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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Recipe for success

Success in academic research will come about when three things line up perfectly:

Your passion: what you care deeply about.
Your abilities.
What other people care about.

If you can find something that you really care about, that others care about as well, and if your talents match up well with what you want to do with this thing, then you are likely to be successful. I can give examples from my own work where I was passionate and had the ability to do what I wanted to, but where the third factor was missing. It is hard if nobody else cares.

If you care, and your audience does to, then you still need the means to get it done. If the task at hand is ill-suited to your particular package of talents and abilities, you won't get far.

If don't care about what you're doing, then nothing else matters. Why do scholarship on something you don't give a hoot about?


I also like to say that the recipe involves pointing out something that should have been obvious to everyone, but is not. You point out the obvious, and other people will ask themselves why they didn't think of it first. My third book on Lorca, for example, will approach him through the idea of the "death of the subject." This is super obvious to me (though I didn't think of it before now). The reason why it hasn't been done is that the biographical subject reigns supreme in Lorca studies.
Chapter 1: Introduction: The Dissolution of the Subject

Both Apocryphal Lorca: Translation, Parody, Kitsch and What Lorca Knew: Fragments of a Late Modernity are studies of Lorca’s influence and reception. The first is narrowly focused on poetry in the US; the second contains more varied material, including extended close readings of “Play and Theory of the Duende” and “Ode to Walt Whitman,” a study of American plays that feature Lorca as a character, and an examination of his influence on José Ángel Valente and Antonio Gamoneda. My third book in this Lorquian trilogy, Federico García Lorca: The Shattered Subject, attempts to define the distinctiveness of his own work through a more direct and sustained encounter with his own work. The focus throughout will be on the variegated models of subjectivity presented in Lorca’s poems and plays. My method will be largely comparative: other major modern figures, including Whitman, Cavafy, Rilke, Jiménez, Pessoa, Borges, Neruda, Vallejo, Lezama Lima, and Beckett, offer complementary and contrasting approaches that frame the distintiveness of Lorca’s poetics.

The central idea of this book is that Lorca is best approached through the perspective of the postmodern trope of “the death of the subject.”


Anonymous said...

That is what pretty much my Vallejo dissertation said about him, of course, and this point about the misguidedness of biographical criticism precisely on work where the subject is shattered is one of the things I had to say then and is a main thing I have to say now.

Jonathan said...

Let's keep on saying this. The shattering of subjectivity produces a plural, multiple subject: each piece of the shattered whole is new subject position.