16 dic. 2010

What Maisie Knew

Henry James wrote a novel with the title What Maisie Knew, focalized (in part) through the perception of the title character, a child. It's a narrative tour-de-force, because of the limitations of the child's perspective. The adults in her life do all sorts of horrid and sordid things, and the reader (an adult reader, presumably) knows more than the consciousness through which the information is filtered. I haven't actually re-read this novel since 1980 or so, so if I am getting technical details wrong there's no wonder. I didn't even like the novel itself, but I remembered the technique and the title.

So I decided that I would call my next book What Lorca Knew. The subtitle is The Embodiment of Knowledge in Spanish Poetry, using a title from a book by William Carlos Williams. Here the idea is that knowledge is embodied, pragmatic, rather than being merely mental or "cerebral." The embodied, pragmatic dimension is evident in poetry as a performed art.

What did Lorca know? How can we know what he knew and didn't? What does a poet know, if we take as a starting point Plato's idea that the poet doesn't know anything? This was the starting point for María Zambrano in Poesía y filosofía, and I will have a chapter on Zambrano here too.

I also consider the model of the poet-intellectual as embodied by Valente, and its contradictions. I'll have a chapter on Claudio Rodríguez too. See this post on Arcade.

Originally the book was supposed to be about Spanish modernism; it still is, since all the writers studied are modernists or late modernists, but now the emphasis is on a particular strain of modernity identified with the problem of knowledge (or "conocimiento") and thought (or "pensamiento"). I want to show that Lorca and Rodríguez are also poets of conocimiento.