Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 1979


Volume 6 Issue 1
    • 1Stephen Toulmin
    • As a model for explaining the inwardness of mental life, a computer in the cortex is no improvement on an immaterial mind trapped wherever Descartes or Newton originally located it. For both models distract our attention from certain crucial differences between inwardness and interiority - that is, from certain crucial respects in which these two inherited ways of thinking about the inner mind diverge from one another. Clearly, interiority is an inescapable feature of our brains and of all the physiological processes that go on in the central nervous system. There is no doubt at all that those processes are permanently located inside our bodies. So, if our mental lives were, properly speaking, trapped within our brains, they must be trapped there from birth. In this view, our minds must indeed operate permanently (as Jean-Paul Sartre puts it) à huis clos: like prisoners who are born, live, and die in permanent deadlock. Yet the inwardness of mental life, as we know it and speak of it in everyday experience, is not like that at all. The things that mark so many of our thoughts, wishes, and feelings as inner or inward are not permanent, inescapable, lifelong characteristics. On the contrary, inwardness is in many respects an acquired feature of our experience, a product, in part, of cultural history but in part also of individual development. So understood, our mental lives are not essentially inner lives. Rather, they become inner because we make them so. And we do develop inner lives, in this direct, experiential sense, because we have reasons for doing so.

      See also: Stephen Toulmin, The Construal of Reality: Criticism in Modern and Postmodern Science

      Stephen Toulmin presented an earlier version of this essay as the Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture at the University of Chicago on 30 April 1979. He is the author of, among other works, Foresight and Understanding, Human Understanding, Knowing and Acting, and (with Allan Janik) Wittgenstein's Vienna.

    • 17Michael Holroyd
    • It was difficult to avoid the amiability of [Shaw's] impersonal embrace. Everything he seemed to say was what it was—and another thing. Women were the same as men: but different. But of the two, he calculated, women were fractionally less idiotic than men. "The only decent government is government by a body of men and women," he said in 1906; "but if only one sex must govern, then I should say, let it be women—put the men out! Such an enormous amount of work is done of the nature of national housekeeping, that obviously women should have a hand in it." Shaw favored women over men in much of the same spirit as he advertised Roman Catholics being a trifle superior to Protestants. Both preferences were the product of a Protestant gentleman who delighted in perverse exhibitions of fairness.

       

      Certain consequences followed from the fact that only women became pregnant. Had Shaw had the making of the world in the first place, and not merely the remaking of it, things might have been ordered more sensibly. However, the rules had been laid down and the worst thing you could do was to complain of them. Every grievance was an asset in the womb of time. The advantage to women came in the form of greater natural wisdom about sex. They could hardly help themselves. Shaw maintained that the instinct of women acted as a sophisticated compass in steering our course for the future. His disenchantment with the human experiment expanded during and after the First World War. In Heartbreak House—"my Lear" he called it—he shows us what he supposed to be a "Bloomsburgian" culture where the feminine instinct has been trivialized in such a way that it no longer gives us our true bearings, and we drift towards the rocks. We had defaulted in our contract with the Life Force and would probably be superseded by another partner.

      See also: Norman N. Holland, Human Identity

      Michael Holroyd is the author of Lytton Strachey and Augustus John and the authorized biography of George Bernard Shaw. The present essay appears in The Genius of Shaw, edited by Holroyd, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

    • 33Lee R. Edwards
    • I have taken such pains to indicate the scope, terms, and foci of Neumann's analysis because he provides one of the main pillars on which any further systematic study of the woman hero must rest. By showing Psyche's relation to the mythic or archetypal structure of heroism, by demonstrating the particular ways in which the hero is a figure distinguished primarily by involvement in particular patterns of action and psychological development, Neumann provides an invaluable service to further studies of literature, heroism, and women. Without belaboring the distinction between the hero and the heroine, Neumann validates the claim that a woman can be a hero and eliminates the awkward distinction between the heroine as heroic figure and the heroine as conventional woman that has perplexed so much recent literary, especially feminist, analysis.1 He is also very good at locating the details in Psyche's dilemma that constitute significant associative images within a narrative representing heroism by means of a female character. Specifically, he indicates how Psyche's beauty is as much a burden as a boon, shows the importance of her relationship to other female characters, and points out the ways in which the apparent hostility of other women acts as a necessary goad to Psyche's own developing independence. Neumann's analysis is also suggestive in showing the appropriateness of archetypal criticism to material which is not myth in the narrow sense. To be sure, Apuleius' Amor and Psyche results from the distillation of narratives whose origins are clearly to be found in the folklore and functioning mythologies of Greek and Roman culture; just as clearly, however, Apuleius is telling his tale as part of a highly self-conscious, complexly structured narrative2 analogous, in some ways, to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Milton's great religious epics, and even that seemingly least mythic set of narrative structures, the novel.

       

      ·  1. See, e.g., Ellen Moers' long discussion of "heroinism" in Literary Women: The Great Writers (New York, 1976), pp. 113-242. Moers' use of this awkward term, the female version of the presumably masculine heroism, perpetuates the idea that only men can be true heroes, while extraordinary women remain "special cases" necessitating special terminology.

      ·  2. See P. G. Walsh, The Roman Novel: The 'Satyricon' of Petronius and the 'Metamorphoses' of Apuleius (London, 1970), pp. 141-223.

      See also: Sandra M. Gilbert, Costumes of the Mind: Transvestism as Metaphor in Modern Literature

      Lee R. Edwards is an editor of The Massachusetts Review and an associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is presently completing The Labors of Psyche: Female Heroism and Fictional Form.

    • 51David D. Cooper
    • Perhaps the best way to understand Harold Bloom's enigmatic theory of "poetic misprision" is to avoid the immanent critique altogether. It is best described, rather (at least as far as the theory's role in the evolution of our attempt to assign some "meaning" to the poetic response), as a synthesis. Bloom seems to have taken Aristotle's mimesis and linked it to Freud's concept of sublimation,1 with particular emphasis on the role that sublimation plays in "the family romance." Even if one were to hedge a bit and take into account the fact that neo-Freudian re-evaluations of orthodox psychoanalysis have succeeded in extracting the purely sexual component out of the psychodynamics of sublimation, one is still left with the notion of sublimation as anxiety producing. Thus it is that, according to Bloom, the modern poet, in particular, sublimates his imitation of a strong precursor poet. Since the emphasis today is on desexualizing libido, Freud's original sexual vocabulary seems to have survived for its metaphorical value alone; the "unconscious fear of castration," for example, is simply a metaphor for "the poet's fear of ceasing to be a poet," a man's fear of ceasing to be a man. No matter how much we "modernize" Freud, the fact will always remain that the psychoanalytic context is the context of psychopathology: "a variety of the uncanny."

       

      ·  1. See Sigmund Freud, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, in The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. A. A. Brill (New York, 1938), pp. 625-26.

      See also: Harold Bloom, Poetry, Revisionism, Repression

      David D. Cooper is an associate in the department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Using the critical paradigm developed in the present essay, he has written a book on Thomas Merton's poetry.

       

      See also: "Poetry, Revisionism, Repression" by Harold Boom in Vol. 2, No. 2; "Formalism, Savagery, and Care; or, The Function of Criticism Once Again" by Jerome J. McGann in Vol. 2, No. 3

    • 65Samuel Jay Keyser and Alan Prince
    • We began with the observation that language is often held to enact the world. We have examined several instances of this notion, beginning with a discussion of the folk etymology of certain words, moving through an example of Freud, to Morgenstern, Lettvin, and Stevens. The method shared by these examples assumes that words are literally saturated with meaning; that what appears arbitrary or senseless in them can be made to render up its sense and its motivation through a kind of inspired analysis. Our intent has been to show how this principle of folk etymology lies behind some sophisticated creative thinking. In Freud, it is hypothesized to be a psychological mechanism of some depth. In Morgenstern and Lettvin, it forms the basis for a resonant poetic joke, while in Stevens it appears to have the same major status as the mythic principle of creation-through-language illustrated in our first examples from Egyptian mythology and from Genesis. Stevens, of course, uses the principle to create poetry, not religion; for as he says in section 5 of "The Man with the Blue Guitar":

       

                                                                  Poetry

       

      Exceeding music must take the place
      Of empty heaven and its hymns . . .

      See also: Herbert F. Tucker, Unsettled Scores: Meter and Play in Two Music Poems by Browning

      Samuel Jay Keyser, head of the department of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and editor of Linguistic Inquiry, is the coauthor of English Stress: Its Form, Its Growth and Its Role in Verse and of Beginning English Grammar. Alan Prince, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has written on stress and linguistic rhythm and is currently working, with Keyser, on the poetry of Wallace Stevens.

    • 79Eric S. Rabkin
    • The dictionary tells us that metalinguistics is simply "the study of the interrelationship between language and other cultural behavioral phenomena."1 However, because most studies are in fact expressed in language, the study itself becomes a candidate for metalinguistic inquiry. In other words, language is not only capable of interrelationships with kinship systems or economic systems or rituals but it is capable of intrarelationships. . . . Language often becomes a subject in science fiction because science fiction writers realize that they must account for the communication between characters from different planets or different epochs. Wells' Time Traveller, when he first encounters the effete and childlike Eloi, notices that they speak "a strange and very sweet and liquid tongue" (The Time Machine, 1895, chap. 4) which he never does come to understand. This failure of understanding is realistic and leads to some lovely pathos as the Time Traveller tries to apprehend a world solely by means of observation and exchanges of facial expression and gesture. Although language conveniently drops from consideration once it is established that there won't be any significant talking, that it is considered at all adds plausibility to this fantastic tale.

       

      ·  1. American Heritage Dictionary, New College Edition, 1976.

      See also: Eric S. Rabkin, Spatial Form and Plot

      Eric S. Rabkin, professor of English and director of the Collegiate Institute for Values and Science at the University of Michigan, is the author of Narrative Suspense, The Fantastic in Literature, Arthur C. Clarke and the editor of Fantastic Worlds: Myths, Tales, and Stories. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, "Spatial Form and Plot," appeared in the Winter 1977 issue.

       

      See also: "The Shape of the Signifier" by Walter Benn Michaels in Vol. 27, No. 2

    • 99Eugene Eoyang
    • "The essence of literature may be compared to the various plants and trees," Liu Hseih writes, "alike in the fact that they are rooted in the soil, yet different in their flavor and their fragrance, their exposure to the sun."1 The character of each work is manifest in its unique savor and in its scent. In other works, the uniqueness of a work can be savored: texts may echo other works, but the personality of any work is instantaneously verified by what Liu Hseih calls wei, flavor, and hsiu, fragrance. It is this uniqueness that persists and survives innumerable bad imitations, shifts in circumstances, lost phonetics, and changing styles. It is what remains fresh in the classics and enables the contemporary reader to feel a sense of discovery and newness. Liu Hseih says that of these lasting works that their "roots are deep, their foliage luxuriant, their expression succinct yet rich; the things described were familiar, but their ramifications are far-reaching: so, although they were written in the past, they have a lasting savor that remains fresh."2

       

      ·  1. Liu Hseih, Wen-hsin tiao-lung chu, ed. Fan Wen-lan (Peking, 1958), p. 519; Shih, The Literary Mind and the Carving of the Dragons (Taipei, 1970), p. 232.

      ·  2. Liu Hseih, p. 22; Shih, p. 24. Although the same Chinese word wei is used in this passage, I have translated it as "savor" to stress the combination of qualities inherent in a work rather than restrict these qualities to a single "flavor."

       

      Eugene Eoyang is an associate professor of comparative literature and of East Asian languages and literatures at Indiana State University. He has contributed over fifty translations to Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry and is the author of an anthology of Chinese fiction, Links in the Chain.

    • 107Stephen Orgel
    • If we think about comedy in terms of stock characters, Shakespeare provides some startling examples. Here, for instance, are two hypothetical casts: (1) A jealous husband, a chaste wife, an irascible father, a clever malicious servant, a gullible friend, a bawdy witty maid; (2) A pair of lovers, their irascible fathers, a bawdy serving woman, a witty friend, a malicious friend, a kindly foolish priest. Both of these groups represent recognizable comic configurations, though in fact they are also the casts of Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Being able to see them in this light, I think, reveals something important about how both these tragedies work. Much of their dramatic force derives from the way they continually tempt us with comic possibilities. We are told in a prologue that Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed, but if inevitability is a requisite of tragedy, neither play will qualify for the genre: they are the most iffy dramas in the Shakespearean canon. At innumerable points in both plays, had anything happened differently, the tragic catastrophe would have been averted. Othello particularly teases the audience in this way—as the famous story about the man who leapt from his seat, furious at the impending murder of Desdemona, and shouted "You fool, can't you see she's innocent?" reveals. The story is no doubt apocryphal (I have even heard it told about Verdi's opera), but the point is that it is unique to this play: there are no similar tales of spectators leaping up to rescue Cordelia, to save Gloucester from blinding, to dash the asp from Cleopatra's hand.

      See also: Dennis Kezar, Shakespeare’s Addictions

      Stephen Orgel, professor of English at Johns Hopkins University, is the author of The Jonsonian Masque, The Illusion of Power, and the coauthor of Inigo Jones. The editor of Jonson's Complete Masques and of Jonson's Selected Masques (in the Yale Ben Jonson series), he is currently writing a book on the idea of theatrical genres in the Renaissance.

    • 125Nelson Goodman
    • The acknowledged difficulty and even impossibility of finding a literal paraphrase for most metaphors is offered by [Donald] Davidson1 as evidence that there is nothing to be paraphrased - that a sentence says nothing metaphorically that it does not say literally, but rather functions differently, inviting comparisons and stimulating thought. But paraphrase of many literal sentences also is exceedingly difficult, and indeed we may seriously question whether any sentence can be translated exactly into other words in the same or any other language. Let's agree, though, that literal paraphrase of metaphor is on the whole especially hard. That is easily understood since the metaphorical application of terms has the effect, and usually the purpose, of drawing significant boundaries that cut across ruts worn by habit, of picking out new relevant kinds for which we have no simple and familiar literal descriptions. We must note in passing, though, that the metaphorical application may nevertheless be quite clear. For just as inability to define "desk" is compatible with knowing which articles are desks, so inability to paraphrase a metaphorical term is compatible with knowing what it applies to, And as I have remarked elsewhere,2 whether a man is metaphorically a Don Quixote or a Don Juan is perhaps easier to decide than whether he is literally a schizoid or a paranoiac.

       

      ·  1. In "What Metaphors Mean," Critical Inquiry 5 (Autumn 1978): 31-47.

      ·  2. In "Stories upon Stories; or, Reality on Tiers," delivered at the conference Levels of Reality, in Florence, Italy, September 1978.

       

      Nelson Goodman, emeritus professor of philosophy at Harvard, has written The Structure of Appearance; Fact, Fiction, and Forecast; Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols; Problems and Projects; and, most recently, Ways of Worldmaking. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "The Status of Style" (Summer 1975), "Twisted Tales; or, Story, Study, and Symphony" (Autumn 1980), and "The Telling and the Told" (Summer 1981).

    • 131Max Black
    • To be able to produce and understand metaphorical statements is nothing much to boast about: these familiar skills, which children seem to acquire as they learn to talk, are perhaps no more remarkable than our ability to tell and to understand jokes. How odd then that it remains difficult to explain what we do (and should do) in grasping metaphorical statements. In a provocative paper, "What Metaphors Mean,"1 Donald Davidson has recently charged many students of metaphor, ancient and modern, with having committed a "central mistake." According to him, there is "error and confusion" in claiming "that a metaphor has, in addition to its literal sense or meaning, another sense or meaning." The guilty include "literary critics like Richards, Empson, and Winters; philosophers from Aristotle to Max Black; psychologists from Freud and earlier to Skinner and later; and linguists from Plato to Uriel Weinreich and George Lakoff." Good company, if somewhat mixed. The error to be extirpated is the "idea that a metaphor has a special meaning" (p. 32).

       

      If Davidson is right, much that has been written about metaphor might well be consigned to the flames. Even if he proves to be wrong, his animadversions should provoke further consideration of the still problematic modus operandi of metaphor.

       

      ·  1. In "What Metaphors Mean," Critical Inquiry 5 (Autumn 1978): 31-47. All further references in text.

       

      Max Black is Susan Linn Sage professor of philosophy and humane letters emeritus at Cornell University and senior member of the Cornell program on science, technology, and society. His many influential works include Models and Metaphors, A Companion to Wittgenstein's Tractatus, and, most recently, Caveats and Critiques. During the fall of 1978 he was Tarner Lecturer at Cambridge University and is currently preparing a book on rationality based on those lectures.

    • 144Lawrence Kramer
    • Very few nineteenth-century works are unintelligible in terms of a dual structure. Consider a Chopin Ballade or Etude as an example. Such pieces, with their continuous chromatic mutation and rhapsodic form, make little sense in classical terms. Yet once one grasps that the process of chromatic alteration is their norm, not a mode of deviation, they become perfectly and immediately intelligible. Their autonomy is in no way compromised, nor do the pieces require extrinsic support from language; any competent listener will recognize that their structural tensions derive from the contrast between a continual attack on the stability of their tonal centers and the continual resilience of those centers as sources of structure. Chopin, like Schumann after him, may go so far as to treat the major and minor modes of one key as interchangeable; but even that only emphasizes the simultaneity of tonal stability and tonal instability which informs their works and clarifies their structures. Similarly, one can find in Brahms a deliberate return to the "premise structure" of classical music, as filtered through Beethoven; and Brahms' music clearly attempts to mediate between this structure and the normative instability of nineteenth-century harmony. Subotnik, however, is pressed by her thesis to deny the autonomy and dual structure of Brahms' music. So she says of him that "Those of his instrumental works which achieved popularity allowed the majority of listeners to perceive nothing in them beyond the individuality of Brahms' themes, gestures, and instrumental colors; within his works the classical identity of subjectively designed gesture and objectively rigorous structure was no longer generally audible."1 Subotnik offers no evidence in support of this claim nor does she mention a single work of Brahms in connection with it. In view of such transparently "classical" structures as the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, the Passacaglia of the Fourth Symphony, the Rondo of the Violin Concerto, and dozens of others, the claim seems improbable at best.

       

      ·  1. Rose Rosengard Subotnik, "The Cultural Message of Musical Semiology: Some Thoughts on Music, Language, and Criticism since the Enlightenment," Critical Inquiry 4 (Summer 1978): 761.

       

      Lawrence Kramer has written various articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry and on the relation between poetry and music. An assistant professor of English at Fordham University, he has written a book on Wordsworth and Keats.

    • 153Rose Rosengard Subotnik
    • I try to indicate this special quality of classical intelligibility by linking it with the notion of "dual structure," a notion which should not be flattened to mean any sort of intelligibility to those listeners deemed "competent," especially if the term "competence" is used without qualification. Dual structure in music, as I construe it, is an intrastructural system of reference between pairs of discrete semiotic constructs both members of which are in some sense wholly embodied in a given musical structure. These constructs include a general ground of meaning and more particularized semiotic configurations derived from that ground; and because both are present in the musical structure, the relationship between them—the meaning of the music—can be retrieved directly, wholly, and on a general scale. No extrastructural mediating explanation or specialized information or training is needed; the interpreter need merely use the musical equivalent of reason. The archetype of such a system in music seems to be the relation of implication or self-generation that obtains between premise and conclusion within a pure system of logic, which, as described by Kant in his account of theoretical reason, would be universally intelligible.

       

      Rose Rosengard Subotnik, assistant professor of music at the University of Chicago, is the author of articles on nineteenth-century music. Her essay which prompted this exchange, "The Cultural Message of Musical Semiology: Some Thoughts on Music, Language, and Criticism since the Enlightenment," appeared in the Summer 1978 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 164John Reichert
    • Fish comes dangerously close to identifying the meaning of a statement with its illocutionary force. At one point he says that "the meaning of a sentence is a function of its illocutionary force"(p. 638). At another he says that a move from a situation in which "I have to study for an exam" is heard as a statement to one in which it is heard as a rejection of a proposal is a move "from one meaning that emerges in a set of circumstances to another meaning that emerges in another set of circumstances"(p. 641). Since "meaning" is so tricky a term, it may be well to remind ourselves that in a situation in which the sentences "I have to tie my shoes," "I have to eat popcorn," and "I hate movies" would all be understood as rejections of an invitation to the movies, no one would mistake the meaning of one for that of either of the other two. The three sentences make different statements, convey different information, and offer different reasons for not going to the movies. There is a sense in which Y's saying "I hate movies" means that (i.e., implies that) he rejects the proposal. But even in that situation, the meaning of "I hate movies" isn't reducible to "I reject your proposal."

       

      John Reichert, chairman of the English department at Williams College, is the author of Making Sense of Literature. He has contributed "Making Sense of Interpretation" to Critical Inquiry.

    • 173Stanley E. Fish
    • I could go on in this way, replying to Reichert's reply, point by point, but the pattern of my replies is already set: he charges that my position entails certain undesirable consequences and flies in the face of some of our most basic intuitions; I labor to show that none of those consequences (the lack of a basis for deciding that something is wrong, etc.) follow and that our basic intuitions are confirmed (albeit in a new light) rather than denied by what I have to say. This of course is exactly what I was doing in the article to which he takes exception and will soon do at length in a book to be published within the year. I am not, however, optimistic that a reading of that book will make Reichert a convert because the fears that impel his argument are so basic to his beliefs. I take the key sentence in his article to be this one: "Since I would like to think that I read the same King Lear that Dr. Johnson read, and am therefore free to disagree with his interpretation of it, I would like to find a way out of Fish's formulation of the reader's situation" (pp. 164-65). Reichert's commitment to what he would like to be able to do and his conviction that if what I say is true he will be unable to do it make it impossible for him to regard my position as anything but perverse and dangerous. Even if I could demonstrate in his own terms (as I think I have) that his fears are unfounded—that he is still free to disagree with Dr. Johnson or anyone else—any argument I might make would be received within the belief that it had to be wrong, and within that belief he could only hear it as wrong. (Of course I am equally open to this characterization; when Reichert or anyone else identifies something—an object, a text, an intention—as being available independently of interpretation, I know in advance that it could not be so and I look immediately for ways to demystify or deconstruct it. I always succeed.) To this Reichert would probably reply that arguments are either good or bad, irrespective of beliefs, and that mine are bad; but it is my contention that arguments are forceful only within a set of beliefs and that unless someone is willing to entertain the possibility that his beliefs are wrong he will be unable even to hear an argument that constitutes a challenge to them. That is why the fact that Reichert is likely to remain unconvinced by my argument is its strongest confirmation.

       

      Stanley Fish is the author of, among other works, Is There a Text in This Class? Interpretative Authority in the Classroom and in Literary Criticism. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Facts and Fictions: A Reply to Ralph Rader" (June 1975), "Interpreting the Variorum" (Spring 1976), "Interpreting 'Interpreting the Variorum'" (Autumn 1976), "Normal Circumstances, Literal Language, Direct Speech Acts, the Ordinary, the Everyday, the Obvious, What Goes without Saying, and Other Special Cases" (Summer 1978), and "One More Time" (Autumn 1980).