20 feb. 2008

Good scholarly writing involves an argument with oneself (to paraphrase Yeats on poetry).

There has to be an intellectual problem, toward which the writer feels some degree of ambivalence. This tension or ambivalence creates interest in the reader, who wants to know how the tension will be resolved.

In my Lorca project, for example, the tension arises from the way I personally would approach Lorca, as a scholar of Spanish lit, in contrast to the way American poets tend to approach Lorca. If I thought these poets were simply doing something wrong, it wouldn't be an interesting project. I have to feel that their approach is justified on its own terms, and yet deeply wrongheaded-- if looked at from a perspective outside of American poetry. I've been having this argument with myself every day since July of 07.

If the tension is unacknowledged, then the project risks incoherence or outright self-contradiction.