Anthropogenic global warming brings into view the collision—or the running up against one another—of three histories that, from the point of view of human history, are normally assumed to be working at such different and distinct paces that they are treated as processes separate from one another for all practical purposes: the history of the earth system, the history of life including that of human evolution on the planet, and the more recent history of industrial civilization (for many, capitalism). Humans now unintentionally straddle these three histories that operate on different scales and at different speeds.
You are about to read—and to hear as well, if you like, on a visit to the Critical Inquiry website—a pretty shamelessly self-interested talk. I prepared it for two reasons. I wanted to get a more inward understanding of a couple of Browning poems that have been favorites of mine for forty years. I also wanted to give a sort of extreme road-test to a mode of critical understanding—prosodic analysis—that has at least until quite recently forfeited not just its prestige but its very academic currency, within the study and the classroom alike.
Everybody likes the other fellow’s prose plain.
I do not believe that professors enforce a standard of dull writing on graduate students to be cruel. They demand dreariness because they think that dreariness is in the students’ best interests. Professors believe that a dull writing style is an academic survival skill because they think that is what editors want…. What we have here is a chain of misinformation and misunderstanding
On the face of it, deductive logic—whether embodied in an Aristotelian syllogism or a problem in Boolean algebra—would seem to have little to do with aesthetics. Logic, after all, purports to systematize the reasoning process precisely to safeguard it from the influence of opinion, feeling, or taste; it instructs, but it does not aim to delight. The development of mathematical logic in mid- and late-Victorian England would, then, seem to have no obvious bearing on aesthetic paradigms. But Victorian innovators in mathematical logic, focused as they were on producing new diagrammatic and notational techniques, were crucial participants in debates regarding the relation of signs to their referents.
Not long ago, news came about the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, at the hands of a nervous neighborhood vigilante. More recently a graduate student in neuroscience named James Holmes opened fire in a Colorado theater with an array of advanced weaponry, killing twelve and wounding fifty-eight.And on a cold and clear December morning in Connecticut, a former high school honors student methodically executed twenty unsuspecting schoolchildren and seven adults with “a semiautomatic rifle that is similar to weapons used by troops in Afghanistan.”
Memory doubles over itself in this letter from Miles Lerman, national campaign chairman for the Holocaust Memorial Museum, describing the transfer of objects for the museum from Poland to Washington, D.C. To begin with, Lerman’s statement that he “froze,” however accurate an account of his immediate reaction to taking hold of the Holocaust victim’s shoe, is pressed into a considerably different service once incorporated into a letter soliciting funds for the museum.
The politics of literature is not the same as the politics of writers and their commitments. The politics of literature is not limited to the politics of literary texts either. If literature means things made from letters, the politics of literature has to deal with such “things.” In the so-called era after theory, literary scholars have rediscovered the thinginess of literature: rare books, manuscripts, cultures of printing and collecting, of cutting and pasting, of bibliophilia and biblioclasm.
Marcel Lepper focuses on the third of the three case studies I discuss in my essay “Cultural Nationalism and Modern Manuscripts,” concerning the disposition of Franz Kafka’s papers, in particular the papers Max Brod brought to Palestine in 1939 just before the Nazis closed the Czech border. The aim of this third study is to complicate the issues raised in discussion of the disposition of Kingsley Amis’s and Saul Bellow’s papers, where the interests in play are seen as scholarly, on the one hand, and national, on the other.
Diarmuid Costello makes an interesting case against Rosalind Krauss’s reading (and, according to him, misreading) of Stanley Cavell’s ideas on medium-specificity and innovation.
As Diarmuid Costello and Dawn M. Phillips explain, the relation of photography’s “automatism or mechanicity” is routinely seen as reason for viewing photography as “mind-independent, agent-less, natural, causal, physical, unmediated.” So challenge i is really also a big part of challenge ii.
In its summer 2013 special issue entitled “Agency and Automatism: Photography as Art since the Sixties,” Critical Inquiry brought together a small group of philosophers, art historians, and a leading photographic artist to assess the roles typically assigned to agency and automatism in understanding recent photographic art.