Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 2011


Volume 37 Issue 2
    • 169Fran├žoise Meltzer
    • What I want to insist on as crucial in the Sophocles is Antigone's foreignness. That, in turn, has to do with the peculiar, even unmappable, nature of her desire and her insistence on religiosity. Even the etymology of her name suggests the foreign, an aspect that in Sophocles comes early and is tied to Antigone's love for her father. At the end of Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone comments on her father's decision to die in a foreign land: “I know you wished to die in a strange country,” she tells him, “Yet your death was so lonely! / Why could I not be with you?” She says to the chorus, “I think there is no way / for me to get home again.”8 Home will increasingly mean joining her father (and, later, brother) in the foreign country of death. If she initially returns to Thebes in an attempt to prevent bloodshed between her brothers, their deaths and the advent of Creon as king will make her feel less and less at home in the polis as well as in life itself.

      Françoise Meltzer teaches at the University of Chicago where she is the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities. She has been a coeditor of Critical Inquiry since 1982 and is author of several books, the most recent being For Fear of the Fire: Joan of Arc and the Limits of Subjectivity (2001). She has just completed Seeing Double: Baudelaire's Modernity and finished coediting, with Jas' Elsner, Faith without Borders: The Curious Category of Saints (2009), a special issue of Critical Inquiry, which will appear in book form in 2011.

      See also: Françoise Meltzer on Simone Weil  ·  Françoise Meltzer on Joan of Arc  ·  Slavoj Žižek on Antigone and Melancholy

    • 187Anca Parvulescu
    • What these scenes in Occident offer us are snapshots of a new Europe.1 I want to raise the question of how this film and others like it prompt reflection on the European Union predicament and the circulation of women it seems to facilitate, but challengingly reverse the terms of the discussion to explore the formation and sedimentation of “Europe” made possible by the circulation of women. Beginning in the early 1990s, but especially after the recent round of European “enlargement,” Romanian and other Eastern European women have become hot objects of exchange, packaged in a variety of wrappings, whether as domestic servants, nurses, nannies, prostitutes, or wives. Structurally, I will argue, marriage continues to underwrite other forms of exchange, and I will focus on it here. It will be an occasion to revisit the feminist traffic-in-women argument and reconsider its implications for the European Union.


      1. Occident is the word Romanians used during the cold war to refer to the West. The term is synonymous with a certain use of the word Europe: Europe as the West.

      Anca Parvulescu is assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where she teaches in the Department of English and the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities. She is the author of Laughter: Notes on a Passion (2010).

      See also: Nancy Bentley, Kinlessness and African American Narrative  ·  Françoise Meltzer on Antigone  ·  Jay Clayton, Narrative and Theories of Desire

    • 214Robert B. Pippin
    • There are certainly great gaps between what we do when we try to understand what we and others normally do and what we do in trying to understand moving pictures of actions. Movie characters are not of course real people, and perhaps ultimately these cinematic images make some specific sort of sense to us only within the artificial and varying boundaries set by a medium-specific aesthetic object and in an experience that is quite distinct from ordinary perceptual and emotional experience, an aesthetic experience. Moreover, screen characters are the products of such a dizzying array of factors—the screenplay, the mise en scène, the particular requirements of the studio where the movie was made, the director, the actor's performance—that the shape, strains, and tensions in a given character can be multiply overdetermined. But, while screen images are not persons and film narration is sui generis, there cannot be two completely distinct modalities of such sense making: one for ordinary life and another governed by an incommensurable movie or dramatic or diegetic or aesthetic logic. Motion pictures of characters, whatever else they are, are still representative, doubly representative, actually, since the complex, imputed “author” of the film (which might include all the factors listed above)1 is representing actors who are (if the director allows it) representing a person's life and action, all in a way they think will be understood. So at bottom there has to be a great overlap with action explanations in ordinary life and in our attempts to follow a plot.


      1. I don't mean to be taking a position on auteur theory as such, only to be indulging the useful fiction of an imputed governing intelligence behind the aesthetic decisions. If elements in the film cannot be made to fit an interpretation controlled by such an imputation, then we have to look elsewhere for explanation—to the studio's interference, for example. But we should exhaust the first possibility before we do so.

      Robert B. Pippin is the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, the Department of Philosophy, and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books on German idealism, including Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness and Modernism as a Philosophical Problem. His recent books are Henry James and Modern Moral Life; a collection of his essays in German, Die Verwirklichung der Freiheit; The Persistence of Subjectivity: On the Kantian Aftermath; a volume of his 2004 lectures at the Collège de France, Nietzsche, moraliste français; and Hegel's Practical Philosophy: Rational Agency as Ethical Life. His most recent book is entitled Hollywood Westerns and American Myth: The Importance of Howard Hawks and John Ford for Political Philosophy (2010). He is a winner of the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was recently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

      See also: Robert Pippin, Politics and Self-Knowledge in The Searchers  ·  Robert Pippin on The Thin Red Line  ·  Candace Vogler, The Moral of the Story

    • 245Chris Dumas
    • The year 2009 marked the twentieth anniversary of Slavoj Žižek's arrival upon the English-language academic scene,1 and I, for one, would like to pay tribute to his unique achievement; he has become the Pauline Kael of academic cinema studies. By this comparison, I mean to point out those aspects of Žižek's production that have generated the most opprobrium from the discipline's conservative wing: his distinctive and peculiarly infectious style (such as his habit of casting his most important theoretical moves in the form of rhetorical questions, such as “Is not the primary focus …?” or “Can we not say that …?”); his accrual of both lay and professional acolytes like no other theorist in living memory, a growing sea of high-theory Paulettes (and for the purposes of this discussion I will confess to being both a Paulette and a Slavojite, for better or for worse); his insistence on the practical dissolution between classed levels of cultural production (Stephen King with G. W. F. Hegel, like Kael's Jean Renoir with Sam Peckinpah, or Jacques Lacan's Immanuel Kant with the Marquis de Sade). Most importantly though—and here the Kael comparison runs aground—there is his stubborn reduction (or elevation) of all social phenomena to eructations of fantasy and displacement. In this regard, Žižek's influence is now so pervasive that a plurality of cinema scholars of a theoretical bent write in the Žižekian mode—while cautiously avoiding the potential stigma of citing him directly, of course.


      1. See Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London, 1989).

      Chris Dumas holds degrees from Oberlin College, Columbia University, and Indiana University. He lives in San Francisco.

      See also: Slavoj Žižek, A Plea for a Return to Différance  ·  Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Slavoj Žižek and the End of Knowledge  ·  D. A. Miller, Hitchcock's Hidden Pictures

    • 265Ariella Azoulay
    • Unlike a military victory achieved during a war between two sides, the declaration of the State of Israel is the victory of a militaristic logic—where reality is seen only as a war between two sides—over a civil logic. Military rationale is deployed in order to justify the injury of civilians and the dispossession of their status as citizens of any regime that will be established in their country. Civil logic, which could have focused on the worthy existence of the governed and their civil equality, is defeated and replaced.

      The declared state is the tool to perpetuate constitutive violence rather than a means to manage the political life of the state's inhabitants. In other words, if the victory achieved on 15 May had to be preserved, its preservation demanded—and has never ceased to demand—the exercise of violence. More than one third of the governed population does not recognize the regime as legitimate (an estimation that does not include the majority of the Arab population that was expelled from Palestine, who should be considered the nongoverned of the new regime that was imposed in 1948 on their land). This victory had ramifications not only for the political, economic, and cultural existence of the land's inhabitants and for those who were expelled but also for their actual civil life.

      Ariella Azoulay teaches visual culture and contemporary philosophy at the Program for Culture and Interpretation, Bar Ilan University. She is the author of Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology of Photography (forthcoming), Constituent Violence, 1947–1950 (2009), Act of State, 1967–2007: A Photographic History of the Occupation (2008), and The Civil Contract of Photography (2008), curator of Untaken Photographs, Architecture of Destruction, and Everything Could Be Seen, and a director of documentary films, including I Also Dwell among Your Own People: Conversations with Azmi Bishara (2004) and The Food Chain (2004).

      See also: Ariella Azoulay, Potential History: Thinking through Violence  ·  Hannan Hever, The Post-Zionist Condition  ·  Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zionism

    • 286Jan De Vos
    • In this essay I will argue that the fact that critics tend to psychologize the close link between psychology and the military is not without its problems, especially as this loop remains largely unquestioned. My thesis is that the psychological perspective, when not dealing with its own inevitable ouroborosian moment, might thus become part of the problem rather than simply one point in the conjunction of the military and psychology. This is ultimately my argument for a broad sweeping critique of psychology. Starting from the involvement of psychology in torture practices, what I envision is not so much a critique of specific institutions like the APA or of the broader institutions of U.S. or Western psychology as such. Rather, I seek to question the infusion of the whole field of psychology with psychologization. For one might consider psychologization as more than the simple overflow of the discipline of psychology to the wider society and posit it as the structural and inseparable double of psychology—the very (unacknowledged) paradigm through which psychology asserts itself as a science. Psychologization, I claim, not only unites the different schools within psychology but is also the common denominator of the diverse approaches and practices that lean in one way or another on psychology. What this essay specifically deals with is how, more troublingly, psychologization might also be seen as providing the very framework for today's practices of torture. As the (in)famous CIA Kubark manual puts it, contemporary interrogation methods cannot be meaningfully comprehended without psychology.5 An analysis of the intricate links between psychology as a whole and the process of psychologization is thus the necessary preliminary work to be done before one can begin to disentangle psychology from torture practices.


      5. See Central Intelligence Agency, “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” (1963), www.gwu.edu/∼nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB27/01-01.htm

      Jan De Vos trained as a clinical psychologist. He is currently a researcher at the Center for Ethics and Value Inquiry at Ghent University, where he is currently completing a PhD dissertation on “Psychological Subjectivity in Late Modernity.”

      See also: Diana Taylor, Double‐Blind: The Torture Case  ·  James Dawes, Atrocity and Interrogation  ·  John Limon, “The Shame of Abu Ghraib

    • 315Jonathan Kramnick
    • I begin with some disciplinary context. Literary Darwinism believes that the humanities have fallen into disrepute because our assumptions fly in the face of accepted science, especially the science of mind. Whereas the humanities believe in an infinitely plastic human nature, so the literary Darwinists claim, the biological and social sciences have discovered that the mind evolved many thousands of years ago in response to an environment we no longer live in. Their goal is to show how our evolved cognition can explain particular features of texts or facts about writing and reading. I'll argue in contrast that evolutionary psychology of the variety the literary Darwinists endorse is both more controversial as science than they let on and less promising as a basis for criticism than they might wish. In the middle sections of the essay, I argue that many of the candidate features for innate cognition would seem to be a poor fit to literature on almost any definition of the term. My point is not, however, that literary studies should be kept apart from exciting developments in cognitive science. Far from it. Literary Darwinism fails to make its case because it does not take the relation between the humanities and sciences seriously enough. I will argue against the idea that creating or enjoying literary works is an adaptation and for a less tidy account of how we did or did not come to like stories. This less tidy account is, I will suggest at the end, closer to the kind of thing science can help us say about the arts.

      Jonathan Kramnick is associate professor of English and acting director of the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University.

      See also: Mark McGurl, The Posthuman Comedy  ·  Gary Tomlinson, Evolutionary Studies in the Humanities  ·  Daniel M. Gross, Defending the Humanities with Darwin

    • 348John Lurz
    • Despite Stewart's obvious awareness of the book's current crisis in the face of what seems like an ever-increasing array of alternatives for textual transmission, his focus on the way the material features of book sculptures highlight, trope, or embody the dynamic of reading a text offers very little insight into the functioning of the brute materiality of the book that, we will see, these sculptures also work to underscore. What if, then, we take the phenomenon of the book sculpture as an opportunity to ask different questions about a literary work's embodiment in a book? Can we think more rigorously about the nature of reading's necessary engagement with a material object, the fact that, as Stewart observes in his comment on Byron Clercx's Reading Context, “all textual experience—in one historical context at least, if no longer its exclusive one—rests on the materiality of the bound volume” (p. 425)? I will thus make an attempt in what follows to take the book out of the museum and put it (all too literally) into the hands of its readers.

      John Lurz is a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently completing a dissertation, “Reading Volumes: The Book, the Body, and the Mediation of Modernism,” which considers the way the high modernist novel draws attention to its embodiment in the book.

      See also: Garrett Stewart, Bookwork as Demediation

    • 355Garrett Stewart
    • Even as answers take shape, Lurz may still be poised to regret that my distinction between material object and abrogated textual mediation would seem to presume the exclusively linguistic character of a book's medial platform. But that's only if I were proposing the wholly implausible: these sculptural assemblages and mutations are in themselves, as artifacts, medium free. Instead, I am saying that in whatever medium, or in however many at once—glass or lead or steel or paper or film strips or mirrors or plaster or soap blocks—the work of these works, in the transitive sense, is tactically to demediate only one aspect of reading: the ordinary communicative function of text. Demediation is the first thing these objects do, the specific and seditious deprivation they enact on the given, the depurposing they execute. If the sliced-off Around the World in 40 Days is a printed text “remediated” as paper and cardboard sculpture, which is the way Lurz might well prefer to leave it, I would add only, in explanation, that this is because its function as sculpture, based indeed on a communications (rather than pictorialist) model in conceptual art, has been to demediate half its own page count and thereby excise any closure for its designated circumnavigation. In doing so it exposes, for the codex form at large, the constitutive mismatch of material dimension, textual duration, and referenced narrative trajectory.

      Garrett Stewart is the James O. Freedman Professor of Letters (and the letterless) at the University of Iowa. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010. After such books on the verbal texture of literary experience as Reading Voices and Dear Reader and, most recently, Novel Violence: A Narratography of Victorian Fiction, the complementary materialist question of the codex form at issue in the present debate will be further pursued in Bookwork: Medium to Object to Concept to Art (forthcoming in 2011).

      See also: Garrett Stewart, Bookwork as Demediation