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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Last Hispanist

I am not the last Hispanist, ni mucho menos. Hispanism will survive me, for sure. Yet I note that my own field, the study of Spanish poetry, is in decline. Very few of us do it any more. Latin Americanists have abandoned the study of poetry as well, and I am the last poetry specialist in my department. It isn't likely that a poetry specialist who retires will be replace by another poetry specialist.

The same could be said for drama, and even narrative. It is fine for the field to reconfigure itself, but I wonder whether we will have people like me in the next generation.


Leslie B. said...

I have not figure out why people do not like poetry. Do you have a theory?

Jonathan said...

Well, readers who read a lot like stories that they can get absorbed in. So the typical English major is a girl or boy growing up on long narratives. I did too, to a certain extent. Poetry makes you stop and ruminate about things but never allows you to escape the self in quite the same way. Added to that the symbol-mongering approach: people think poetry is a cryptic language that must be deciphered with a decoding device; it is assumed the professor has the decoding device.

People who write poetry start off with the desire for self-expression, but are not always interested in other people's poetry.

I've noticed though that my undergrads like poetry more and more. Maybe it is my capacity to evoke enthusiasm. They like poetry, they say, because the reader is free to interpret the poem any which way--unless it's a sonnet, or any metered poem: then they think that the meter constrains the meaning and makes it more fixed. In the same way, they think that narrative prose has fixed meanings in comparison to the freedom of poetry.

Leslie B. said...

As a smallish child I liked to read in that absorbed way but I stopped reading fiction at a certain point, when I discerned that I was too old for kids' stuff and not old enough for grownup fiction. This is when I got into reading nonfiction, which is still what I read to relax.

Then I became a Comp Lit major because I wanted to do several languages at an advanced level and that was the major that would let you do it. This put me in literature, but I was there due to interest in language. Poetry was clearly far and away the most interesting instance of language, and there was theory to go with it which was nonfiction, so here I am. Poetry and the essay rule, and with these opinions I resemble Lluís Monguió (I was SO gratified when he said in class that those were his preferences, and that for stories he liked history better than fiction).