Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 1976


Volume 3 Issue 2
    • 203Geoffrey Hartman
    • Literary criticism is neither more nor less important today than it has been since the becoming an accepted activity in the Renaissance. The humanists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries created the institution of criticism as we know it: the recovery and analysis of works of art. They printed, edited, and interpreted texts that dated from antiquity and which had been lost or disheveled. Evangelical in their fervor, avid in their search for lost or buried riches, they also put into circulation certain influential ideas. Perhaps the most important of these was that the authoritative version of a book is the original version, freed from interpolation and accretion. A correlative idea was that, similarly, one could rely on an original or natural light (ingenium) in the interpreter, an intuitive good sense that helped him to a true understanding of a text if it was a genuine text. . . .

       

      There are signs that we are now nearing the end of this Renaissance humanism. Not because of a determinist or providential march of history, but ideas eventually exhaust what influence they may have. Today, after all, there is no dearth of ancient texts, or of new ones. Editing, moreover, has become only too conscious of the difficulty of recovering an "original" version or edition: in Wordsworth scholarship, for example, the authority of the 1850 Prelude, the text approved by the poet shortly before his death, was challenged by the 1805-6 Prelude printed by de Sélincourt in the 1920s; and the authority of this is in turn being eroded by antecedent manuscripts, the so-called "Five-Books Prelude" and "Two-Part Prelude." It is equally precarious to establish the text of Emily Dickinson's poems—which of the variants are to be chosen as definitive? Or, from another angle, Melville's Billy Budd has become a mine for genetic speculation. Even when no editorial problem exists, a philosophical issue arises as to the concept of originality itself.1

       

      ·   1. For the time being, it is enough to quote Hegel's provocative attack on all "Ur-Metaphysics": "What comes later is more concrete and richer; the first is abstract, and least differentiated."

      See also: Geoffrey Hartman, The Recognition Scene of Criticism

      Geoffrey Hartman, professor of English and comparative literature at Yale University, is the author of The Unmediated Vision, Andre Malraux, Wordsworth's Poetry, Beyond Formalism, and most recently The Fate of Reading. He is currently working on a book to be published in late 1977, Criticism in the Wilderness.

    • 221Norman N. Holland
    • Let me start with my general thesis: that psychoanalysis has gone through three phases. It has been a psychology first of the unconscious, second as psychology of the ego, and today, I believe, a psychology of the self. . . .

       

      To a surprising extent, the modern American literary critic (and more recently the European) has sought the same impersonal, generalized kind of quasi-scientific knowledge. We anglophones reacted against the over-indulgence in subjectivity by Victorian and Georgian critics. We also reacted against the uncritical use of extraliterary knowledge, connections that were often aimless and unconvincing between literary works and their authors' autobiographies or literary periods. We sought instead an analytical rigor, at first by searching out the organic unity of particular literary works, then by extending the methods of close reading we developed that way to the total works of an author, to myths and popular arts, to the language of everyday life, and even to such artifices as Volkswagens, supermarkets, and political candidates.

      See also: Norman N. Holland, I-ing Film

      Norman N. Holland is professor of English and director of the Center for the Psychological Study of the Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is the author of six books, of which Psychoanalysis and Shakespeare (1966), The Dynamics of Literary Response (1968), Poems in Persons (1975), and Five Readers Reading (1965) deal directly with problems of psychological criticism. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Human Identity" (Spring 1978) and "Why Ellen Laughed" (Winter 1980).

    • 235Dore Ashton
    • In the modern mind the circumstance of Jewishness has been burdened with many questionable associations, particularly in the arts. Although Harold Rosenberg writes that, "in regard to art, being Jewish appears to be no more than an accident,"1 vulgar associations of Jews with art stubbornly subsist, an extreme example being Nixon's "now the worst thing is to go to anything that has to do with the arts . . . the arts, you know—they're Jews, they're left wing—in other words, stay away. . . ."2

       

      Despite the recurrence of such cloudy associations, the issue has remained curiously submerged. It is commonplace in our century to find a kind of reflexive yoking of Jews with art, particularly avant-garde art. The incalculable effects of such attitudes on modern art itself are rarely weighted. Accidental as the Jewish artist may be in his own view, he remains a somewhat suspect accident in the eyes of others. Can we continue to regard the fact of being a modern Jewish artist as "accidental," or is there a significant context which must be acknowledged?

       

      ·  1. Harold Rosenberg, "Jews in Art," The New Yorker, 22 December 1975.

      ·  2. Nixon to Haldeman: Watergate tapes, Newsweek, 19 August 1974.

      See also: Dore Ashton, On Harold Rosenberg

      Dore Ashton, professor of art history at The Cooper Union, has served as the curator of art exhibitions both in the United States and abroad and as an art critic for The New York Times. She is author of, among others, Abstract Art Before Columbus, Poets and the Past, The Unknown Shore, A Reading of Modern Art, The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning, and Yes But...A Critical Study of Philip Guston. She has also contributed "On Harold Rosenberg" (Summer 1980) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 251Leo Treitler
    • Among the central meanings in Büchner's Woyzeck, there is one that comes clear only when we read the play in the context of the history of ideas—specifically in the light of certain currents of thought about human history and eschatology. Aspects of the play's expression are thereby elucidated, that are forcefully brought forward through the organization and compositional procedures of Berg's Wozzeck.

       

      Near the end of the long third scene of the opera, Wozzeck appears suddenly at Marie's window and alludes cryptically to the mysterious signs that had come to him in the field the scene before, confiding to her that he is "on the track of something big." As those signs had first been presented through Wozzeck's eyes, they seemed like the imaginings and fears of a simple man about Freemasons and who knows what other objects of superstition, But now in the third scene he gives them a scriptural context, as though through a sudden insight: "Isn't it written, 'And behold, the smoke went up from the land, as the smoke from a furnace'?"

       

      What Wozzeck has recalled here is a passage in the Book of Genesis, chapter 19: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven. . . . and, behold, the smoke went up from the Land as the smoke from a furnace." The image is repeated in the New Testament Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse), chapter 9: "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth; and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit as the smoke of the great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit."

       

      Both passages are about a holocaust visited by a wrathful God upon a corrupt and debauched people, and that is the idea that begins to form in Wozzeck's mind as he stands for the first time on the stage before his mistress. And he asks, "What will it all come to?" The answer to this thematic question lies in the strange unfolding of the drama, pressed forward by forces that lie, as Büchner had once put it, "Outside of ourselves"1 and by Wozzeck, who guarantees the outcome as he imagines himself becoming aware of what it must be.

       

      ·  1. Letter to his family, February 1834: "I scorn no one, least of all because of his understanding or his education, for it lies in no one's power not to become a dumbbell or a criminal—because we have all become alike through like circumstances, and because the circumstances lie outside of ourselves . . ." Werner Lehmann, George Büchner: Sämtliche Werke und Briefe (Hamburg, 1971), 2:422.

      Leo Treitler, professor and chairman of the department of music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is the author of, among other works, "Dufay the Progressive" and "Homer and Gregory: The Transmission of Epic Poetry and Plainchant."

    • 271Cesare Segre
    • In this article, I am starting with a question which many years ago was at the center of the debate on structuralism. Are structures to be found in the object (the literary work) or in the subject (the critic who analyzes the work)? If we take one of the famous analyses by Jakobson, we ascertain that as long as attention is brought to bear on the graphemic or phonological elements, or on rhymes and accents, then the objectivity of the examination is incontestable. The absolute or relative computation of phonemes or groups of phonemes and the specification of their place in the text are independent of the critic's subjectivity. Subjectivity begins to impose itself when categories like "abstract" and "concrete" or "metaphor" and "symbol" are introduced, and even more so when these categories are grouped into classes the denomination of which (a denomination which is discriminating according to the effects of the categories' own capacities) does not have its basis in the data offered by the text but in nomenclative schemata developed by the critic (such as intrinsic and extrinsic, empirical and mythological, etc.).

      See also: Cesare Segre, Culture and Modeling Systems

      Cesare Segre, director of the Institute of Romance Philology at the University of Pavia and president of the International Association of Semiotic Studies, is coeditor of the journals Strumenti Critici and Medioevo Romanza and the series Critica e Filologia. His principal works of linguistic and semiotic criticism are Lingua, stile e società, Esperienze ariosteche, Semiotics and Literary Criticism (also in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese), I metodi attuali della critica in Italia (in collaboration with M. Corti), La tradizione della Chanson de Roland, and Le strutture e il tempo (also in Spanish). His editions of old Italian and French texts are Fornival's Li bestiaires d'Amours, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Giamboni's Libro de' Vizi e delle Virtudi, and the Chanson de Roland. "Narrative Structures and Literary History" originally appeared in Strumenti Critici (1975). His contribution to Critical Inquiry, "Culture and Modeling Systems," appeared in Spring 1978. Rebecca West's previous contribution to Critical Inquiry was the translation of Guilio Carlo Argan's "Ideology and Iconology" (Winter 1975).

    • 281Paolo A. Cherchi
    • It is embarrassing, to say the least, to admit in limine the impossibility of defining the key concepts of this paper, for I do not know either what tradition is or what topoi are. And what is even worse, I have no theoretical conclusions to present. But, after all, why define tradition? We all know what tradition is since it is one of the staples of our academic fare. Even the word itself is in great part an academic one. As a matter of fact, in classical Latin, what we mean by tradition was expressed by words like memoria or institutum or mos vetus, whereas traditio meant surrender or the handing over of a city or of an enemy, although the meaning of instruction, training, teaching is also attested. It was the latter meaning that prevailed in the humanistic period, though with the technical sense of transmission of a text; and in this special meaning the word traditio still survives in the discipline of textual criticism. Of course, the transmission of the text was understood not only in the material sense but also as a means of conveying ancient wisdom, as a witness to its institutions and mores. So the revival of ancient learning implied a reconstruction of a tradition which was thought to have been broken during the Middle Ages. Thus, the studia humanitatis were defined as study of the past, a very well circumscribed past. Even today when we talk about humanistic studies we understand in great part the study of the institutions, mentality, literary movements of the past.

      See also: Emily Apter. Global Translatio: The “Invention” of Comparative Literature, Istanbul, 1933

      Paolo A. Cherci, associate professor in the department of Romance languages and literatures at the University of Chicago, is the editor of Tommaso Garzoni's Works and the author of the forthcoming works, Capitoli di Critica Cervantina, Effemeridi Romaunze, and a collection of short stories, Erostratismo.

    • 295Garrett Stewart
    • Charles Chaplin, like Charles Dickens, knew the deep allegiance between theme and visual symbol, and the greatest popular genius of our century, when he began a film called Modern Times with a nondescript clockface upon which the second hand inexorably spins, negotiated this alliance between satiric narrative and its props with the bold assurance of the nineteenth-century master. To have seen Modern Times again for the first time in nearly a decade, as I did recently, after in the interval having reread, taught, and written about Dickens' Hard Times, was to see Chaplin's masterpiece virtually for the first time—and to wonder anew at the critics. I will shortly return to the symbolic devices by which the pervasive motif of modern time is propped and propelled in both Chaplin's film and Dickens' novel, but it is important to question first why the very thirst for overt social satire which draws a certain kind of reader to Hard Times, often one who has little converse with the other and greater Dickens novels, tends to go bafflingly unsatisfied where Modern Times is concerned. In the most recent book-length study of Chaplin, by noted film historian Roger Manvell, we hear that "Though highly entertaining, Modern Times had little social comment and no political party implications whatsoever."1 To grieve over this would be like dying of thirst in a rainstorm. Although Walter Kerr, in his far more searching treatment of Chaplin in The Silent Clowns, observes "at least two dazzling opportunities for the ironic social comment" in the opening factory sequence, on the whole he decides that "Chaplin's true theme lies elsewhere and is much more personal."2 Yes and no; more than any other artistic predecessor, Dickens can help us see the deeply-rooted grip of industrial satire on the apparent discrete, episodic comedy of Modern Times.

       

      · 1. Roger Manvell, Chaplin (Boston, 1974), p. 143.

      · 2. Walter Kerr, The Silent Clowns (New York, 1975), p. 357.

      See also: Garrett Stewart. Coppola's Conrad: The Repetitions of Complicity

      Garrett Stewart, associate professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of Dickens and the Trials of Imagination, Film on Film, and a book on the symbolism of death in modern British fiction, Point of Departure: The Death Scene since Dickens, as well as essays on film. He has contributed "Coppola's Conrad: The Repetitions of Complicity" (Spring 1981) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 315Fernando L├ízaro Carreter
    • The opposition prose/verse can only be established in the heart of literal language. The only way of producing nonliteral language is in conversation. . . . Enrique Anderson Imbert published a book in 1958 titled ¿Qué es la prosa? (What is prose?), in which he says: 'No, we do not speak in prose. Prose is not a projection of everyday speech, but rather artistic elaboration."1 But my adherence to his intelligent point of view is not total because he situates prose in the heart of written language, and I think that it should be ascribed to literal language. For Anderson Imbert such an idiomatic modality results in an artistic elaboration; but the intention of prose can be quite different. The reader, for instance, by virtue of his reading, can transform prose into literature; and unwritten prose does exist, as has been stated. In many cases it is impossible to compose the texts in verse; structurally, then, an opposition cannot be established, just as in the case of the student who takes notes following the explanations of the professor. These texts can only be what they are: a more or less truthful transcription, a "copy" of oral language, a mere change of substance, abbreviated in order to bring it closer, as a simple memento, to the elliptical articulations of inner language.

       

      · 1. "No, no hablamos en prosa. La prosa no es proyección del habla corriente, sino elaboración artística." Enrique Anderson Imbert, ¿Que es la prosa? 4th ed. (Buenos Aires, 1971), p. 31.

       

      Fernando Lázaro Carreter is the director of the department of Spanish at the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid and a member of the Real Academia Española. The author of books on both linguistics and criticism, his published works include: Las ideas lingüísticas en España durante el siglo XVIII; Diccionario de términos filológicos; Estilo barroco y personalidad creadora; Ensayos de Poética (La obra en si); and Lazarillo de Tormes en la picaresca. This article is a preliminary statement of a problem he is currently investigating: literary language understood as "literal language."

    • 333Leslie Hill
    • Flaubert himself, in an early and now famous letter, identifies in "bêtise" the effect of an inordinate desire to conclude: "Oui, la bêtise," he writes, "consiste à vouloir conclure. Nous sommes un fil et nous voulons savoir la trame" (2:239). This is to say stupidity, to Flaubert, is less a given content of discourse than a particular order of that discourse itself.1 It is the sign of an hasty and elliptical intervention into thought of a series of preconceived conclusions, the source of which may be situated in the doxa and in the rhetoric of verisimilitude that sustains the persuasive power of the doxa. Stupidity, as the project of the Dictionnaire demonstrates, is an endless fabric of maxims and probable syllogisms the function of which is to determine the particular and the specific, the singular and the different, as paradigmatic exempla of the larger discourse of encyclopaedic universality expressed in the verisimilitude of received ideas. It is in this sense that one can see in Flaubert's notion of "bêtise" the denunciation by the writer of an especially vulgarised form (founded upon scientific positivism and upon the self-confidence of the middle classes) of the Aristotelian concept of verisimilitude, which, built around the rhetorical figures of the probable syllogism—the enthymeme—and the exemplum (paradeigma), is directed towards winning adhesion to a particular thesis by appealing to generalities and probabilities, and which constructs its arguments from material drawn from the doxa.2 It is this rhetoric of persuasion by verisimilitude that Flaubert, in the various discourses of the lover, the dreamer, and the politician, will throw into ironic relief in Madame Bovary and L'Éducation sentimentale.

       

      · 1. Cf. Valéry, Oeuvres, 1:1452.

      · 2. The concept of verisimilitude is a difficult one and one which had received much critical attention in recent years. I have taken the term here to refer to the complex network of constraints by which the mimetic novelist, like the rhetorician, is able to engage his audience in a contract of mutual recognition and to persuade them of the "sense of reality" of his narrative, that his is a plausible interpretation of reality, worthy of belief (compare Aristotle, Poetics, 1454a). It is here that Aristotle's elaboration of mimesis and of the art of rhetoric is decisive. Both in the Poetics (1461b) and in the Rhetoric, Aristotle distinguishes two concepts with regards to the manner in which the artist or the rhetorician solicits from his audience the belief in the justness of his reconstruction of reality. The first concept is that of pithanon, the plausible or the persuasive. This corresponds to the speculative consideration of what strategy will be most forceful in any given case. Rhetoric is indeed defined as "the faculty (dunamis) of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion (pithanon)" (1355b). As such, pithanon is the sign of a desire to convince, a decision on the part of an individual in a particular situation. For this desire to convince to become fully operative in the context of an audience, it needs to be recast not as a plausibility, but as a probability, as eikos. Aristotle defines eikos as "a thing that usually happens: not . . . anything whatever that usually happens, but only if it belongs to the class of the 'contingent' or 'variable.' It bears the same relation to that in respect of which it is probable as the universal bears to the particular" (1357a). Eikos is on one level a collection of contents, of topoi. But it is more than this. For otherwise this would mean that works deriving from different historical contexts would become unintelligible to the uninitiated reader. Eikos is a patterning of discourse, a rhetorical syntax, based upon the integration of the singular in the universal, and translated in the text by the enthymeme (and the maxim) and the exemplum. The homogeneity of the mimetic novel derives from the way in which the desire to convince (pithanon) is mediated and dissimulated by a totalising, "natural" eikos, when, in other words, the narrator is "objective." It is when these two dimensions are dissociated, as in Bouvard et Pécuchet, that all manner of disturbance is generated. (All quotations from the Rhetoric are from the translation by W. Rhys Roberts, in The Works of Aristotle, ed. W.D. Ross, vol. 11 [Oxford, 1924]).

      See also:  Pierre Bourdieu and Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, Flaubert's Point of View

      Leslie Hill, fellow in Clare College, Cambridge University, is presently doing research on Flaubert and on general aspects of the modern French novel. This is his first publication.

    • 345Esther Jacobson-Leong
    • In a society which traditionally valued the moral and expressive forces of art, landscape painting became one of the most esteemed art forms. In China, "landscape" has always meant what its Chinese name—shan shui (mountains, water)—implies: paintings dominated by peaks and streams supplemented by trees, rocks, mists, and plunging waterfalls. Despite major changes in style, landscape painting in China between the eighth and eighteenth centuries was remarkably stable in subject matter. Chinese artists painted the natural settings which surrounded them in their home provinces or those which they discovered in their travels; and such settings were dominated by mountains and rivers. Moreover mountains and water were imbued with symbolic value. Traditionally the mountain has been considered the symbol of the emperor—the son of Heaven—and of virtue and masculine energy. The ridges and folds of the mountains display the veins of energy that course through the earth and the continuous process of change which characterizes the Universe. Water (in the form of river, stream, lake, or mist) represents the origin of life, the female principle, vitality itself. Trees, stones, bamboo, and many flowers were similarly endowed with cosmogonic and moral significance. Given the symbolic value with which elements of nature were traditionally endowed, Chinese landscape painting is properly considered the normative form through which artists (and society) reasserted correct social relationships, moral order among men, and moral order in nature.

      See also: Zhang Longxi, Western Theory and Chinese Reality

      Esther Jacobson-Leong, associate professor of art history at the University of Oregon, is currently working on problems in the significance in Steppe art and related traditions.

    • 369Paul Hernadi
    • Ferdinand de Saussure's distinction between parole and langue has greatly helped linguists to clarify the relationship between particular speech events and the underlying reservoir of verbal signs and combinatory rules. The relationship emerges from Saussure's Cours de linguistique générale as one between concrete instances of employed language and a slowly but permanently changing virtual system.1 It seems to me that the more recent literary distinctions between the implied author of a work and its actual author and between the implied and the actual reader point to similar relationships along the rhetorical axis of communication.2 For example, the respective authors implied by The Comedy of Errors and by The Tempest are in a sense fixed, concrete manifestations of the actual author whose permanently shifting potential of manifesting himself in literary works or otherwise was only partially realized between 1564 and 1616; his full potential has thus forever remained virtual. The congenial readers implied by the respective plays are in turn two of many "roles" which an actual reader may attempt to slip into for the length of time it takes him to read one work or another. Even a book like Mein Kampf will be adequately understood only by men and women able and willing temporarily to become Adolf Hitler's implied readers. The price may be high, but having shed the mental mask and costume required for the proper "performance" of the text, a discerning person will emerge from the ordeal with a keener sense of the despicable part assigned to the book's actual readers. I hardly need to add that works of imaginative literature tend to imply readers whose intellectual, emotive, and moral response is far less predetermined than is the response of the reader implied by the typical work of assertive discourse.

       

      · 1. Ferdinand de Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale (1916), 4th ed. (Paris, 1949). Since this book was posthumously compiled from the notes of students attending three different sets of lectures, I am not overly troubled by the fact that the letter (if not the spirit) of at least two sentences seems to contradict my characterization of langue as a virtual and changing system: "La langue n'est pas moins que la parole un objet de nature concrète" (p. 32) and "tout ce qui est diachronique dans la langue ne l'est que par la parole" (p. 138). See also Wade Baskin's English trans., Course in General Linguistics (New York, 1959), pp. 15 and 98.

      · 2. See esp. Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago, 1961) and Wolfgang Iser Der implizite Leser (Munich, 1972), trans. as The Implied Reader (Baltimore, 1974).

      See also: Paul Hernadi. On the How, What, and Why of Narrative

      Paul Hernadi is professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Iowa. His book, Beyond Genre: New Direction in Literary Classification, is soon to appear in Spanish translation. He has edited a collection of essays titled What is Literature? and written a book on modern historical tragicomedy. "On the How, What, and Why of Narrative" was contributed to Critical Inquiry in the Autumn 1980 issue.

    • 387Wright Morris and Wayne C. Booth
    • MORRIS: But come back to that other kind of fiction, in which the author himself is involved with his works, not merely in writing something for other people but in writing what seems to be necessary to his conscious existence, to his sense of well-being. For such a writer, when he finished with something he finishes with it; he is not left with continuations that he can go on knitting until he runs out of yarn.

       

      This conceit reflects my own experience as a writer, relying on the sap that keeps rising, the force that drives the flower, as Dylan Thomas put it. It is plantlike. We put it in the sun and when it doesn't grow, we take it and put it in another room. I don't think of repotting the plant. The plant must make its own way.

       

      BOOTH: I like the organic metaphor, but I keep wanting to come back to particular cases to see how you actually work, in literal detail. Even the organic novelist obviously still has the matter of collecting notes, starting a novel, having it fail to go. Let me put a simple question, and move out from there. How many actual novels, whether they ever reach fruition or not, do you have "growing" at a given time?

       

      MORRIS: You don't mean simultaneously?

       

      BOOTH: I mean actual notes that exist in some kind of manuscript form, starts on a novel, something you are actually working on.

       

      MORRIS: It is so unusual for me to have more than one or two things in mind at once that I don't find this a fruitful question.

       

      Wright Morris's work as a novelist, essayist, and photographer is examined by prominent critics in Conversations with Wright Morris; the collection, edited by Robert E. Knoll, was published in the spring of 1977 by the University of Nebraska Press. "The Writing of Organic Fiction" is a chapter in that book. Wayne C. Booth's other contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Kenneth Burke's Way of Knowing" (September 1974),"Irony and Pity Once Again: Thais Revisited" (Winter 1975), "M.H. Abrams: Historian as Critic, Critic as Pluralist" (Spring 1976), “'Preserving the Exemplar': Or, How Not to Dig our Own Graves" (Spring 1977), "Notes and Exchanges" (Autumn 1977), "Metaphor as Rhetoric: The Problem of Evaluation" (Autumn 1978) ,"Ten Literal 'Theses" (Autumn 1978), and, with Robert E. Streeter, W. J. T. Mitchell: "Sheldon Sacks 1930-1979" (Spring 1979).