16 mar. 2008

I had a colleague once who said he would rather be interesting than right. I disagreed, because, usually, if you're wrong, you're unlikely to be interesting either. (That's probably why, after having been friends, the two of us drifted apart somewhat. I had a hard time respecting him intellectually, even though he had been very supportive of me. I felt like an ingrate, but ultimately I felt like cringing whenever he opened his mouth. I also felt odd because he was a big name in my own field.) In the Humanities, obviously, we can never be right in an absolute sense. But we can, in fact, be wrong. The "creative," fanciful interpretation of the literary text, the one unsupported by any argument or evidence, can be wrong. Think, too, of the implications of the notion that a more accurate view of things as they actually are is inherently devoid of interest. If the truth about literature bores you, maybe you should be in another field.

I was not expecting to find so many Lorca poems (by American poets) with a Cold War subtext. That was a total surprise, and yet it turned out to be a central pillar of my argument in one part of the book. The creativity of scholarship is to see patterns, not to impose them a priori; to develop arguments out of what is actually there. It's not like you can preclude all future disagreement. My goal is to make disagreement difficult, by making my arguments as air-tight as possible.

"American poems about Lorca" is an arbitrary corpus. Out of this corpus, I select some texts and don't comment on others. This is also arbitrary. Among those I single out, some I think are more significant than others, for my own purposes. (A third arbitrary move.) In the fourth place, I bring to bear my own ideological and aesthetic biases in discussing these significant texts. Yet I'm still aiming to tell a true story, not a merely arbitrary fabrication.

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