Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry


    • Carol J. Adams
    • My specific caregiving focus is the decision to give care to elderly relatives and the complex world into which one is delivered after making that decision. I seek to present the nuance and complexity of care through describing very concrete experiences and the thoughts they provoked. I am not looking at the macro level of caregiving; others have done this work and done it well.  

      Caregivers struggle with philosophical questions: What is care? To whom do I owe care? What are the obligations of compassion? What is doing good? What is in a name? What is love? When is enough? What is a good life? What is a good death? We become philosophers on the go. In this essay, I offer an experiential and practical set of materials illustrating this claim and providing in these experiential materials a way to challenge or complicate philosophies and theories of care.

    • James J. Hodge
    • Why do so many digital media artworks employ Psycho only to undo its spine-tingling sensationalism? This question requires attending to another, more recent shift in the atmosphere of the ordinary: the saturation of contemporary life by digital media. This story has at least two popular and overlapping phases: the emergence of the web in the 1990s and early 2000s and the subsequent rise of social media, smartphones, and “always on” computing. During the first phase, between 1993 and 2005, Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic figures prominently in a large number of digital artworks by Douglas Gordon, Lev Manovich, Vuk Cosic, Victor Liu, Jim Campbell, and Gregg Biermann among others. While it is common for new-media artworks to reimagine cinematic source material, artists working with digital media during this period return to Psycho with uncommon frequency. These artists share little in common except a striking preoccupation with expressing the aesthetic singularity of digital media via Psycho. The digital interest in Psycho stops in 2005, the same year YouTube appears online as one of the more famous social media or web 2.0 sites that continue to rule networked life today. The historical alignment of so many digital Psychos alongside the proliferation of digital media (what might be called web 1.0) suggests that artists found Psycho uniquely suited for working through the historical event of digital media’s popular emergence.

    • Andrew Moisey
    • It is one thing to profess a theory of precognitive affect but quite another to put one into practice. An object that triggers the same emotion in all humans sounds like science fiction. But testing hydrogen bombs in the desert has given us the need for such an object. What shall we make to keep humans from digging up our radioactive waste long after our present languages and memories are dead?

    • Julia Jarcho
    • Hedda Gabbler turns out to resonate in striking ways with Lee Edelman’s account of queer figures like Ebenezer Scrooge. Examining the ways in which she solicits identification with the death drive—that is, enacts something like an Edelmanian theory of queerness—might help redress the “narrow vision” of No Future’s “gay male archive. It is true that Hedda’s emotional register seems largely to correspond with the “range of affective responses” identified with gay male canonicity, like boredom and irony—a fact that may help explain why Charles Ludlam was asked to play Hedda in the 1984 American Ibsen Theater production. Nevertheless, the play’s history of feminist (and outraged reactionary) reception suggests that its queerness cannot be divorced from its specifically feminist agency. This means that thinking through No Future’s application to Hedda Gabler is one way to begin thinking through its relevance to feminist poetics. It is also a way to argue for theater’s special relevance to the queer ethical problematic, since this play offers a vision of the stage as a place for engaging with the death drive—and thus helps us see what such an engagement, paradoxical on the face of it, might be.

    • Lisa L. Moore
    • This essay reads the history of the sonnet as an archive of desire between women. Drawing on several key strands in the history and theory of the lyric, the essay argues that both in its distinctive voltaic structure and its foregrounding of the material aspects of language, the sonnet is a form that often exceeds, reverses, doubles, or even contradicts its syntactic meaning.  The swerve of the volta and the unconscious eruption of sound and rhythm necessitated by its stanzaic patterns and rhyme schemes break open lesbian possibilities in canonical and noncanonical sonnets alike. The sonnet’s fundamental structure of address enacts queerly gendered speakers and objects whose roots lie in Lesbian poems of love, readable in important examples from the romantic sonnet revival, one of the most contested moments in sonnet history. A lesbian history of the sonnet makes visible new readings and relationships among late eighteenth-century sonnets and sonneteers.