Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 1974

Volume 1 Issue 1
    • 3Sheldon Sacks
    • If the editor had done a proper job, his introductory rhetoric would have been superfluous. Indeed in the second fit of hubris immediately consequent upon the heady act of initiating CRITICAL INQUIRY, its coeditors agreed that the success of our venture must be measured by the precise degree to which this issue was self-defining. Our goals would be fully explained by our accomplishment. Our commitment to reasoned inquiry into significant creations of the human spirit would be transformed from proclamation to actualityrevealed as less, and therefore more, than pompous aspirationby a collection of essays, individually excellent, which, when viewed together, would represent the full range of interests and values implicit in our commitment.

      See also: Sheldon Sacks, Chimera II: The Margins of Mutual Comprehension

    • 1Wayne C. Booth
    • Kenneth Burke is, at long last, beginning to get the attention he de- serves. Among anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and rhetori- cians his "dramatism" is increasingly recognized as something that must at least appear in one's index, whether one has troubled to understand him or not. Even literary critics are beginning to see him as not just one more "new critic" but as someone who tried to lead a revolt against "narrow formalism" long before the currently fashionable explosion into the "extrinsic" had been dreamed of. I have recently heard him called a structuralist-before-his-time-and what could be higher praise than that! But in almost everything said about his literary criticism, there is an air of condescension that is puzzling. The tone seems usually to echo that of Rene Wellek (1971), who, as Burke himself laments (1972), "almost overwhelms me with praise," referring to "men of great gifts, nimble powers of combination and association, and fertile imagination," but then deplores Burke's irresponsibility, repudiates his critical judgments, condemns his general method without bothering to look closely at it, and in general makes him look like some sort of idiot savant-a buffoon with a high IQ.

      See also: Wayne C. Booth, Irony and Pity Once Again: "Thaïs" Revisited

      Wayne C. Booth received the Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award in 1962 for his book The Rhetoric of Fiction. His most recent works, A Rhetoric of Irony and Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, appeared this year. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Irony and Pity Once Again: Thais Revisited" (Winter 1975), "M.H. Abrams: Historian as Critic, Critic as Pluralist" (Spring 1976), "THE LIMITS OF PLURALISM: 'Preserving the Exemplar': Or, How Not to Dig our Own Graves" (Spring 1977), "CRITICAL RESPONSE: Notes and Exchanges" (Autumn 1977), "Metaphor as Rhetoric: The Problem of Evaluation" (Autumn 1978) ,"Ten Literal 'Theses" (Autumn 1978), with Wright Morris: "The Writing of Organic Fiction: A Conversation" (Autumn 1976), and with Robert E. Streeter and W. J. T. Mitchell: "EDITORS' NOTE: Sheldon Sacks 1930-1979" (Spring 1979).

    • 23Kenneth Burke
    • Booth says, "Burke seems to be claiming to know better than Keats himself some of what the poem 'means', and the meaning he finds is antithetical not just to the poet's intentions but to any intentions he might conceivably have entertained!" The notion underlying my analysis is this: Formal social norms of "propriety" are related to poetic "propriety" as Emily Post's Book of Etiquette is to the depths of what goes on in the poet's search "for what feels just right." Wellek stops with Emily Post. The official aesthetic isn't likely to cover the ground. If I may offer a perhaps "outrageously" honorific example, on pages 329-30 of my Language as Symbolic Action, when discussing a sonnet of mine, "Atlantis," I indicate how one can both know and not know when one's imagination is working at a level of "propriety" not reducible to the official code. My lines had a Swiftian, Aristophanic dimension; and though they were not "programmatically" so designed, my experience with them both ab intra and ab extra indicates how such things can operate.

      See also: Kenneth Burke, A Critical Load, beyond That Door; Or, before the Ultimate Confrontation; Or, When Thinking of Deconstructionist Structuralists; Or, A Hermeneutic Fantasy

      Kenneth Burke's numerous writings include The Complete White Oxen (stories), Towards a Better Life (novel), Collected Poems, and among his critical works, A Grammar of Motives, A Rhetoric of Motives, Language as Symbolic Action, and The Philosophy of Literary Form. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "ARTISTS ON ART: Post-Poesque Derivation of a Terministic Cluster" (Winter 1977), "(Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic) Action" (Summer 1978), "CRITICAL RESPONSE: A Critical Load, Beyond that Door; or, Before the Ultimate Confrontation; or, When Thinking of Deconstructionist Structuralists; or, A Hermeneutic Fantasy"(Autumn 1978), and "CRITICAL RESPONSE: Methodological Repression and/or Strategies of Containment" (Winter 1978).

    • 33Quentin Bell
    • University teachers, as is well known, commit acts of despotism. About three years ago I committed such an act. I told my students that I would not accept papers which included the words protagonist, basic (as a noun), alienation, total (as an adjective), dichotomy, and a few others including elite and elitist. On consideration I decided to remove the ban on the last two for it seemed to me that there was no other term that could be used to discuss what is, after all, an interesting idea.

      It is of course true that my students and I use the word incorrectly. An elite must surely be a chosen body. Congress, the police, the final heat of the Miss World contest, and the Bolshevik Party are elites, whereas an aristocracy or a plutocracy—unless one believes the rich and the nobility to be chosen by God—are not. Nevertheless, when we use the word elite in connection with the visual arts it is certainly related to, though not synonymous with, class. An elite is usually a group within a relatively prosperous class. The patrons of the Renaissance were, presumably, at the apex of the social system: on the other hand, the patrons of the Impressionists belonged to a comparatively humble section of the middle classes. But it will be found that an aesthetic elite does always enjoy certain advantages of wealth and leisure and education.

      See also: Quentin Bell, The Art Critic and the Art Historian

      Quentin Bell is professor of the history and theory of art, Sussex University. He has written Virginia Woolf: A Biography, Of Human Finery, Ruskin, Victorian Artists and Bloomsbury. Other contributions to Critical Inquiry are "The Art Critic and the Art Historian" (Spring 1975), "CRITICAL RESPONSE: Notes and Exchanges" (Summer 1979), and "Bloomsbury and 'the Vulgar Passions'" (Winter 1979).

    • 47Henry Nash Smith
    • This essay deals with American fiction between the early 1850s, when Hawthorne and Melville produced their best work, and the first novels of Howells and James in the early 1870s. The familiar notion that this was the period of transition from pre-Civil War Romanticism to postwar Realism tells us nothing in particular about it. Yet we need some historical frame in which to place both of the later efforts of Hawthorne and Melville and the apprentice work of the next generation of novelists. To this end, I propose to examine a few examples of the popular fiction that held at least quantitative dominance of the field. Hawthorne and Melville believed that the unprecedented sales of a new kind of stories by women writers contributed significantly to the loss of audience they both suffered in the early 1850s; and not only Howells and James but also Mark Twain showed in their early careers an unacknowledged attraction toward the procedures of the popular novelists along with a conscious effort to escape from them...the type of best-seller that appeared in the 1850s was an accidental creation rather than the result of conscious contrivance on the part of either authors or publishers. In fact, it caught the publishers by surprise. According to the author's sister (Anna B. Warner 1909, p. 282), Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World ([1850] 1851) was rejected by "almost all the leading book firms in New York," and the manuscript was returned with the comment "Fudge!" written on it by a reader for Harper's. Miss Warner, a thirty-one-year-old spinster, was the daughter of a once prosperous New York lawyer who had fallen into financial difficulties. The story resembles Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (published three years earlier) to the extent that its heroine is an orphan exposed to poverty and psychological hardships who finally attains economic security and high social status through marriage. But the American writer places much more emphasis on the heroine's piety, and the book sets an all-time record for frequency of references to tears and weeping.

      See also: Sander L. Gilman, Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature

      Henry Nash Smith, professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley, received the John H. Dunning prize and the Bancroft Award for hisVirgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth. He has also written Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer, and Popular Culture and Industrialism.

    • 71Elder Olsen
    • When we discuss the value of a work of art we are confronted immediately with two difficulties: the terms we use, and the peculiar character of art. No one, to my knowledge, has ever doubted that an artist produces a form of some kind, and that in any discussion of art as art that form must somehow be considered; but the terms we use generally have no reference to form. We miss the form in various ways (1) We use terms that are nonartistic—that is, terms that refer to something external to the work, as when we speak of the subject of a painting, of what was depicted rather than the depiction of it, though we know full well that what we respond to is not what was depicted but the depiction of it. "This is a play about Oedipus— what does that tell us of the diverse forms produced by Sophocles, Seneca, Dryden, Voltaire, Gide, Cocteau? (2) Or again, we use terms which are analogical, for example, the "rhythm" of a painting; the difficulty with these is that they are ambiguous and also that, while they may relate to the work, they can designate it only insofar as there is similarity between it and the analogue. (3) Again, we use terms which seem to designate a single form when in fact they refer to forms of the utmost heterogeneity, as when we speak of "the novel"; this usually arises out of the indiscriminate application of the term over some considerable span of history, so that the "historical slippage" of meaning is gradual and goes unnoticed. As the term broadens in meaning to include more and more heterogeneous forms, the essence of each is lost, and the term comes to apply only to accidental analogies between the forms. In the end very little can then be said, involving only the most abstract and general accidents of likeness. Henry James' The Art of Fiction, Percy Lubbock's The Craft of Fiction, and E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel illustrate this condition perfectly. The complaint that it is impossible to discuss tragedy because the term has been diversely employed and its proffered justification (usually nowadays with the citations from Wittgenstein) stem from this condition. The complaint and the justifications are both trivial, and the solution of the difficulty is simple. All that is necessary is to distinguish the different senses of the term by distinguishing the different things to which it is applied. Language is ambiguous, and we use it ambiguously; this in no way implies that the ambiguities cannot be cleared up. (4) Finally, we may use terms which indeed have reference to the form of the work but place the part for the whole; that is, terms which are elements in its definition but do not constitute the complete definition. Thus we designate something, not through the form proper but through the device or method used, as in "drama," "sculpture," "etching," "collage," or through the means or medium, as in "charcoal sketch," "watercolor," "oil painting." The point is not that the object is not, say, a drama or a watercolor; of course it is. The point is rather that these terms do not as such refer to the form and refer to it completely. If in fact they stipulated form, all charcoal sketches would be alike in form, and all oil paintings, and all dramas. One consequence of speaking in such a fashion is that we are likely to confuse the method with the form and talk of, say, "the nature of drama" as though all drama were of the same "nature," whereas the dramatic method is used in a wide variety of forms; or to confuse the medium or means with the form and to assure that the work can have no properties beyond those of its medium, as though artists did not exist and all art were simply nature.

      See also: Elder Olson, The Poetic Process

      Elder Olson, poet and critic, has received numerous awards for his verse (Collected Poems, 1963). Among his many works are Tragedy and the Theory of Drama, and The Theory of Comedy. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "The Poetic Process"" (Autumn 1975), Part 1 of a "Conspectus of Poetry"(Autumn 1977), and Part 2 of a "Conspectus of Poetry" (Winter 1977).

    • 91Joshua C. Taylor
    • As some artists discovered early in the century, there is a particular pleasure and stimulation to be derived from works of art created by cultures untouched by our own traditions of form. In part this is probably a delight in exoticism, in being away from home, and in part it possibly is our sentiment for cultures we look on as traditional, in a Jungian sense, or primitive in their unquestioning allegiance to simple cultural necessity. But more significantly, without indulging in philosophical or anthropological speculation, we are forced, in looking at such objects as these elegantly designed boxes and bowls, to revise our visual thinking, our assumptions about unity and grace.

      See also: Zhang Longxi, The Myth of the Other: China in the Eyes of the West

      Joshua C. Taylor, director of the National Collection of Fine Arts of the Smithsonian Institution, has written Learning to Look, William Page: The American Titian, and catalogues of exhibits of futurism and the works of Umberto Boccioni. Part 1 of this paper has been published in somewhat different form in Boxes and Bowls (Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington D.C., 1974).

    • 103Frank Kermode
    • This is a shot at expressing a few of the problems that arise when you try to understand how novels are read. I shall be trying to formulate them in very ordinary language: the subject is becoming fashionable, and most recent attempts seem to me quite unduly fogged by neologism and too ready to match the natural complexity of the subject with barren imitative complications. Of course you may ask why there should be theories of this kind at all, and I can only say that they are needed because of what we have missed by always meditating on what we have read and can survey, as it were, from a distance which allows us to think it's keeping still, rather than upon the ways in which, as we read, we deal with the actual turbulence of a text. Much of what I say will seem obvious enough, but it may throw some light on a fact that we all know so intimately that we don't bother to ask questions about it: the fact of plurality, of which the plurality of our own interpretation is evidence. There are interesting side issues: why do some novels seem to be more plural than others, and why, on the whole, do the ones that seem most plural so often turn out to be fairly recent, not to say modern? Also, perhaps, how do interpretations alter in time? And what's wrong with the sorts of theories we already have? . . . For the natural or naive way of reading - a matter of recognition, the medium being a virtual transparency - is neither natural nor naive. It is conditioned and arbitrary, a false return to "story" - to the "wisdom", as Benjamin calls it, of folklore, a pretence that everybody can agree on a particular construction of reality. It is, however, no more apposite to condemn this on moral grounds than to condemn texts that reject narratives, that reject story, theme, closure, authority, that trap us into contemplation of their own opacity, on the ground that this is deceptive. It seems right to allow into the plurality of readings the naive among the rest, though such a text as Ford's is so evidently not naive that naive readers of it would probably soon grow impatient. It calls for virtuosity elaborately built on the basis of naive competence, a development on productive capacity. Even to think of what that virtuosity entails is to encounter novel problems. It is harder to describe it than to do it, like riding a bicycle. But it is worth trying, because of the errors that accumulate in the absence of serious discussion - false notions of plurality, a too simple view of the history of interpretation, even culpable negligence in the reception of new and difficult work. These are problems that arise from problems native to novels - they are the problems of modern criticism, its scope and responsibilities. We know them about as well, as Dowell knew the Ashburnhams. But that is another sad story.

      See also: Frank Kermode, Secrets and Narrative Sequence

      Frank Kermode is King Edward VII Professor of English at Cambridge University. He is the author ofThe Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, Continuities, Modern Essays, andShakespeare, Spenser, Donne: Renaissance Essays. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "A Reply to Denis Donoghue" (Spring 1975), "A Reply to Joseph Frank" (Spring 1978), and "Secrets and Narrative Sequence" (Autumn 1980).

    • 123Morris Philipson
    • I submit that the intimations of "inner meanings" as presented in this novel should be reread as a transpositions from the language of sexual intercourse to the language of idealized consciousness, that is, from physical sensation to felt thought. Consider the imagery employed when Mrs. Dalloway reminds herself of her experiences of love:


      It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores! Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over - the moment. [p. 47]

      What is implied by the phrase "inner meaning" - secret, hidden, private - discoverable only by letting go of the protecting, preserving defenses of the self merged in the most fulfilling involvement with another, through rhythmic participation and withdrawal, is expressed in the superb image of "a match burning in a crocus." The ecstatic, climatic moment bursts into the vision of a flower, even a common flower, a crocus, seen, first as an object of beauty only: for flowers are felt to be useless, as having no use for us other than as objects for aesthetic contemplation, and then, as a match - straight, hard in the center - burning. Thus, the vividness of the visual perception is combined with the thrill of a danger involved, the inherent destructive potential of fire. Thereby, the flower image is experienced as an event, a performance, not a useful means to an end other than itself but of use only as expressive of consummatory pleasure, an end in itself. Expressions of such moments of insight characterize culminating experiences in answer to the question: "What will ever be enough?" to make life worth living.

      See also: David Daiches, What Was the Modern Novel?

      Morris Philipson is the author of Outline of a Jungian Aesthetics, a satirical novel, Bourgeois Anonymous, and a biography of Tolstoy, The Count Who Wished He Were a Peasant, winner of the Clara Ingram Judson award. He has also edited a number of books including Aesthetics Today and Aldous Huxley on Art and Artists.

    • 149Rudolf Arnheim
    • When a theorist of my persuasion looks at photography he is more concerned with the character traits of the medium as such than with the particular work of particular artists. He wishes to know what human needs are fulfilled by this kind of imagery, and what properties enable the medium to fulfill them. For his purpose, the theorist takes the medium at its best behavior. The promise of its potentialities captures him more thoroughly than the record of its actual achievements, and this makes him optimistic and tolerant, as one is with a child, who has a right to demand credit for his future. Analyzing media in this way requires a very different temperament than analyzing the use people make of them. Studies of this latter kind, given the deplorable state of our civilization, often make a depressing reading.

      See also: Rudolf Arnheim, A Plea for Visual Thinking

      Among Rudolf Arnheim's latest publications are Toward a Psychology of Art, Visual Thinking, and Entropy and Art. A new version of Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, will appear this fall. He is professor of the psychology of art, emeritus, at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University. Other contributions to Critical Inquiry are "A Stricture on Space and Time" (Summer 1978) and "THE LANGUAGE OF IMAGES: A Plea for Visual Thinking" (Spring 1980).

    • 163Leonard B. Meyer
    • Like a number of other writers, [Gunther S.] Stent contends that in essential ways science and art are comparable. As he puts it: "Both the arts and the sciences are activities that endeavor to discover and communicate truths about the world" (Stent 1972, p. 89). Although one cannot but sympathize with the desire to bring the so-called Two Cultures together, a viable and enduring union will not be achieved by ignoring or glossing over important differences. Using the behavior of scientists, artists, and laymen as empirical evidence, the first part of this essay will argue that Stent's union is a shotgun marriage, not one made in heaven, and that his attempt to wed different disciplinary species results not in fecund insight but barren misconception. In the second part, I will suggest that this misunderstanding arises because, like many scientists (as well as a goodly number of artists and laymen) Stent fails even to recognize the existence of the humanist - that is, the theorist and critic of the arts. Yet the humanities must be included, and areas of inquiry within them differentiated, if diverse disciplines are to be related to one another in a coherent and consistent way.

      See also: Leonard B. Meyer, Grammatical Simplicity and Relational Richness: The Trio of Mozart's G Minor Symphony

      Leonard B. Meyer's most recent book is Explaining Music: Essays and Explanations. He is also the author of Emotion and Meaning in Music, The Rhythmic Structure of Music (with Grosvenor W. Cooper), and Music, The Arts, and Ideas, awarded the Laing Prize in 1969.

    • 219Eudora Welty
    • I had not meant to mystify readers by withholding any facts; it is not a writer's business to tease. The story is told through Phoenix's mind as she undertakes her errand. As the author at one with the character as I tell it, I must assume that the boy is alive. As the reader, you are free to think as you like, of course: the story invites you to believe that no matter what happens, Phoenix, for as long as she is able to walk and can hold to her purpose, will make her journey. The possibility that she would keep on even if he were dead is there in her devotion and its single-minded, single-track errand. Certainly the artistic truth, which should be good enough for the fact, lies in Phoenix's own answer to that question. When the nurse asks, "He isn't dead, is he?" she speaks for herself: "He still the same. He going to last."

      Eudora Welty received the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her novel, The Optimist's Daughter. Among her other works are The Shoe Bird, Losing Battles, and One Time, One Place.

    • 222Eudora Welty
    • It was December - a bright frozen day in the early morning. Far out in the country there was an old Negro woman with her head tied in a red rag, coming along a path through the pinewoods. Her name was Phoenix Jackson. She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grandfather clock. She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her. This made a grave and persistent noise in the still air, that seemed meditative like the chirping of a solitary little bird.


      Eudora Welty received the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her novel, The Optimist's Daughter. Among her other works are The Shoe Bird, Losing Battles, and One Time, One Place.