loved with a pride and intensity of adoration typical of the Spanish people. He was their great citizen, singer and musician, the troubadour whose poems and songs were spread by word of mouth; gypsies danced to his colorful music, singers improvised upon his more simple metrical ballads. Often they were unaware as to the actual identity of the author; more often than not they could not read his lines but their poems were written in their hearts. He gave the people songs to sing in the fields, and fine stories for the evening, he gave them a hatred for their enemies.
This is to confuse Lorca’s sophisticated poetry with some of the sources of his inspiration and to misstate his relationship to the reading public. A few strands of his legacy large and complex legacy—the popularity he gained from Romancero gitano, his musical setting of popular songs—come to stand in for his entire work.

Rosten has Lorca reciting iconic lines from Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías as he is about to be exectuted: “At five in the afternoon.” A subsequent playwright, the poet Kenneth Koch, also uses this poem in his play “El nacimiento de Federico García Lorca in Seville.” In this one-page piece, part of a book published in the late 80s, 1,000 Avant-Garde Plays, Baby Lorca is born in Seville and rises to his feet to recite his most famous elegy. Men and women dressed in horse costumes recite other poems by Lorca. Koch’s play relies on a stereotypical image of Lorca (Andalusia, horses, bullfighting, neopopularism, elegy) but repurposes these motifs toward a comic purpose. He presents a nativity scene (rather than a passion and crucification) and indulges in anachronism and misdirection. Needless to say, Lorca was not born in Seville, but in the province of Granada.
Koch introduces a comic element, perhaps saving himself from kitsch. A more recent play by Pulitzer-prize winning Nilo Cruz, Lorca in a Green Dress, presents Lorca from multiple angles, evoking familiar elements like Lorca’s death and execution, his connection to Dalí, and his homosexuality. The multiple characters in the play are mostly versions of Lorca himself (Lorca in Bicycle Pants, Lorca as a Woman, Lorca in a Green Dress), or, more accurately, actors hired in a kind of purgatory (the Lorca room) to act out scenes from the author’s life. Cruz follows the example of Carlos Rojas, who in his 1980 novel El ingenioso hidalgo y poeta Federico García Lorca asciende a los infiernos also situates Lorca in a metatheatrical purgatory where he watches scenes from his life. I don’t know whether Cruz has read Rojas’s novel, but the similarities are striking.
Cruz’s metatheatrical homage to Lorca is multi-layered, avoiding easy reductions of Lorca to a unitary image. We might call it a performative version of Lorca, in which the identity of the author is fragmented into multiple selves. Lorca with Blood represents his tragic execution, the Flamenco Dancer represents the cante jondo and the duende, Lorca in Bicycle Pants represents his childhood, Lorca as a Woman and Lorca in a Green Dress represents his gender and sexuality, and Lorca in a White Suit represents his mature artistry. In a way Cruz has found the perfect balance between centripetal and centrifugal impulses: he evokes the central tropes of Lorca’s legacy while avoiding any easy resolution.

The eminent dramatist Edward Albee, the author of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, has also written a Lorca play, with the title The Lorca Play. Since the title of this conference is an hommage to Albee’s play, I would be remiss in not mentioning it. I have been unable to locate a complete copy of the script, which does not figure in Albee’s Complete Plays. First produced in 1992 at the University of Houston, this play was then withdrawn by the author. In 2002 it was announced that the play would be produced off-broadway, but this production failed to take place. According to a new report: “Lorca has been looming just off the Off-Broadway horizon for some time now. Previous reports had it arriving in 2001, 2002 and 2003” Albee himself has confessed to some misgivings about his work in this genre: “It’s not the sort of play I should write [...] Other people are better at that kind of docu-drama.” Albee’s usually laudatory biographer, Gussow, describes the play as “long and rambling” and quotes some lines that make Albee’s Lorca sound like a contemporary American adolescent with narcissistic tendencies: “Do you know what it’s like to fall in love with people who don’t want you? Do you know what it’s like to be completely misunderstood? Do you know what it’s like to know how special and dangerous your talent is?” In Bloomian terms, Albee is a weak misreader of Lorca. Strikingly, he does not share the Lorquian lineage of other American dramatists like Tennessee Williams or Adrienne Kennedy.

Sam Creely’s Barbarous Nights is unique among these Lorca plays in that it does not depict Lorca himself, substituting Buster Keaton—the protagonist of a short play by Lorca—for the author. Creely, a great-nephew of the poet Robert Creeley, read my own book Apocryphal Lorca in college and hence is conscious of the multi-faceted American reception of the Spanish poet and dramatist. Creely quotes amply from Lorca’s poetry and plays and seems mostly interested in the “surrealist” Lorca. His play, with the subtitle “a play in four shades and a prologue, grapefruit tumbleweed & the great green moon,” explores issues of “iconic” identity, using Buster Keaton’s face as an example of an identity frozen into a mask, thus joining Cruz in exploring the vicissitudes of selfhood in a postmodern context.

My final example is the opera Ainadamar by the Argentine composer Oswaldo Golijov, with a libretto by the Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang, the author of the gender-bending play M. Butterfly. In this opera Lorca is “trouser role,” sung by a female singer dressed and made up to look like Lorca [image]. Golijov’s opera makes frequent use of flamenco, with allusions to Latin American popular music as well. In this respect he is following the tradition of Lorca’s close friend and collaborator, Manuel de Falla, and other modern composers interested in folk traditions. The part of Ruiz Alonso, Lorca’s executioner, is played a flamenco cantaor rather than by an opera singer. Ainadamar, then, forms part of the rich musical legacy of Lorca’s afterlife, alongside of Billy Strayhorn’s setting of Don Perlimplín and Enrique Morente’s interpretations of Lorca poems.

These five plays (and one opera) contain several overlapping elements, including an emphasis Lorca’s death and legacy and the use Flamenco music on the stage. Yet stylistically and emotionally, these versions of Lorca on the stage, ranging from the 1940s to the early twenty-first century, are dissimilar to one another in multiple ways, with very few points of contact aside from references to Lorca’s tragic execution. Both Rosten and Golijov / Hwang present Lorca as a political martyr to the Spanish Republic, but the similarities end there: Rosten’s Lorca is a simple folk poet, while Golijov’s is the dramatist of Mariana Pineda and a gay man killed for his sexuality. Cruz and Creely share elements common to a twenty-first century sensibility, like a performative view of identity and an adaptation of Lorquian metatheater, but their plays take divergent approaches. Edward Albee opts for a realist theatrical language at odds with Lorca’s poetic sensibility and risks banality. Koch evokes Lorquian stereotypes in a comic mode. Is the centrifugal force stronger in these dramatic homages to Lorca, then? Perhaps. But standing behind them all is the romantic myth of Lorca himself. Only this myth explains the persistent attraction of other creators, over so many decades, to Lorca’s legacy.

3rd part of the talk

The title of my lecture, “An Elegy for Lorca Studies,” implies that this sub-field is defunct. From one perspective, though, Lorca studies is not only alive but thriving, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Few Spanish writers have attracted as much explanatory prose, and many Lorquistas are informed and capable scholars. Although I am now at work on my second book on Lorca, there are scholars whose knowledge of Lorca is decidedly superior to mine, and thus I have to frame my critique of the field with some caution. Bad criticism and scholarship on Lorca is often far worse than bad work on almost any other writer (for reasons I will get into in a few minutes), but there is now a greater amount of truly excellent scholarship to compensate for this.

Nevertheless, Lorca studies has retained a few unfortunate features. Some are the inevitable result of the sheer size of the field, which leads to a kind of centrifugal hyper-specialization. No aspect of Lorca’s life and work, apparently, is too small or insignificant to receive its share of scholarly attention. I’ve read otherwise excellent books that focus only three or four of Lorca’s works. One, for example, is a highly competent study of only two poems from Poeta en Nueva York. This method would be difficult to justify with any other poet or playwright I can think of. The proliferation of scholarship, along with this increasing specialization, also means that scholars become less likely to cite one another’s work: even the relevant biblography can be overwhelming, so it is understandable that scholars will largely ignore work that not directly relevant to whatever narrowly-conceived topic. Consequently, many extremely significant perspectives have not come to form part of the scholarly conversation on Lorca, simply because they do not happen to line up neatly with the avenues of research. Carlos Piera and Roberta Quance’s brilliant essay on Lorca’s duende, for example, ought to have received much more attention than it has. The general dialogue on Lorca is impoverished, in my opinion, by the lack of genuine dialogue about Lorca that transcends individual narrowly defined topics of investigation. I also wonder whether some of the best minds in our field might have something to say about Lorca, but might not want to wade into such an over-specialized field. I myself was hesitant to specialize in Lorca early in my career for this reason.

What is more, this centrifugal microanalysis of Lorca’s life and work does not necessarily act as a counter-force to the centripetal drive of the Lorca myth. The paradigm of Lorca as tragic homosexual, Andalusian genius, and champion of the oppressed continues to underlie the sub-field as a whole, even when the particular topic being addressed is a narrow one. In fact, it is hard to see how the proliferation of over-specialized scholarship could bring about a new consensus or synthesis.
The romantic ideology that invests every aspect of Lorca’s life and work with exaggerated significance is, in fact, completely compatible with the sacralized view of the authorial subject as a unique creator and heroic individual, so perhaps the centripetal and centrifugal impulses in the field are not actually opposing forces. In the same way, the impulse to condescend to Lorca as a childlike innocent and the admiring exaltation of his artistic genius are not two separate phenomena, but two ways of naming the same thing.

The centripetal celebration of Lorca’s genius often takes the form of two displacements or alibis. The first replaces Lorca’s work with his life, seeking answers to the enigmas of his writing in an inner subjectivity not available to the reader without specialized knowledge. The Latin world alibi means elsewhere: the claim is that we must look somewhere else, outside the work itself, for the true meaning of the work. If the poet is great because of his unique subjectivity, then it makes sense to investigate his inner life, focusing on the origins. These origins turn out to be more transparent in his juvenile writings.
Eutimio Martín, in his much debated 1986 book Federico García Lorca: heterodoxo y mártir, argues that the juvenilia, with its religious and sexual preoccupations, is the central source from which all of the poet’s mature work flows: “cuanto más remontamos la corriente de sus escritos, más límpidas se tornan las aguas porque todas ellas manan de un único hontanar: el de sus escritos inéditos de la juventud.” [The further back we can trace the current of his writing, the more clear the waters become because they all flow from a single wellspring: his unpublished juvenilia.] This watery metaphor is revealing: the idea is that the closer we can get to the central source, the less hermeneutic doubt is required. Lorca’s later work is opaque, according to this logic, while his earlier work offers no resistance to interpretation.

Martín concludes that the young Lorca, obsessed with Christ and tormented by his own desires, constructed a personal mythology modeled on the story of the passion. It is the author’s homosexuality, in conflict with the precepts of Catholicism, that is the explanatory key. In a second book published recently, Martín attempts to demonstrate that Lorca intended his work to be a “quinto evangelio,” a fifth gospel based on humanist, messianic, and quixotic principles. Although based on a plausible reading of Lorca’s juvenilia, Martín’s logic goes off track, in my view, in his assumption that Lorca’s mature work simply retains a set of adolescent fantasies as its unvarying governing principle. Surely the best of way interpreting any author is by looking at the work itself, its own ostensible conerns, not by focusing on obessions that he or she has left behind, or that at most persist, at best, in residual form. I would argue that Lorca became Lorca precisely by leaving a good proportion of his adolescent preoccupations behind him, not by hiding them in a kind of secret code, to be discovered years later only through the interpretation of texts that he made no attempt to publish. He does continue to use Christian (and Christological) motifs in his later work, but there is not particular reason to see them as an all-purpose explanation.

It is strange to think that a poet like Lorca would have written with the expectation that future scholars would uncover the authentic meaning of his life’s work in the sometimes embarrassingly puerile effusions of his adolescent self. I prefer to think of him as a restless literary experimenter who learned to be quite rigorous with himself, creating structures of meaning that can stand independent from the vagaries of his own psychology. It is precisely in the early 1920s, directly following the publication of his first book Libro de poemas, when Lorca finds a less confessional poetic subject, working furiously on the Suites and producing his first masterpiece, Poema del cante jondo. Lorca’s juvenilia is significant in the same way that Picasso’s is: here we see him practicing his craft and imitating prevalent models. The meaning of Picasso’s mature work, however, is not contained in his teenaged academic studies.

Of course, if the chief object of inquiry for literary criticism is the inner psychology of the biographical author, then a hermeneutic model like that of Martín’s makes more sense, although his particular interpretations remain questionable: the idea of a “Messianic-quixotic” fifth gospel of Christian humanism, in particular, has a ridiculous sound to it. Carlos Jerez Farrán follows Martín in arguing that “la dimensión autobiográfica es de valor incalculable cuando se pretende llegar a un mejor ententimiento y una mayor percepción de lo que parece imperceptible a primera vista.” [the autobiographical dimension is of incalculable value in trying to arrive at a better understanding and a great perception of what is imperceptible at first glance.] What is at issue, once again, is the divergence between two models of understanding literature, one emphasizing the recovery of the real author’s pschychological depth, and the other seeing signification as an on-going process for successive generations of readers.

If the goal is to recover the biographical Lorca, then the literary quality of the juvenilia is less relevant. In this regard hyper-canonical authors like Lorca present a paradox. These authors have achieved this status because of the enduring value of their work—however this value is assessed. At the same time, though, their canonical status also attracts scrutiny to minutiae: trivial biographical details and works of lesser aesthetic quality become invested with a spurious value. We only care about Lorca’s juvenilia in the first place because he was able to transcend the puerile and derivative sensibility of his youth to create the work that gave him canonical status. It seems a mistake, then, to shackle our understanding of his mature work to a decidedly immature sensibility, especially since his authorial persona has so been the object of so much condescension.

The second alibi is in Lorca’s death and the continued search for his mortal remains. Here it not the the poet’s subjectivity that comes to stand in for the work itself. Instead, the physical location of his body comes to stand in for his literary and historical importance. Ian Gibson’s book, La fosa de Lorca: crónica de un despropósito, published in 2010, chronicles the ill-fated attempts in 2009 to disinter Lorca’s body, and his own consternation at the failure and confusion surrounding this effort. According to Gibson, the search for his body took place in the wrong location. This search, of course, has a tremendous significance for the movement for “historical memory,” since Lorca was the most notorious and significant victim of the Spanish Civil War. We must also have compassion for Gibson, whose anguish is genuine. Yet finding Lorca body will not lead to a better understanding of Lorca’s work. An over-emphasis on his death and the circumstances of his burial sacralizes Lorca and freezes responses to his work in an elegiac mode. Paul Julian Smith explains that this mode of Lorca criticism “treats the text as an unfinished monument to a life cut short.” Instead of simply dismissing this kind of interpretation, Smith astutely notes that it “draws our attention (as Foucault would also) to the continuing potency of the author-function: elegiac criticism is not (or not merely) evidence for the role of affective displacement in reading. It is also a frank acknowledgment of the insistence of the humanist order, an insistence that the modern theorist cannot simply erase.” At the same time, however, this mode of criticism does not lend itself to a genuine encounter with Lorca’s work. The search for his body, in particular, seems ill-suited to provide the clues needed to understand his artistic genius.

I believe we should be distrustful of the alibis that take us even further away from what makes Lorca’s work meaningful to us in the first place. The best alternative to these biographical, elegiac, and necrological approaches to Lorca is to see his subjectivity as fractured and contradictory rather than unitary. I would rather see centrifugal and pluralistic approaches than ones that reduce his life and work to a single myth.

The talk continues...

The charisma of the great moderns and the great romantics persists, then, but it is a bit frayed around the edges. Our culture continues to celebrate them, but in ways that are deeply problematic. Within the modernist pantheon, Lorca is perhaps the writer who has been subject to the most grotesque degree of sacralization. “Federico García Lorca has been victimized by his enthusiasts,” remarked Edwin Honig, many years ago in one of the first English-language books on Lorca. Honig was referring, in this case, to only two aspects of Lorca’s legacy in the English-speaking world: the political exploitation of his violent death at the onset of the Spanish Civil War, and his reputation as a surrealist poet. His point, though, is generalizable to his reception elsewhere in the world, including Spain itself, and to multiple dimensions of his legacy, not merely to the few aspects that Honig singles out. José Antonio Gabriel y Galán, writing in 1988, complained that Lorca had become a “marca registrada” or trademark:
Nunca perderemos en este país la extraña habilidad para convertir en esperpento a determinados personajes selectos, a través de un proceso de mitificación pasional que se adoba con sublimación, desde donde se pasa finalmente al universo de la idolatría. Tantas fueron las alabanzas, las casi prédicas y preces sobre Lorca que acabaron haciendo de él un tótem de la tribu, inalcanzable, traslúcido, mágico.
In this country we will never lose the strange ability to convert certain select characters into grotesque caricatures, through a process of passional mythification dressed up with sublimation, passing ultimately into the realm of idolatry. The exaltations, homilies, and glorifications of Lorca have been so abundant that they ended up making him a totem of the tribe: unattainable, translucent, magic.
Gabriel y Galán’s language is hype
rbolic, to be sure, but the conversion of Lorca into san Lorca is a real phenomenon, one that has resulted in books with titles like San Lorca y el placer de morir and Federico García Lorca, heterodoxo y mártir. Lorca’s charismatic personality, the tragic sensibility of his poems and plays, his youthful admiration for Jesus Christ, and his execution at the age of 38 have combined to form a potent cocktail of exaggerated and self-parodic sacralization.

One of my scholarly projects over the last eight years or so has been to explore Lorca’s reception with the aim of protecting his genuine legacy as an innovative modernist poet and dramatist from the enormous onslaught of Lorquian kitsch—the result of the excessive and often misguided devotion of his admirers. I have set myself in opposition to lorcalatry, the counterpart to the bardolatry that has plagued the reception of Shakespeare. There are multiple reasons for admiring Lorca, to be sure: the problem is an admiration rooted in all the wrong reasons, one that not only perpetuates the tritest stereotypes but also distracts from what makes Lorca truly admirable: the work itself. To borrow a phrase from an essay by an organizer of this conference, Julián Jiménez Heffernan, we have “Lorca por razones equivocadas.”

While a lot of these problems stem directly from an excessive admiration of Lorca himself, I would like to separate out the genuine reasons for admiring Lorca from the sacralization of his subjectivity. In other words, his admirers are not wrong to admire him, but (often) wrong in the way they do so. In a literary career stretching from the early twenties to his death in 1936, Lorca was able to create an extraordinary body of work in three genres: drama, lyric poetry, and poetics, which I define, following Robert Duncan, as a discourse “concerned with the inner nature and process of poetry itself.” He is the most performed foreign-language playwright in the English-speaking world, and a major influence on American drama and poetry. Neither his poetry nor his drama fits neatly into a single category. His quasi-surrealist experiments like El paseo de Buster Keaton anticipate the theater of the absurd. In short, he is the most significant Spanish poet and the most significant dramatist after the so-called Golden Age.

These are reasons enough to admire Lorca. Those who knew him personally also thought of him as a remarkable human being. Although I distrust hero worship, I believe that his personal conduct, his work ethic, and his political allegiances were exemplary in many respects. (Of course, the attitude that Lorca could do no wrong, that he was a kind of secular saint of literature, is not particularly helpful either; I would prefer to see him as a human being rather than an otherwordly creature.) What I’d like to suggest, though, is that all these good reasons for our devotion to Lorca are difficult to separate from the “bad” reasons. To treat him as just another writer along side his illustrious contemporaries, for example, rings false to me, in part because his legacy is inextricably bound up with seemingly extraneous factors.

What I have been calling Lorquian kitsch or parody manifests itself in various modes: in reverence for the duende (understood, usually, in simplistic terms), in the insistence on his Andalusian neopopularism, in an obsession with biographical explanations, and in the fetichization of his death and of the location of his mortal remains. His avant-garde experiments, his friendship with Dalí and Buñuel, and his New York sojourn also lend themselves to the formation of Lorquian myths.
Sacralization and kitschification seem to be opposite processes: one exalts and the other degrades. The first leads to reverence and awe, the second to the facile reproduction of contemptible mass-produced objects. Actually, however, these two processes are closely intertwined: it is only the object of sacralized devotion that is susceptible to the kitsch treatment. Only a fossilized, recognizable myth can be commodified as kitsch. To take the example of the Lorquian duende again, the widespread success of the concept is due to its brilliant and original way of reframing the idea of the romantic genius through the language of Spanish cultural nationalism. The success and popularity of the concept almost guarantees an endless process of repetition in which it loses virtually all its context and meaning. There are poetic movements, books of poetry, perfumes, theater troupes, and restaurants, among other things, named for Lorca’s duende.

Lorca’s posthumous legacy, then, is a decidedly mixed bag. In the remainder of my time today I would like to look first at the critical industry devoted to Lorca and secondly at theatrical tributes to Lorca on the American stage. This material comes from two or three chapters of a book I am presently completing: What Lorca Knew: Fragments of a Late Modernity, a sequel to my 2009 monograph Apocryphal Lorca. In each of these manifestations of Lorca’s afterlife I have identified two opposing forces. The first is centripetal: the construction of a unitary image of Lorca based on a few central tropes. The second is centrifugal: the fragmentation of Lorca into ever smaller and more differentiated segments. Although these two impulses stand in opposition to each other, in reality the seeming fragmentation of his legacy leaves the sacralization of his authorial presence virtually untouched.

Beginnings of a talk

An Elegy for Lorca Studies


Who is afraid of the modernist individual? Who’s afraid of Federico García Lorca? What is there to be afraid of, in particular? My continuing research on Lorca’s posthumous legacy has given me ample justification for distrusting—if not fearing—the sacralization of subjectivity that arises with romanticism and persists in the canonization of the “great moderns” of the early twentieth century. This romantic ideology imbues writers like Rilke, Joyce, Woolf, or Lorca with a privileged form of subjectivity and a charismatic mystique with significant consequences for their subsequent reception.
It may be that this romantic ideology is in decline, or has in fact disappeared from our culture. This is a debatable point, and one worth exploring in some depth. Fredric Jameson made this point in his book Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, in the early 90s:
if the poststructuralist motif of the “death of the subject” means anything socially, it signals the end of the entrepreneurial and inner-directed individualism with its “charisma” and its accompanying categorial panoply of quaint romantic values such as that of the “genius.” Seen thus, the extinction of the “great moderns” is not necessarily an occasion for pathos. Our social order is richer and more literate, and, socially at least, more “democratic.” [...] [i]t no longer needs prophets and seers of the high modernist and charismatic type, whether among its cultural producers or its politicians. Such figures no longer hold any charm or magic for subjects of a corporate, collectivized, post-individualistic age; in that case, goodbye to them without regrets, as Brecht might have put it: woe to the country that needs geniuses, prophets, Great Writers, or demiurges.
(Jameson, Postmodernism 306).
I have seen this passage cited several times, by equally eminent writers like Richard Rorty and Marjorie Perloff. I believe that Jameson is insightful but only partially correct. The cult of Lorca and other great moderns (to use Jameson’s phrase) demonstrates that we don’t live in a “post-individualist age,” that these paragons of heroic subjectivity continue to hold “charm” and “magic” for contemporary subjects. Concepts like genius are not merely “quaint.” In an age of “cultural producers,” we yearn for actual poets and for a literacy of more gravitas. Translations of hieratic modernist poets like Ranier Maria Rilke and Lorca himself continue to be published at a steady pace, and late modern poets like José Ángel Valente and Antonio Gamoneda still enjoy enormous prestige. In some sense, nothing has come to replace the paradigm of the heroic modern subject, even if this paradigm is (or should be) a thing of the past.

I disagree with Jameson, then, on several points: whether modernist charisma still holds sway, whether its (hypothetical) disappearance should be a cause for celebration or disappointment, and whether our contemporary social order is truly more literate and democratic. (Of course, this passage was written more than 25 years ago, so the added question is what has changed since Jameson wrote it.) In her comment on this passage Marjorie Perloff points out that Jameson—originally a specialist in modernism—returned to the subject in his 2007 book The Modernist Papers. We might also look at the success of Harold Bloom, in books like The Western Canon and Genius, in selling a normative but strangely idiosyncratic cult of romantic individualism to a middle-brow public eager to reject feminism and multi-culturalism.

Yet Jameson might be right in some sense: the continued celebration of high modernist models always runs the risk of falling into kitsch, as the example of Bloom might show. There was a brilliant insight at the heart of The Anxiety of Influence: the idea that the best readers of imaginative literature were other great writers, even when they read these other writers in distorted ways, and that great works of literature are therefore imaginative re-visionings of the literary tradition. In Bloom’s popular books, however, the oracular fetishizing of the Great and the Canonical quickly becomes tiresome.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

12 Themes in the Reception of Lorca

Romantic Hermeneutics



Flamenco Sketches

Queer Encounters

Alibis and Displacements

New York Variations




Parody and Kitsch


The idea would be to write a paragraph on each theme, the further develop it. The result, a synthesis between my two books.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I have a piece missing

I have a piece missing from my self. I am sure a lot of people feel the same way. I know others don't: their self is complete. They could feel happy, or unhappy, in particular situations, but their self is basically a complete entity. In the same way, I can feel happy, or have good day, but that doesn't mean I am a complete person.

You can try to fill the missing piece with drugs, alcohol, work, religion, or a relationship; any one of a number of things. That will not really fill the gap, though. The gap is in you (or me, in this case), so nobody or nothing else can fill it up. People have names for the cause of this gap: the patriarchy, capitalism... Those things may be bad, but they are not the cause of the hole.

I have no idea of why I feel this way, but I almost always have felt so. I cannot even complain about it, because I'm assuming the a certain percentage of people walking around on the street are in exactly the same position as I am. In fact, it gives me some satisfaction to let you all know that this is the way I feel. I will no longer pretend to be a complete person.

You may feel the same way but give a different label to the experience. My particular name for it is this, but you might must feel that something is wrong with you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The talk continues

The ideological roots of neopopularism can be found in the German romantics, who translated Spanish romances a century before Menéndez Pidal. The larger context for Lorca’s recuperation of folk music and poetry is a movement in European (and American) culture that inserts folk traditions into elite forms of poetry and music. In this talk I want to concentrate on the musical part of this legacy. Significant composers who form part of this tradition include Rimsky-Korsakov, Isaac Albéniz, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, Igor Stravinski, and Bela Bartok. On the other side of the Atlantic, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, George Crumb, and Osvaldo Golijov exemplify this phenomenon.

Lorca, I would argue, is a pivotal figure in this movement. Since Bizet’s Carmen, Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1887 Cappricio Espagnol (and works by Albéniz in the 1880s), Spanish music has represented a certain “folkloric” element in European classical music. Debussy and Ravel paid homage to Spain. Lorca loved Debussy’s music and collaborated with Falla. Three of his major lectures, “Arquitectura del cante jondo,” “Las canciones de cuna españolas,” and “Juego y teoría del duende,” are treatments of traditional forms of Spanish song, although the duende lecture is much more than that. In one of the chapters of my book in progess, What Lorca Knew, I compare Lorca’s duende to Roland Barthes’s “grain of the voice,” which also treats the problem of musical performance in a nationalist context.

Musical settings and adaptations of Lorca’s poetry and theater abound: I can think of no other other modern poet in any language who has inspired as diverse a range of composers and performers. The explanation of the quantity and variety of Lorquian music is double. As we have seen, Lorca’s literary achievement is already intertwined with musical expression and with traditions of musical folklorism. Secondly, adaptations of Lorca are numerous and varied in general, spanning poetry, theater, and the visual arts: we would expect the musicians to get into the act as well.

Time will not permit an adequate survey of Lorca’s musical legacy: the playlist I initially developed for this talk lasted twenty-three minutes, longer than I have for my entire presentation. Instead, I want to put forward a very simple idea:

Beginnings of a talk

Lorca’s Musical Legacy: From Strayhorn to Golijov

I have heard otherwise intelligent and well-educated people in Spain express the opinion that “Lorca es un poeta folklórico.” You, too, might have heard this sentence, or something like it. If you have, then you know don’t mean it in a good way: it is almost always said in a disapproving tone—a facile way of dismissing Lorca by confusing him with both with the sources of his inspiration and with a partial explanation for his “popularity.” The back cover of one recent book on Lorca promises to rescue him “del asfixiante folclorismo en que se ha visto encerrado por una crítica miope y malintencionda.” Even some of his admirers, then, think that his neopopularism remains a negative factor in his legacy.

It is not self-evident, though, that “folklore” should be such a term of insult. In the nineteenth and twentieth century music and literature, the recuperation of folk traditions is an enormous source of intellectual ferment and vitality. The first Spanish folklorist was Antonio Machado y Álvarez, the father of poets Antonio and Manuel. Writers of the famed “generation” of these two poets, of course, were committed to a project of national regeneration that included an interest in “national traditions”—although it was not limited to folklore per se. Menéndez Pidal’s research on anonymous poetic traditions, Antonio Machado’s “Tierra de Alvargonzález,” and Manuel’s Cante hondo are some prominent examples. The neopopulist poetry of Lorca and Alberti continues this tradition, which culminates in Miguel Hernández’s Romancero y cancionero de ausencias.

The ideological roots of neopopularism can be found in the German romantics, who translated Spanish romances a century before Menéndez Pidal. The larger context for Lorca’s recuperation of folk music and poetry is a movement in European (and American) culture that inserts folk traditions into elite forms of poetry and music. In this talk I want to concentrate on the musical part of this legacy. Significant composers who form part of this tradition include Rimsky-Korsakov, Isaac Albéniz, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, Igor Stravinski, and Bela Bartok. On the other side of the Atlantic, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, George Crumb, and Osvaldo Golijov exemplify this phenomenon.

Lorca, I would argue, is a pivotal figure in this movement. Since Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1887 Cappricio Espagnol (and works by Albéniz in the same decade), Spanish music has represented ...

Monday, October 6, 2014

Personal Pride and Epistemological Humility

You can be as proud as you want to be about how smart you are, how much you know, how well you write. The fundamental attitude to express in scholarship, though, is epistemological humility. In other words, knowledge is fundamentally fragile. There are degrees of certainty, things that can be known without too much doubt and others that can hardly be known or understood at all, and a vast amount of things in the middle.

Two kinds of odious arguments

There are two kinds of arguments that I find distasteful. Both are in wide use among people with whom I am in sympathy with, most of the time, on the academic liberal left.

--With cut-and-dried situations, people who throw endless nuance and irrelevant detail into the mix to try to complicate things unnecessarily. Thus, with a plagiarism case, "everyone does it, where's the line?, students need to plagiarize a little to learn to write, we should look at their intentions, postmodernism, blah, blah, blah." If it's a child pornography case, "the culture is to blame, because women in beer commercials are young; the user of this pornography is hyper-conforming to cultural norms, blah, blah, blah..."

--People who ordinarily would see everything as infinitely nuanced and complicated, and in most other contexts would be inclined use the first kind of argument, turn around and decide that in other situations there is no nuance at all. The answer is clear and self-evident for everyone to see. If you don't agree with them, you are a horrible person.

Both forms of argument are intellectually lazy. You should apply exactly the right amount of nuance to each situation as is required. You shouldn't use nuance to muddy the waters, but to clarify situations.

But, of course, the question is to know what situations need to be complicated and which ones needs to simplified. I think it was the physicist Feynman who advised, "simplify everything to the exact degree necessary, and no further." But nobody knows how to do that very well. That is precisely where the difficult intellectual work is located.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A problem

I'm giving a talk in March with musical examples. Here is my problem: duration of my talk = 20 minutes. Duration of my playlist of musical examples: 23 minutes. I can't talk over the music. A few musical examples are already short. Some I can truncate a few others to a minute or so. Still, even cutting it down to 10 minutes of music gives me only 10 minutes to talk. How long are talks at musicological conferences? (Mine is the Comparative Literature Association).


Here's a quote from Chris Maurer I like a lot, from Elpais.es
Me parece poco serio seguir hablando de sus amores oscuros. Y basta ya con la obsesión de la última carta, los últimos días, la última hora, el último amante. Dejemos las etiquetas y el ultimismo.
I'll paraphrase that as more or less this:
It seems frivolous to keep talking about [Lorca's] dark loves. We've had enough with this obsession with the last letter, the last days, the last hour, the last lover. Let's call an end to labels and to "ultimisms."

Honig / Lorca / Beckett

I found this quote yesterday, but I didn't realize how significant it was until I woke up today and thought of it before I got out of bed:
In one scene [of Lorca's El público] a desperate, virulent exchange between a Figure of the Vine and a Figure of Bells reminds one strongly of Beckett's later play, Waiting for Godot, which it surpasses in power.
E. Honig, García Lorca, vi.
Wow, just wow. This was written in 1961. The premiere of Godot was '53.

This happens to me a lot. I just read things without paying much attention, and then the next day I realize what I should have been paying attention to.

Honig was a prominent poet, translator, and Brown University Professor. He had serious chops as a Hispanist, with a book on Calderón, for example.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Another example

Here's an example from my own work:
In the English-speaking world, “Lorca has now surpassed Ibsen, Chekhov, and Brecht as ‘the most performed foreign-language playwright.’”
The problem here is that I am quoting two sources. One if from 1993 (Johnston) the other from 2009 (Delgado). Here I am in 2014, citing a five-year old source who is in turn quoting a 21-year old source.

Now Lorca may still be the most performed foreign-language playwright. I simply don't know, though I suspect it is true. Delgado may know this independently of the citation from Johnston, or may be depending on Johnston's opinion. I haven't verified this independently, or figured out how Johnston reached that conclusion. Luckily for me, for my purposes it is enough to know that other people are claiming this and repeating the claim: I simply want to prove that Lorca is canonical outside of Spain, and especially in the Anglosphere, and has been such for a long time. If I am precise enough in my footnote here, I can distance myself from the truth-claim while using the quote for my argument.


A "Basbøllism" might be defined as the identification of an epistemological gap caused by shoddy scholarship, or by losing track of the "chain of custody" of ideas and words. Here's one Thomas and I were discussing at his blog. The source text:
This ’wild speculation’ on our part may not be so wild after all. Why do the X/Y notations signify theoretical differences? Why not A/Z if the author’s interest was to indicate widely divergent viewpoints? An interesting coincidence (?): At the time this book was written, 1959, women were defined as having two X chromosomes, while men were defined as having an X and a Y, according to the adopted scientific notations. (578-9)
Here's a paraphrase, or "patchwriting," in a textbook:
McGregor’s innovation is known as replacing ‘theory X’ (traditional management theory à la Taylor and Barnard) with a ‘theory Y’ (human relations theory). Why, ask Calás and Smircich, those letters? Why not ‘theories A and B’ or ‘A and Z’? They point out that it was exactly at that time that women became defined as having two X chromosomes, while men were defined as ‘XY’. McGregor’s can therefore be read, deconstructively but interestingly, as an attempt to move from an XY world to a sheer YY world: a homosocial order. (113)
The sexual differentiation of chromosomes was discovered long before, in 1905. Note that the first text does not state that 1959 was the year of this discovery; it merely uses the word "coincidence." This is a confusion in the source text, because males and females are still defined chromosomally in the same way as in 1959. The only chromosomal discovery I can trace to 1959, with my very limited knowledge, has to do with the chromosomal abnormality in Down Syndrome.

X and Y are commonly used to designate axes on a graph, for example, or for algebraic unknowns, so the idea that it is an especially significant coincidence to use these letters in 1959 for theories unrelated to genetics (in management theory) is indeed a pretty "wild speculation." The authors of the textbook seem to have no idea about what deconstruction is, and the metaphor YY = homosocial order is a bit of a stretch too. There is no person with two Y chromosomes! This reads as scientifically illiterate.

The epistemological fissure in this case occurs in taking an already shaky idea and paraphrasing it without really understanding it. The textbook falsely attributes a false assumption to the original text, ("exactly at that time") that makes the original point more forceful, but also exposes the weakness of the original conceptualization.

I am scientifically and mathematically pretty much an ignoramus. So if I do happen to need to refer to something in this area, I have to be extra careful not to perpetuate errors. I still have to trace the reference to see what the original authors thought happened in 1959, so I may have to follow up.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book Chapters from this century

“De la luminosa opacidad de los signos: el texto visual de José-Miguel Ullán.” Las voces inestables: sobre la poesía de José-Miguel Ullán. ed. Miguel Casado. Madrid: Círculo de Bellas Artes, 2011. 197-207.
“The Persistence of Memory: Antonio Gamoneda and the literary Institutions of Late Modernity.” New Spain, New Literatures. Ed. Luis Martín-Estudillo and Nicholas Spadaccini. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 2010. 149-62.
“Manuscrito de una respiración.” In El rumoroso cauce: nuevas lecturas sobre Claudio Rodríguez. Ed. Philip Silver. Madrid: Páginas de Espuma, 2010. 303-12.
“Lorca y la búsqueda de raíces en la poesía española del siglo XX: tradicionalidad y radicalidad.” Principios modernos y creatividad expresiva en la poesía española contemporánea. Ed. Elsa Dehennin y Christian de Paepe. New York: Rodopi, 2009. 325-39.
“Luis Feria y la otra generación de 50.” Oficio de creer, ley del furtivo: en torno a la poesía de Luis Feria. Ed. Miguel Casado. Madrid: Artemisa, 2008. 85-108.
“Valente y Beckett: afinidades e influencias.” In Referentes europeos en la obra de Valente. Ed. Claudio Rodríguez Fer. Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 2007. 129-147.
“Three Apologies for Poetry: Discourses of Literary Value in Contemporary Spain.” In Contemporary Spanish Poetry: The Word and the World. Ed. Cecile West-Settle and Sylvia Sherno. Farleigh Dickinson UP, 2005. 224-45.
“Andrew P. Debicki: A Synthetic View.” Introduction to Poetry as Discovery: Andrew P. Debicki (2003). 13-16.


I invented this word today. I got up at 7:45, but between 6:30 and then I just lay awake and did some brainstorming for a talk on Lorca's musical legacy I'm giving in March. Anyway, reflamenquifying is the process of turning a work of Lorca with no ostensible connection to Flamenco or Gypsies and re-inserting it into that tradition.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

10 years of lectures

Papers and Lectures:

“Entre Celan y Lorca: modelos para una modernidad futura.” Coloquio “Celan en España. University of Extramadura, Cáceres. May, 2015.
“Lorca’s Musical Legacy: From Strayhorn to Golijov.” ACLA Convention, Seattle, March 2015.
“An Elegy for Lorca Studies.” Keynote address for the Symposium Finite, Singular, Exposed: Who’s Afraid of the Modernist Invididual? University of Córdoba, October 2014.
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Poetics of Cultural Exceptionalism.” LASA Convention, Chicago, May 2014.
““Fail Better”: The Race to the Bottom in Contemporary Spanish Poetry. MLA Convention, Chicago, January 2014.
“New York Lorcas: From Motherwell to O’Hara.” King Juan Carlos Center, New York University, April 2013.
“Postmodern Lorca: Motherwell, Strayhorn, García Montero.” University of Iowa, March 2013.
“Open Secrets of Scholarly Productivity.” Southern Illinois University, Edwardville. October, 2012.
“Modernism and Cultural Exceptionalism: From Miguel de Unamuno to José Lezama Lima.” CUNY Graduate Center, March 2011.
“Las ínsulas extrañas: Late Modernism in Spain and the Latin American Connection.” MACHL, St Louis, November 2010.
“De la luminosa opacidad de los signos.” Symposium on José-Miguel Ullán. Círculo de Bellas Artes (Madrid). January, 2010.
“Blackburn’s Lorca: Modernist Translation Redefined.” MLA Convention, Philadelphia. December, 2009.
“Theory of Timbre: Wittgenstein, Lorca, and Barthes.” Philosophy and Literature Seminar, Hall Center for the Humanities, November 2008.
“Luis Feria y la otra generación de 50.” Symposium on Luis Feria. Tenerife. May 2008.
“Frank O'Hara''s LORCAESCAS.” Univesity of Virginia Conference on Hispanic Poetry. November 2007.
“Lorca en los Estados Unidos: malentedidos y apócrifos.” Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas, Paris. July 2007.
“Valente y Beckett: influencias y afinidades.” Cátedra José Angel Valente, Santiago de Compostela. March 2007.
“Intravenus, by Amalia Iglesias and Lola Velasco: Collaboration and the Resistance to Commodification.” MLA Convention, Philadelphia, December 2006.
“Lorca and Translation: The Domestic Agenda.” MACHL, Columbia Missouri, November 2006.
Panel Discussion on Kenneth Koch. AWP Convention, Austin, Texas. March 2006.
Presentation of a Translation of Intravenus. CCCP Conference. New York, November 2005.

Statistically rare events

Statistically rare events can assume vast symbolic significance in the narratives we forge to explain how things work. And it's hard to argue against this tendency, because statistically rare events are more psychologically salient. Not only that, but a single traumatic event has the effect that it does; it is dumb to point out that it is rare, after the fact.

Some things that seem rare actually aren't. Take, for example, presidential assassinations. Of 44 presidents, 4 have been assassinated, or one in 11. There have been many more attempts, and vastly more threats. So if we consider that in terms of homicide rates per 100,000, that is almost 10,000. So Obama is 294 times more likely to be killed than the average African American. Of course, it is hard to calculate that, because we are comparing 18th to 21st-century presidents. Let's say, though, that since Andrew Jackson, being president is physically risky job. Recent lapses by the Secret Service aren't very reassuring.