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Friday, August 4, 2023

The intro!

 “Mil Federicos”: Variations on a Lorquian Theme 



Scholarship on Federico García Lorca is strongly biographical, relying on an exhaustive documentation of virtually every aspect of his life and work. Luis García Montero expresses the view that the biography of the man and the elucidation of the literary work are mutually complementary: “La biografía sirve de fondo de verdad para elaboraciones literarias y la literatura permite reconocer el significado de una vida” (Poemas de la vega 21). It is hard to disagree with such a commonsensical statement. For some readers, however, Lorca himself, as a biographical subject, remains peculiarly elusive. There is a nagging feeling that the assumption of a simple one-to-one correspondence between man and work ignores the complexity of Lorca’s presentation of the authorial self, and does not even begin to address the complexity of his own psychology.  

Luis Fernández Cifuentes, in his review of Ian Gibson’s biography, provides the most forceful—and the most widely circulated—version of the protest against mere empiricism. For this critic, Gibson does not probe into Lorca’s inner life and intimate relationships with enough depth; he fails to explore the poet’s intellectual biography; he is a naïve, atheoretical interpreter of the work itself. Fernández Cifuentes, however, does not suggest discounting biography in the fashion of the New Critics, or reading the work in a decontextualized way. Instead, he appeals to the values of the British tradition of the psychological biography pioneered by Lytton Strachey. Indeed, a non-biographical approach to Lorca would be impractical at this point, given that the prestige of his work is inextricably bound up with the enduring magnetism of his personality. Almost nobody has shown the inclination to read Lorca’s work as though it were anonymous—even though his work does draw inspiration from anonymous folk traditions.   

Psychoanalyzing Lorca, though, is probably a task best left for another day.[i] The aim here is not to explore Lorca’s depth psychology, but to elucidate his own concept of the self through a striking motif, found at various points in his work, as well as in his critical reception: the idea that the authorial subject is plural rather than singular. Some texts suggest the hyperbolic existence of “Mil Federicos”; others (not in so many words) propose an attitude of creative receptivity akin to Keats’s “Negative Capability,” decentering the unitary self. What emerges from the multiple variations on this theme is the idea that Lorca was resistant to being defined in simplistic terms: if he is an elusive authorial subject, it is by design.  

One of the most neglected questions in Lorca studies, perhaps, is the problematic definition of the self. Why am I myself rather than someone else? Or, in the words of the poet himself, “¡qué raro que me llame Federico!” (. ). Lorca’s remarkably fluid concept of the self is in tune with modernist (and postmodernist) ideas of subjectivity. In this sense, he is more similar to other modernist writers like Borges or Pessoa than he has been given credit for. In fact, seeing Lorca in this new light will help to counteract the widespread misconception that the de-centering of the self is an innovation of the postmodern period rather than a key feature of modernism. 

[i] The problem is that, in the opinion of the author of this article, psychoanalysis itself is a discipline in disarray rather than a stable source of scientific knowledge.  


Leslie B. said...


Andrew Shields said...

The last bit made me want to check the years the three named poets were born and died. So for what it’s worth, here goes:

Fernando Pessoa 1888-1935
Federico García Lorca 1898-1936
Jorge Luis Borges 1899-1986

It makes me notice that Lorca and Borges were born around the same time, while Pessoa and Lorca died around the same time.

Also, do you know if Borges ever mentioned Lorca in his work? Or Pessoa, for that matter?

Andrew Shields said...

Lorca could have called Borges a professional Argentine in turn!

Leslie B. said...

...Borges in his work (most of it) made fun of the project of being a professional of a nationality, though. And there are so many people with those lifespans, Vallejo is 1892-1938, and they are all playing with these ideas or many of them