8 abr. 2009

Research is fun. "Funner" than writing. By research here I mean not the entire enterprise of scholarship and literary criticism, but the more specific dimension of "finding things out," discovering actual information about things. You can be a literary critic without being a researcher, relying mostly on other people's research. Usually, though, you want to at the very least cover yourself, in other words, know enough to know what you're talking about. Beyond that, you want to present information that isn't already widely known, or combine things that are widely known in surprising ways by looking more closely at assumptions that are repeated from one researcher to another without being questioned.

My Lorca book is the one that contains the most actual research. I never considered myself particularly strong in the finding things out dimension. I'm not particularly adept at archival work, for example.

One of the fun things is the kind of coincidence that makes you think you are on the right track or that provides a short cut. Some examples from today.

(1) Wanting to know who had written about the Artists' Theatre in New York, I did a quick search in the MLA bibliography. There were two dissertations in the late 80s. One of them, fortuitously, was done at the University of Kanas, where I teach. Since the library keeps copies of all dissertations written here, I have immediate access to that.

(2) On a deeper level, the production of Lorca's Don Perlimplín brings together four of my own interests: jazz (through Billy Strayhorn), Lorca, the New York School of Poetry, whose members contributed plays to Herbert Machiz's Artists Theatre, and the New York School of Painting, whose artists also contributed to this theatre. The fact I didn't know about this production until after it was too late to include in my Lorca book shows another fun thing about research: there is always more to discover, and the paths of discovery are unpredictable. How would I have known to look at a biography of Strayhorn to research a book about the American Lorca? I could have worked another year on the book and still not found this, because it was by turning my attention deliberately to something else and away from this project that this came to my attention.

(3) I used "Fragments of Late Modernity" for an article I wrote. Part of the same book project involves Spanish philosopher María Zambrano, and looking through the secondary literature on Zambrano I found the book title Fragmentos de la modernidad. The fact that others are thinking on similar lines confirms the direction of my research. Of course, I was thinking of Valente's Fragmentos de un libro futuro.

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