Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry


    • James I. Porter
    • Wherever one looks one finds a consensus among scholars that Auerbach’s vision of literary history can be read through the lens of figural reading, as though he had adopted this interpretive technique and made it his own, not only in “Figura,” where Auerbach is giving a historical account without endorsing a thing, but also in Mimesis, whether in his reading of the Hebrew Bible in the famous first chapter of that work or even in later chapters where his analysis concerns secular and no longer Jewish or Christian writing. At another extreme, it can be asserted that history is grasped by Auerbach as itself a figural mechanism under the sign of mimesis. Figura here becomes something like a master trope in Auerbach’s conceptual armory, and it threatens to overwhelm the whole of his thinking. Can the figure of figure bear so much meaning? I doubt that it can. A closer look at the role of figura in Auerbach’s writings will bring out some of the intricacies of this concept and will show that figura functions for him more as a vanishing mediator than as a master trope, much as late antiquity was in Auerbach’s mind a watershed but also a passing moment in the history of Western culture. Auerbach had a keen sense of the direction that history had taken, and his writings demand that we situate him within this perspective.

    • Julia Jarcho
    • The queer figures Edelman analyzes in No Future are fictional characters from literature and film; they don’t have to “make the choice to accede” to figuring the drive as queer because they simply are such figures. This is where the question of medium might begin to make a difference. Theater’s figures are never fully given in advance; in theater, figuring or embodying is something people always have to figure out how to do. In fact, there are two stage figures who do receive passing consideration in No Future: Antigone and—in a footnote—Kate from The Taming of the Shrew. These characters’ turns within No Future are anomalous, not only in that they come from plays, but more strikingly in that they are the only female queers to appear in the book. I want to suggest that this conjuction of gender and genre opens onto an especially promising mode of pursuing Edelman’s ethical project. To show this, I’ll bring a third theatrical female into play and give her more stage time than her two predecessors get in No Future: Hedda Tesman née Gabler, the iconic antiheroine of Henrik Ibsen’s 1890 drama.

    • Daniel Boyarin
    • New Testament scholar Edwin Judge has enjoined: “When one encounters the word ‘religion’ in a translation of an ancient text. First, cross out the word whenever it occurs. Next, find a copy of the text in question in its original language and see what word (if any) is being translated by ‘religion.’ Third, come up with a different translation: ‘It almost doesn’t matter what. Anything besides ‘religion.’” In the philological tradition, the Greek word most often cited as meaning “religion” is thrēskeia, and that is how the word has been routinely translated. In a multiyear research project just published as a book cowritten with my colleague in Roman studies, Carlin A. Barton, we have established a philological basis for denying the meaning “religion” to any classical lexical item. . . . Here I propose to afford from my own research for the book (and in the book) two examples out of many and then to come back briefly to Josephus before concluding with more methodological reflections. The first example is drawn from the Roman-Greek writer Plutarch and the second from the Jew Philo, who wrote in Greek. In both of these I will show that the translation “religion” is actually precluded (notwithstanding the lexicons and some scholarly translators).

    • Todd Cronan
    • There is no doubt that Adolf Hitler’s capacity to provide full employment posed an enormous problem for Marxist theorists. If hunger and unemployment were the lynchpin of revolutionary action, then National Socialism’s satisfaction of these basic human requirements—no hunger, no revolution—required something like a radical reinterpretation of Marxist categories (the Frankfurt school solution), or for Arendt, a wholesale refusal of the project. The result was the same: the replacement of economic categories with political ones. The history and consequences of this replacement is the subject of this essay.

    • Raymond Bellour
    • On 17 March 1987, Gilles Deleuze gave a lecture to the students of the Femis, the French national film school, titled "Avoir une idée en cinéma" (To Have an Idea in Film), which became famous under the title "Qu'est-ce que l'acte de création?" (What Is the Creative Act?). He started by defining certain terms and by establishing distinctions between fields, as he would do some years later with Félix Guattari in What is Philosophy? "An idea . . . is already dedicated to a particular field. Sometimes it is an idea in painting, or an idea in a novel, or an idea in philosophy or an idea in science." Thus philosophy, said Deleuze, "consists in creating or inventing concepts." Film, on the other hand, invents "blocks of movement / duration. Painting invents an entirely different type of block. They are not blocks of concepts or blocks of movement / duration, but blocks of lines / colors. Music invents another type of blocks that are just as specific." The limit that is common to all these inventions, Deleuze added, is the formation of space-times.