Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 1994


Volume 20 Issue 3
    • 379Pierre Saint-Amand
    • In order to understand Marie Antoinette's peculiar situation during the French Revolution and the negative political representations of her, we might consider the more recent case of Hillary Clinton. Amazingly, despite the two hundred years that separate these two figures, they illustrate that political conceptions of women are still subject to the same collective fears and anxieties. The hatred trained upon Hillary Clinton during the last presidential election was reproduced in the very same language as the discourse of infamy that sent Queen Marie Antoinette to the guillotine on 16 October 1793. In fact, the fear of women in power, of woman's empowerment, might be designated the Marie Antoinette syndrome. This syndrome entails three characteristics: (1) the demonization and cloning of the woman's influence; (2) the accessibility of the woman's genitalia as the very organ of influence; and (3) a seizing of the woman's body by way of sexual appropriation. My intention in comparing the two women is to demonstrate how ineluctably the body is invested in the political domain, how the entire symbolic system of politics is articulated by using the body—here, the bodies of two women at the site of power, women destined to exhibit a variety of political signs. Interpreting the reception of these signs is a way of probing more deeply the political culture in which these characters evolve.

      See also: Marie-Hélène Huet, Monstrous Imagination: Progeny as Art in French Classicism

      Pierre Saint-Amand is professor of French studies and comparative literature at Brown University. He is the author of Diderot: Le Labyrinthe de la relation (1984), Séduire, ou la passion des Lumières (1987), and more recently of Les Lois de l'hostilité: La Politique à l'âge des Lumières. His present research is on the cultural invention of the rococo.

    • 401Jacqueline Rose
    • The title of this paper is provocative. It contains two words—universality and madness—which are, to say the least, problematic and contentious. I put universality in scare quotes, but madness calls in many ways for equal if not greater caution. I start by assuming that to qualify the first immediately throws a critical light on the second. This paper will try to address the hesitancy and awkwardness of both terms for a white woman writing about a black woman writer's semifictional account of a period of breakdown in Africa.

      My argument will be that these terms are both corrupted and indispensable; terms of imperial naming, they cannot, however, just be discarded, not least of all because they are part of Bessie Head's own vocabulary. Borrowing an expression from Caroline Rooney's brilliant article on Head and Ama Ata Aidoo in Motherlands, I would say that Head 'interrogates' them 'in passing',1 not, however, by going straight through them and out the other side, but by putting them into dialogue with each other. One might in fact say that it is in relation to madness that universality shows its most dubious Euro/ethnocentric colours as it spreads its diagnostic certainty across the globe. Yet interestingly, too, the critique of universality finds it hard to free itself of the discourse of insanity—isn't the accusation that universality is always something projected by the West?

      · 1. Caroline Rooney, '“Dangerous Knowledge” and the Poetics of Survival: A Reading of Our Sister Killjoy and A Question of Power', in Motherlands: Black Women's Writing from Africa, The Caribbean, and South Asia, ed. Susheila Nasta (London, 1991), p. 126 n. 27.

      See also: Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zionism: Continuing the Dialogue

      Jacqueline Rose holds a chair in English at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. Her most recent publications include The Haunting of Sylvia Plath (1992), The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Children's Fiction (1984; rev. ed., 1993), and Why War? Psychoanalysis, Politics, and the Return to Melanie Klein (1993).

    • 419Ron Graziani
    • In the October 1967 issue of Artforum, Robert Smithson wrote a brief letter to the editor in response to Michael Fried's attack on minimalism; Fried's now-notorious article “Art and Objecthood” had appeared in the previous issue of the same publication.1 This letter unceremoniously claimed that Fried was “the first truly manneristic critic of 'modernity.'” For Smithson, Fried's account of minimalism had “set the critical stage for manneristic modernism,” providing as it did a “ready-made parody of the war between Renaissance classicism (modernity) versus Manneristic anti-classicism (theater).”2 This caustic appraisal was more than just one of the Bowery boys taking a potshot at the crumbling hegemony of American modernism.3 Smithson felt the “syntax of his delivery” made Fried a “more interesting adversary” than many of the critics coming to terms with the contemporary art of the 1960s.4 Indeed the image of freedom that Fried so cogently defended in “Art and Objecthood” presented a compelling challenge to Smithson's artistic preference for what I call an aesthetics of confinement.

      · 1. See Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” in Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock (New York, 1968), pp. 116-47. It first appeared in Artforum 5 (June 1967): 12-23. This summer number of Artforum was a special issue entitled “American Sculpture.” Smithson was asked by Philip Leider, editor of Artforum, to help edit it. See unpublished portion of an interview with Bruce Kurtz, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, microfilm reel 3834, frame no. 1224; collection hereafter abbreviated AAA. “American Sculpture” was published in conjunction with the American Sculpture of the Sixties show at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). This show marked the midpoint in minimalism's meteoric rise within the international museum network. Artforum was published at the time in Los Angeles, but relied on New York critics, predominantly formalist in value, including Michael Fried, Barbara Rose, Rosalind Krauss, and William Rubin who, in 1967, had also become curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

      · 2. Robert Smiths, “Letter to the Editor,” The Writings of Robert Smithson: Essays with Illustrations, ed. Nancy Holt (New York, 1979), p. 38; hereafter abbreviated “L.”

      · 3. The Bowery boys were a group of New York-based artists (including Smithson) whose charter members worked at MOMA. See Irving Sandler, American Art of the 1960s (New York, 1988), p. 110.

      4. Unpublished portion of interview with Dennis Wheeler, 1969, microfilm reel 3833, frame no. 1128, AAA: hereafter abbreviated I.

      See also: Michael Fried, How Modernism Works: A Response to T. J. Clark

      Ron Graziani was awarded a Ph. D. In art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. For the past three years, he has been adjunct professor at California State University, Fresno.

    • 452Jerome Christensen
    • I profess romanticism, I romantically confess. And if I choose a pretheoretical, prerevolutionary epigraph from an eighteenth-century divine to enfranchise this essay rather than a phrase from a more timely master such as Paul de Man or M. H. Abrams, it is because I want to use Jeremy Taylor as Samuel Taylor Coleridge chronically used him: to state a resistance to theory, to ward off revolutionary utterance, and to keep melancholy at bay. In Taylor's terms, professing romanticism is what I do on each occasion of classroom teaching at Johns Hopkins University or of publishing an article in a specialized journal or a book at a university press. My creed, of course, is not to Coleridge, to Byron, or to Wordsworth. I do not commit belief to what is loosely called a canon but to that discipline which the institutions of education and publication collaboratively authorize and reproduce and which in turn certifies the felicity of my professions. If, as Taylor states, confessing is a matter of living, living ought to be imagined as that structuring activity that Anthony Giddens calls “practical consciousness”: an ensemble of repetitive maneuvers, signature gestures, and obsessive themes.1 Living is for servants and for critics—for those who do not have texts in Edward Said's sense of the term but only what Coleridge calls “personalities.”2 This practical, pretextual consciousness assorts the idiosyncratic and routinized into a compromise formation: something romantic, something like a biographia literaria, something which may be at odds or at evens with an institutional warrant. It depends.

      · 1. Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Berkeley, 1984), p. xxiii.

      · 2. See Edward Said, Beginnings: Intention and Method (Baltimore, 1975), pp. 191-97, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate, 2 vols., vol. 7 of The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, gen. ed. Kathleen Coburn (Princeton, N. J., 1983), 1:41n; hereafter abbreviated BL.

      See also: Jerome Christensen, “Like a Guilty Thing Surprised": Deconstruction, Coleridge, and the Apostasy of Criticism  ·  Jerome Christensen, Spike Lee, Corporate Populist

      Jerome Christensen teaches literature and film at Johns Hopkins University. He is most recently author of Lord Byron's Strength: Romantic Writing and Commercial Society (1993). The essay published here will form part of a collection entitled Incurable Romanticism.

    • 477Michael Ragussis
    • Writing in 1837, prominent American historian William Prescott remarked that “English writers have done more for the illustration of Spanish history than for that of any other, except their own.”1 In the following pages I wish to explain the ideological uses to which Spanish history was put in England, focusing on the way in which one particular moment, the period of the Inquisition, became a charged subject, especially for Victorian writers of historical romance. The forced conversion of masses of Jews, the famous edict expelling them in 1492, and the Inquisition's persecution of crypto-Jews made fifteenth-century Spain an object of fascination for nineteenth-century England, where the Evangelical drive to convert the Jews and the parliamentary debates over Jewish emancipation had put “the Jewish question” at the center of England's national agenda. Moreover, as England attempted to define the origins of the nation-state as a way of articulating its own national identity, the history of Spain provided a dangerous model—dangerous, at least, for England's Jews, for by locating the origins of modern Spain in the conquest of the Moors at Granada and the banishment of the Jews, nineteenth-century historians and novelists alike began to use fifteenth-century Spain as a paradigm for the birth of a nation based in racial and religious homogeneity.

      · 1. See William Hickling Prescott, preface to the first edition, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic, in The Complete Works of William Hickling Prescott, ed. John Foster Kirk, 12 vols. (1837; London, 1896), 1:vi.

      See also: Michael Ragussis, Representation, Conversion, and Literary Form: "Harrington" and the Novel of Jewish Identity  ·  Michael Ragussis, Jews and Other "Outlandish Englishmen": Ethnic Performance and the Invention of British Identity under the Georges

      Michael Ragussis is professor of English at Georgetown University. He is author of The Subterfuge of Art: Language and the Romantic Tradition (1978) and Acts of Naming: The Family Plot in Fiction (1986), and is currently finishing a book-length study with the working title “Figures of Conversion: 'The Jewish Question' and English National Identity.”

    • 509Peter Brooks
    • A curious history, that of American academic literary study in the 1980s. At just about the moment one thought the legacy of European structuralism and poststructuralism was becoming institutionalized in the American curriculum—and the American university was becoming the prime field for practices of textuality that in Europe remained confined to marginal fringes of the academy—a reversal was in fact underway, a reassertion of the historical and ideological coordinates of literature. At the moment when the media discovered “deconstruction” and accused professors of turning from the evaluative and normative function of criticism, another kind of swerve was in fact taking place, one which would turn even many of the deconstructionists into practitioners of ideological and cultural critique. It was as if what appeared as the triumphal entry through the porticos of American academia of such structuralist demigods as Suassure, Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, and Barthes, and such useful attendant priests as Todorov, Genette, and Greimas, had prepared, not the cult of Derrida and de Man that we begin to celebrate, but the masked arrival of the cult of Foucault. A certain Apollonian moment of criticism, best emblematized by Jonathan Culler's Structuralist Poetics (1975), was swiftly subverted by a Dionysian uprising that demonstrated that attempts to repress the referent only produced a more or less violent return of the repressed. The posthumous drawings and quarterings of Paul de Man provide an allegory of the situation and its treatment. History is waiting behind the arras, ready to smite if you have appeared to turn from it.

      See also: Peter Brooks, The Idea of a Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism  ·  Peter Brooks, Storied Bodies, or Nana at Last Unveil'd

      Peter Brooks is Tripp Professor of Humanities and chairman of the Department of Comparative Literature and The Literature Major, Yale University. His recent publications include Body Work (1993) and Psychoanalysis and Storytelling (forthcoming).

    • 524Geoffrey Galt Harpham
    • When in 1983 Michel Foucault invited a small group of friends and colleagues—Richard Rory, Hubert Dreyfus, and Charles Taylor, and Jürgen Habermas—to consider a private colloquium to be held at Berkeley on the subject of Kant's essay “An Answer to the Question: 'What Is Enlightenment?'”1 he was nearing the end of one of the most remarkable, and, to many, incomprehensible “turns” in recent intellectual history. Throughout his career, Foucault had been at pains to reject in the most uncompromising terms Kant's account of the condition of knowledge, the autonomy of the subject, and the universalizing rule of reason—all of which could be taken as historical errors, metaphysical masks worn by “discourse” or “disciplinary regimes.” But having established himself securely in a philosophical genealogy that extended from Nietzsche and Heidegger to Lacan, Leotard, Deleuze, Derrida, and other thinkers of the “counter-Enlightenment,” Foucault sought not just to rehabilitate the chronically “incomplete project” of the Enlightenment as a subject of contemporary discussion but also to establish some positive relation of his own to that fissile and complex movement by reopening the question to which Kant had provided “An Answer.” “What is modern philosophy?” Foucault asked a Berkeley audience that came to hear him lecture in the fall of 1983; “perhaps we could respond with an echo: modern philosophy is the philosophy that is attempting to answer the question raised so imprudently two centuries ago: Was ist Aufklärung?2 Not all were persuaded that Foucault's conversion was sincere. Indeed, in an acrimonious public exchange with Foucault just a few months earlier, the historian Lawrence Stone asserted that Foucault's works constituted “a denial of the Enlightenment as an advance in human understanding and sensibility, and a causal linkage of it to the sexual fantasies of domination, violation, and torture which obsessed the mind of Sade.”3 According to one powerful school of thought, the only quality that Foucault and the Enlightenment held in common was imprudence.

      · 1. See Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” Kant: Political Writings, trans. H. B. Nisbet, ed. Hans Reiss (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 54-60; hereafter abbreviated “AQ.”

      · 2. Michel Foucault, “What Is Enlightenment?” The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York, 1984), p. 32; hereafter abbreviated “WIE.” James Miller draws attention to a lecture given by Foucault at the Sorbonne in May 1978 called “Qu'est-ce que la critique?” that served as a point of departure for “a series of subsequent talks and texts” on Kant, including the inaugural lecture in his last series of lectures at the Collège de France in winter 1983 (“The Art of Telling the Truth”), and culminating in “What Is Enlightenment?” (James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault [New York, 1993], p. 332; hereafter abbreviated PMF). The 1978 lecture was published in the Bulletin de la Société française de Philosophie 84 (Apr.-June 1990): 35-63; “The Art of Telling the Truth” appears in Michel Foucault—Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-84, ed. Lawrence Kritzman (New York, 1990), pp. 86-95. Each time Foucault returned to Kant's call to have courage to use your own reason, Miller says, “he revealed still another aspect of his puzzlement about himself, usually in the guise of some convoluted and gnomic question” (PMF, p. 332). For some sense of the extraordinary diversity of the thought that now goes under the rubric of Enlightenment, see The Enlightenment: A Comprehensive Anthology, ed. Peter Gay (New York, 1973).

      · 3. Lawrence Stone, “An Exchange with Michel Foucault,” The New York Review of Books, 31 Mar. 1983, p. 43.

      See also: Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Symbolic Terror  ·  Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Doing the Impossible: Slavoj Žižek and the End of Knowledge

      Geoffrey Galt Harpham is professor of English at Tulane University. Among his books are The Ascetic Imperative in Culture and Criticism (1987) and Getting It Right: Language, Literature, and Ethics (1992). He is currently working on a study of Joseph Conrad and the cultural constitution of literary “mastery.”