Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 2001


Volume 27 Issue 4
    • 559Sandra M. Gilbert
    • "I'm a widow, a widow, it's too soon, Alex, it's too soon," my mother told my father, wailing beside his coffin. Listening to her, I was embarrassed, bewildered, oddly anxious. Did I fear that shadows had already invaded and nullified her? Or did I secretly suppose that her uncanny keening signified the sudden immanence of "the Black Widow, death"?

      See also: Sandra Gilbert, Life's Empty Pack: Notes toward a Literary Daughteronomy  ·  Sandra Gilbert, Costumes of the Mind: Transvestism as Metaphor in Modern Literature

      Sandra M. Gilbert, professor of English at the University of California, Davis, has most recently authored Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems, 1969-1999 (2000) and edited Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies (2000). She is currently at work on a book tentatively entitled Death's Door: Mourning, Modernity, and the Poetics of Memory, from which "Widow" is drawn.

    • 580Bill Nichols
    • How is it that the most formal and, often, the most abstract of films and the most political, and sometimes, didactic of films arise, fruitfully inter-mingle, and then separate in a common historical moment? What motivated this separation and to what extent did it both succeed and fail? Our understanding of the relationship between documentary film and the modernist avant-garde requires revision. Specifically, we need to reconsider the prevalent story of documentary's "birth" in early cinema (1895- 1905). How does this account, inscribed in almost all of our film histories, disguise this act of separation? What alternative account does it prevent?

      See also: Bill Nichols, Documentary Reenactment and the Fantasmatic Subject

      Bill Nichols is the director of the graduate program in cinema studies at San Francisco State University. He is author or editor of six books, including Blurred Boundaries: Questions o f Meaning in Contemporary Culture (1994). His edited volume Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde and a book, Introduction to Documentary, are scheduled for fall 2001 release.

    • 611Fran├žoise Meltzer
    • Part of the difficulty in reading Weil lies in this use of labor/political concerns and vocabulary (machines, the body, work, factory conditions, the assembly line, production) coupled with a religious vocabulary (prayer, god, soul, universe) and a philosophical rigor that sublates both registers into a metaphysics of work. This metaphysics, significantly (but with the inevitability of all work theory), is grounded in the twin concerns of idleness and fatigue. If, as Rabinbach notes, fatigue is both a pathology and a prophylaxis against the demands of modernity, for Weil fatigue is so as well but for completely different reasons.

      See also:  Françoise Meltzer, Theories of Desire: Antigone Again  ·  Sharon Cameron, The Practice of Attention: Simone Weil’s Performance of Impersonality

      Frangoise Meltzer, coeditor of Critical Inquiry, is professor and chair of the department of comparative literature and professor in the department of romance languages and in the divinity school at the University of Chicago. Author of Salome and the Dance of Writing (1987) and Hot Property (1994) and editor of The Trial(s) of Psychoanalysis (1988), she has just completed For Fear of the Fire: Joan of Arc and the Limits of Subjectivity (2001).

    • 629Terry Smith
    • When white Australians celebrated two hundred years of colonization in 1988 the work of art that was widely heralded as central to the event was a large mosaic set in the forecourt of the new Houses of Parliament in the capital city, Canberra. Designed by Michael Jagamara Nelson, it was based on traditional designs of his Central Desert people, the Walpiri, particularly on those shapes that signified a meeting place for profoundly important ceremony. Installed with the maximum of European-derived ceremony, opened by the Queen of England and Australia herself, it seemed to symbolize the racial reconciliation so strongly desired by many Australians. A quintessential work of public art, the mosaic seemed also to be a confirming embodiment of a broad cultural process, unfolding since 1970, through which works of art made by Aborigines have led the way in securing political gains for Aboriginal people.

      See also: Terry Smith, Contemporary Art and Contemporaneity  ·  Elizabeth A. Povinelli, The State of Shame: Australian Multiculturalism and the Crisis of IndigenousCitizenship

      Terry Smith is Power Professor of Contemporary Art and director of the Power Institute, Foundation for Art and Visual Culture, at the University of Sydney. His most recent book is the edited volume Impossible Presence: Surface and Screen in the Photogenic Era (2001).

    • 662James Conant
    • The following might be a précis of a Kafka story. The time has come, in a great land, let's call it Florida, when the citizens of the land must choose a new leader-they call him the president. The citizens are very proud of the manner in which they choose their leader. Every citizen gets one and only one vote, and, after everyone has voted, each vote is counted by an enormous machine. There was once a time when the ma-chine was new and shiny and whirred almost soundlessly, and the mere sight of it filled people with awe. And, at election time, all the citizens of Florida used to gather to watch the machine count the votes. And, as they watched, each citizen knew in his heart that the letter of the law was being carried out and justice was being done. But at the time in which our story is set almost nobody came to watch the machine. The sight of it no longer filled anyone with awe (and even its parts were no longer regularly replaced as they once were). Nevertheless, the citizens continued to have confidence in the machine and to take its proper functioning for granted.

      See also: James Conant, On Bruns, on Cavell

      James Conant is professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago.

    • 703Michael Fried
    • I think Jones has a polemical axe to grind that seriously biases her potentially useful account of Kuhn's contribution to the modernism discussions of the 1960s (her remarks on Kuhn himself are the best thing in her article). As far as my work is concerned, it invalidates what she has to say from beginning to end.

      Michael Fried is J. R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and director of the Humanities Center at the Johns Hopkins University. He has just completed Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in Nineteenth- Century Berlin (forthcoming in 2002).

    • 706Caroline A. Jones
    • While conceding the "potentially useful" core of my essay on Kuhn and the artworld, Michael Fried contests two aspects of my analysis: he argues that I assign the wrong emotion to his essay from 1966 and that I misattribute the cause for that emotion to concerns over his own reductivism. Fried would correct the feeling of "anxiety" I located in his essay on Stella in order to substitute "elation" (p. 705). Perhaps Clement Greenberg was justified when he once opined that "feeling is all,"' but although I respect Fried's desire to see the emotional valence of his important history set straight, my central argument remains intact. Anxiety, I argued, was the mark of a paradigm in crisis. But elation is merely the other side of that same coin.

      Caroline A. Jones is associate professor of contemporary art and criticism at Boston University. The author of The Machine in the Studio (1996), she is completing a project entitled Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg and American Art.