Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 2000


Volume 26 Issue 2
    • 173W. J. T. Mitchell
    • Sometimes a certain magic visits the editorial space, that chaotic cottage industry of hunches, judgment calls, and a stubborn passion for getting a few things right. This happened to Critical Inquiry in 1999 as a series of happy coincidences. Michael Taussig mailed in his critical meditation on "the beach"; Jonathan Bordo visited Chicago to talk about picturing wilderness; Edward Said and W J. T Mitchell converged as keynote speakers at a conference called "Landscape Perspectives on Palestine" at Birzeit University in the West Bank. The thread that links these convergences is the question of landscape, the poetics and iconology of space and place, and all their relations to social and political life, to experience, to history.

       

    • 175Edward W. Said
    • Israelis and Palestinians are now so intertwined through history, geography, and political actuality that it seems to me absolute folly to try and plan the future of one without that of the other. The problem with the American-sponsored Oslo process was that it was premised on a notion of partition and separation, whereas everywhere one looks in the territory of historical Palestine, Jews and Palestinians live together. This notion of separation has also closed these two unequal communities of suffering to each other. Most Palestinians are indifferent to and often angered by stories of Jewish suffering since it seems to them that as subjects of Israeli military power anti-Semitism seems remote and irrelevant while their land is taken and homes are being bulldozed. Conversely most Israelis refuse to concede that Israel is built on the ruins of Palestinian society, and that for them the catastrophe of 1948 continues until the present. Yet there can be no possible reconciliation, no possible solution unless these two communities confront each's experience in the light of the other. It seems to me essential that there can be no hope of peace unless the stronger community, the Israeli Jews, acknowledges the most powerful memory for Palestinians, namely, the dispossession of an entire people. As the weaker party Palestinians must also face the fact that Israeli Jews see themselves as survivors of the Holocaust, even though that tragedy cannot be allowed to justify Palestinian dispossession. Perhaps in today's inflamed atmosphere of military occupation and injustice it is perhaps too much to expect these acknowledgements and recognitions to take place. But, as I have argued elsewhere, at some point they must.

      See also: Edward W. Said, Representing the Colonized: Anthropology's Interlocutors  · Edward W. Said, An Ideology of Difference

      Edward W. Said is University Professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Out of Place: A Memoir appeared in 1999.

    • 193W. J. T. Mitchell
    • Holy Landscape. The very phrase evokes images of paradise, the land of milk and honey, the blessed isles, the promised land, the Elysian fields, the Beulah land that Blake and Bunyan identify as the suburban, pastoral surroundings of the holy city of Jerusalem. The holy land is the land made whole, unified in peace and harmony, or the healthy land, cleansed of all impurity and sickness. It is the innocent landscape, literally the harmless place where violence is unknown.

      But every holy landscape seems to be shadowed by evil.

      See also: W. J. T. Mitchell, Christo's Gates and Gilo's Wall  ·  Robert Pogue Harrison, Hic Jacet

      W. J. T. Mitchell is professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago and editor of Critical Inquiry. His most recent publication is The Last Dinosaur Book (1998).

    • 248Michael Taussig
    • For the beach is precisely the scene where prehistory became human history, as when Nietzsche, citing the enormity of the break with what went before the invention of guilt and instinctual repression, "turning man against himself," compares it with the fate of sea animals forced to become land animals or perish. "I do not think there has ever been such a feeling of misery on earth, such a leaden discomfort." Here there is certainly no "lack of design" in human history, and the Dionysian play of will and wave acquires premeditated political force. For the whole point of Nietzsche's work was to try for "the reverse experiment," undoing the repression that turned man against himself. It should be possible, "in principle—but who has sufficient strength?"51 No accident, then, that the reverse experiment has to be down there at the water's edge, edge of history, edge of repression, "turning man against himself," the most fateful mimetic act of all. Prehistory, as Benjamin kept emphasizing for his cherished "dialectical image," returns in the form of "second nature," ensuring that as fantasy overextends itself, turning memories into bodily symptoms and corporeal signs, so a newly buoyant language moves us into the sea as our very bodies might.

      · 51. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Carol Diethe, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 61, 70.

      See also: Michael Taussig, Zoology, Magic, and Surrealism in the War on Terror  ·  Michael Taussig, What Color Is the Sacred?

      Michael Taussig teaches anthropology in New York and has written a good deal about peasant economy, shamanism, and fear in Colombia, a country he first visited in 1969. His books include The Devil and Commodity Fetishismin South America (1990), Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man (1987), The Nervous System (1992), Mimesis and Alterity (1993), The Magic of the State (1997), and Defacement (1999). At present he is writing about prison islands and law in a lawless land.

    • 279Sander L. Gilman
    • If even the commix has avoided the comic in representing the Shoah, let us pause for a moment and ask one of our title questions again: Can the Shoah be funny? Can horror be understood through laughter? Who laughs? (quid rides?) was the ancients' question. The audience, the victim, the perpetrators? Is laughter the intention of the creator of a work of art or the response of an audience? Is laughter intentional or-as in the 1994 case of the Oakland high school students who laughed at a screening of Schindler's List at a school assembly-situational?5 (Anything and every-thing at a school assembly is understood by high school students as potentially the butt of laughter.) But then even more basic to our question: What is the Shoah? Is the Shoah a specific moment in time, a specific set of horrors, or is it a metaphor for all genocides, past, present, and future? Is it European history or is it an American "problem"? as Peter Novick asks.6 Clearly it is the attempt to murder all of Europe's Jews, an attempt that succeeded in murdering millions of Jews along with millions of oth-ers. But any understanding of the Shoah must acknowledge that its meaning and function has changed over the fifty years since it occurred. The murder of the Jews moved from being one aspect of the crimes of the Nazis to being their central, defining aspect over half a century. Over the past decade or so, it has evolved from a specific, historical moment to the metaphor for horror itself. Can the Shoah be funny? This question must be framed in both its historical and its ethical dimension.

      · 5. See "Laughter at Film Brings Spielberg Visit," New York Times, 13 Apr. 1994, p. B11.

      · 6. See Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (New York, 1999).

      See also: Sander L. Gilman, The Struggle of Psychiatry with Psychoanalysis: Who Won?  ·  Reid Miller, A Lesson in Moral Spectatorship

      Sander L. Gilman is the Henry R. Luce Distinguished Service Professor of the Liberal Arts in Human Biology and chair of the department of Germanic studies at the University of Chicago. He holds positions there as professor of Germanic studies, comparative literature, and psychiatry and is a member of the Fishbein Center for the History of Science, the Committee on Jewish Studies, and the Committee on the History of Culture. He is a cultural and literary historian and the author or editor of over fifty books, the most recent being Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery (1999).

    • 309Catherine Gallagher
    • This very rhetoric of normalization was foremost among the things that disappointed me. Certain as I was that early modern women were afraid to write, that they felt the lack of antecedents and encouragements, that their writing must therefore be interpreted as resistant or rebellious behavior, Tyler's statement that she was doing nothing new, that existing authorial practice surrounded and enabled her, merely irritated me. It seemed a transparent defensive ruse, a rather pathetic attempt to identify allies where there were none, to see a clear-cut path where there was, in fact, only a trackless and hostile wilderness. My own reaction was, I believe, typical; feminists in the 1970s tended to take signs of self-assurance on the part of early women writers as marks of plucky but ultimately pitiable reality denial. Tyler, in other words, not only failed to be a heroine but also failed for boring and obvious reasons.

      Now, however, chastened by a few decades of scholarship on the history of women's authorship in England, one is inclined to treat Tyler's explanation more respectfully, to be interested in its ordinariness as well as its probable sincerity.

      See also:  Nina Baym, Between Enlightenment and Victorian: Toward a Narrative of American WomenWriters Writing History  ·  Judith Kegan Gardiner, Female Identity and Writing by Women

      Catherine Gallagher is the Eggers Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her most recent books are Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670-1820 (1994) and a new edition of Aphra Behn's Oroonoko. A book on the New Historicism, coauthored with Stephen Greenblatt, is in press.

    • 328Eli Zaretsky
    • Psychoanalysis in the post-World War II United States presents us with a paradox. On the one hand, it was a veritable fount of homophobia, misogyny, and conservatism, central to the cold war project of normalization. On the other hand, when many of the most profound thinkers of the fifties—Lionel Trilling, Philip Rieff, Norman O. Brown, and Herbert Marcuse among them—sought to criticize social control and conformity, they turned to psychoanalysis. This essay aims to explain this paradox. I shall argue that both strands of psychoanalysis—the rationalizing or social control strand and the critical or antirationalizing strand—were rooted in a common matrix.

      See also: Maria Torok, Unpublished by Freud to Fliess: Restoring an Oscillation

      Eli Zaretsky, is professor in the departments of history and liberal studies, Graduate Faculty, New School for Social Research. He is the author of Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life (1976; rev. ed. 1986) and editor of William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki's The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1985). His Secret of the Soul: Psychoanalysis, Modernity and Personal Life will be published in 2000.

    • 355Peter Galison
    • Einstein, 1933: "There are certain occupations, even in modern society, which entail living in isolation and do not require great physical or intellectual effort. Such occupations as the service of lighthouses and light-ships come to mind."1 Solitude, Einstein argued, would be perfect for the young scientist engaged with philosophical and mathematical problems. His own youth, we are tempted to speculate, might be thought of this way, the Bern patent office where he had earned a living seeming no more than a distant oceanic lightship. Consistent with this picture of otherworldliness, we have enshrined Einstein as the philosopher-scientist who, unmindful of the noise from his office work, rethought the foundations of his discipline and toppled the Newtonian absolutes of space and time.

      · 1. Albert Einstein, speech delivered at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 3 Oct. 1933, in Einstein on Peace, ed. Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (New York, 1960), p. 238.

      See also: Peter Galison, The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision  ·  Hélène Mialet, Reading Hawking’s Presence: An Interview with a Self‐Effacing Man

      Peter Galison is the Mallinckrodt Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. He is the author of How Experiments End (1987) and Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics( 1997) and has coedited Picturing Science, Producing Art (1998) with Caroline Jones and The Architecture of Science (1999) with Emily Thompson. His current projects center on the changing understanding of scientific objectivity and on the history of theoretical physics.