19 dic. 2011


I've been doing the experiment of writing in 25-minute segments on my other blog. Here, I 'd like to do something similar, but without writing as fast as I can. I simply want to produce fluent, thoughtful prose for that window of time and see what I come up with.

Andrew has expressed some interest about my concept of hypercanonicity. For me, a hypercanonical author is one who becomes the object of insatiable attention. In Spanish literature, only perhaps Cervantes, Lorca, and Saint John of the Cross rise to that level. Basho, Shakespeare, Rilke, and Dante belong to this category. A hypercanonical writer is translated over and over again. There will be parodies, adaptations, musical settings. Every detail of the writer's life will be significant. Whereas most literary criticism assumes that the writer's life is irrelevant, or of secondary interest at best, hypercanonical authors often have biographical industries devoted to their lives. No "death of the author" here.

His or her works (usually his) become the object of a critical industry, so that an academic could devote his entire career to such a writer.

On one level, the canon is "what is taught" or "what is studied." Not every work in the canon is in the hypercanon, though. Thus, as Andrew pointed out in a comment to another post, the inclusion of additional writers to the canon (in the name of gender equity for example), has little or no effect on the fortunes of hypercanonical authors. They remain central.

Usually, a hypercanonical author defines a national literature, is central to a larger cultural identity, in the way that Cervantes defines Spanishness, or Dante lives within the Italian language. The hypercanonical author also represents the nation to the entire world (to other nations) , as Lorca does.

The implications of this idea are crucial for my project. To study a hypercanonical author is to deal with a huge ideological residue and a huge number of secondary texts, such as translations. I could not have written a book like Apocryphal Lorca about a writer not in this category. There are always linguistic and cultural issues in translation, but the kind of "Lorca effect" i found in US poetry can only result from a writer who has managed to have a huge resonance in two separate cultural spheres.

Of course, the fact that I have derived benefits in my own career from studying Lorca is also significant. People simply care more about hypercanonical authors than about almost any other topic in literary studies. Even people who barely know who Lorca is have responded with more enthusiasm to my projects on him, because they sense that there is something of interest to a wider spectrum of the reading public.

I don't think my concept is all that original, since it is similar to ideas of the "classic" that many other commentators have discussed. I think I can leverage my concept into something relatively novel when I apply it to Lorca.

Well, my time is almost up now. I think I might have a few more ideas about this subject, especially in relation to Foucault's notion of the "author-function." I would argue that the author function is intensified in the case of the "hypercanon." Or that the definition of hypercanonicity is the intensification of the author-function. How should I use my last 39 seconds? Now 27? I wish I knew how to squeeze out a few more good ideas but now my time is done.

9 comentarios:

Jonathan dijo...

581 words.

Andrew Shields dijo...

Is there any "hypercanonical" woman other than Dickinson? I certainly can't think of any in German literature. In French, perhaps Georges Sand? But she's not really quite at the level of Dante or Cervantes in terms of how she is thought about, whereas Dickinson surely is.

Jonathan dijo...

Maybe Sappho.

Jordan dijo...

That way lies Bourdieu.

Amateur Reader (Tom) dijo...

Jane Austen. Now there's an author who has generated an industry.

John dijo...

Dickinson, Sappho, Jane Austen -- yes -- and maybe Yosano Akiko or Ono no Komachi? Gertrude Stein, I'd say. Maybe Virginia Woolf?

All but three of them Anglophones.

Interesting concept -- thanks.

John dijo...


Unsure how canonical Woolf and Austen are outside of English. My impression is that Dickinson and Stein are major in other traditions too.

Ray Davis dijo...

Describing what separates hypercanonical authors from the authors in one's personal canon WITHOUT INSULTING ANY CONCERNED PARTIES feels like an interesting critical exercise.

Jonathan dijo...

The hypercananonical ones cannot be personal favorites except by lucky accident. Many of my favorites are very minor figures.