Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 2000

Volume 27 Issue 1
    • 1Gauri Viswanathan
    • By the late nineteenth century occultism had become the favorite sport of Britain's leisured classes. Table rapping, seances, and levitations offered new pursuits to those who, exhausted by the earnest stipulations of Victorian society, looked to other diversions that crossed the boundaries between finite and infinite planes of meaning and imagination. For urban cosmopolitans in particular, occultism afforded a mobility between different personae and worldviews increasingly denied or at least circum-scribed by the mainstream morality of their times. The situation was even more extreme in the colonies, where, as E. M. Forster showed so brilliantly in A Passage to India, contact between the colonizer and the colonized was limited to bureaucratic transactions, with the result that whenever social occasions were contrived to overcome the divide, such as through the infamous Bridge Party depicted in the novel, they predictably ended in abject failure.1 Forster's novel focused on the alienation of a small group of Englishmen from the racial exclusivism practiced by the colonial bureaucracy. As teachers, missionaries, doctors, and other professionals they could not but be involved with Indians at a level of intimacy forbidden by colonial logic.

      · 1. See E. M. Forster, A Passage to India (1924; New York, 1952), pp. 38-52.

      See also: Martin Price, People of the Book: Character in Forster's "A Passage to India"  ·  Emily Ogden, Beyond Radical Enchantment: Mesmerizing Laborers in the Americas

      Gauri Viswanathan is professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. She is the author of Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India (1989) and Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief (1998), which won, among other prizes, the 1999 James Russell Lowell Prize awarded by the Modern Language Association of America.

    • 21Susan McHugh
    • In particular, the late narratives for which Ackerley is most remembered—the memoirs My Dog Tulip (1956) and My Father and Myself (1968) and the novel We Think the World of You (1960)—test multiple boundaries as they revolve around a man-loving man and his canine bitch, united in their sexual frustrations. In one sense, these texts increasingly deprivatize the modern British gay man's sexual anguish by aligning it with that of his canine companion, two sorts of outlaws in parallel structures who, in Ackerley's mind, are searching for sex in a cold cultural climate. In England at midcentury (where and when the stories are set), laws outlawing human anal sex augmented a customary prudishness about animal sex in public, what Ackerley terms a "human conspiracy" against canine sex, indicating how dogs and gay men come to embody "sexual trouble" (MDT pp. 149, 154).

      See also: Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, Sex in Public

      Susan McHugh is Marion L. Brittain Fellow of Writing in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled Animal Cultures: Animal Agency, Visual Culture, and Collective Life.

    • 42Daniel Wickberg
    • In the final third of the twentieth century, liberals and assorted leftists have aimed their guns at what appear to be the big three obstacles to a just social order in the United States: racism, sexism, and something called homophobia. Other figures sometimes enter into this picture: ethnocentrism, ableism, what is sometimes called classism or class prejudice (although this is largely absent in the American liberal imagination), cultural imperialism, evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity. But, for the most part, the big three recur in a litany familiar to readers of the left press; in a more dilute form they make their way into the mainstream newspapers, where they have achieved a certain level of everyday recognition on the part of the larger public. While one can find plenty of racists, sexists, and homophobes in American society, one can find almost no one who will stand up and make a philosophical defense of racism, sexism, or homophobia. Those who defend "white pride" or the "traditional family," or who are opposed to "special rights" for homosexuals generally use terms other than those that their political enemies attach to them. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are widely recognized as negative and disparaging terms, terms that racists, sexists, and homophobes would not use for themselves—although there are exceptions.

      See also: David Van Leer, The Beast of the Closet: Homosociality and the Pathology of Manhood

      Daniel Wickberg, assistant professor of the history of ideas, University of Texas at Dallas, is the author of The Senses of Humor: Self and Laughter in Modern America (1998). He is currently working on a history of the idea of sympathy and a study of the keywords of modern American liberalism.

    • 58Janice M. Irvine
    • Since talk about sexuality is the medium of sex education, it is not surprising that school programs would be a field of enormous tension. Since the earliest calls for sex education in the public schools at the turn of the twentieth century, the phantasm of the innocent child being dangerously stimulated by sexual talk has provoked controversy and fueled efforts to regulate or silence sexual speech with children. The 1994 firing of Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders for suggesting that it might be beneficial to discuss masturbation in sex education programs reminds us of the persistence of political contests over talking with young people about sex.

      See also: Candace Vogler, Sex and Talk

      Janice M. Irvine teaches in the department of sociology at the University of Massachusetts. This article is an excerpt from her forthcoming book Talk About Sex: The Cultural Politics of Sexuality Education.

    • 77Victor Burgin
    • To think of Jennifer Ringley as an exhibitionist is to think of her camera as if it were a window. This view is encouraged by the language used to describe the computer interface. The terminology used for the Macintosh operating system first spoke of opening 'windows' on the screen. The Microsoft operating system that emulates the Macintosh interface is called Windows. In similar terms the JenniCam homepage offers the visitor the option of opening a 'remote window' on the computer screen. This provides a virtual aperture through which Jenni's room re-mains constantly visible regardless of what other tasks are performed by the computer. By this means Jenni's room, and at times Jenni herself, becomes a constant companion to the otherwise solitary computer opera-tor. In one of countless images captured by the camera Jenni sits alone at her computer. In the background of the image is a large mirror. To think of Ringley's camera as a window is to privilege our own point of view. If from this position we judge Ringley to be an exhibitionist we have done no more than acknowledge our own voyeurism.

      See also:  Daniel Jütte, Window Gazes and World Views: A Chapter in the Cultural History of Vision

      Victor Burgin is professor in the history of consciousness department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His most recent publications are the 'book of the video' Venise (1997), the theoretical work In/ Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture (1996), and the photo/ text book Some Cities (1996). His books also include The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity (1986) and Between (1986). Amongst his current projects is a major retrospective of his visual work for the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona.

    • 90Branden W. Joseph
    • From Malevich or Mondrian to abstract expressionism, abstract artists have always insisted that their art had a subject to which, on some level, the work could be subordinated and understood. Indeed, the artist's club where the abstract expressionists congregated—and at which Cage lectured and Rauschenberg eavesdropped—was at one point titled the "Subjects of the Artist" School.65 Yet, with an art that incorporated change in the manner of Rauschenberg's White Paintings, it became possible to insert a nonrepresentational form of difference into the image. Only then could difference be seen to fracture the totality that is the work of art, to fulfill Deleuze's criteria of finding "the lived reality of a sub-representative domain" and provide a vision of difference which can be shown differing (DR, pp. 69, 56).

      · 65. Caroline A. Jones, "Finishing School: John Cage and the Abstract Expressionist Ego," Critical Inquiry 19 (Summer 1993): 637-38. Jones's article discusses the opposition of Cagean silence to the ethos of abstract expressionism.

      See also: Caroline A. Jones, Finishing School: John Cage and the Abstract Expressionist Ego  ·  Margaret Olin, Validation by Touch in Kandinsky's Early Abstract Art

      Branden W. Joseph is currently Cotsen Fellow in the Princeton Society of Fellows in the liberal arts. He is an editor of Grey Room, a journal of contemporary architecture, art, media, and politics. His essay on John Cage's early aesthetic, “A Therapeutic Value for City Dwellers,” is forthcoming in John Cage: Music, Philosophy and Intention, 1933-50.

    • 122Shari M. Huhndorf
    • Yet representing the relationship between the Eskimo and European worlds in this way also implied that the Native world would inevitably disintegrate upon continued contact with Westerners. The encounter with technology (in the form of the gramophone) and capitalism (in the riches of furs and other excesses)—in short, "progress," embodied by the trader—the film implies, spells death for the Natives. Yet their disappearance results from their innate inferiority, their inability to adapt to progress, rather than from Western domination. In Nanook of the North, viewers not only see the Eskimos' inadequacy when confronted by superior European technology, they also witness the corruption of the Eskimos' innocence signified by the Eskimo child (or the Eskimo-as-child) becoming sick from the gifts of the trader, his inauguration into the world of capitalist consumption. The implications of the Eskimos' entry into the capitalist, technological world later become clear in the final sequence of the film, a metaphorical death scene. Fearing the strength of the oncoming storm, Nanook and his family build an igloo and go to sleep inside. Meanwhile, their master dog howls mournfully outside as snow buries the igloo, a symbolic grave. In this scene, Flaherty, like other filmmakers and writers of his generation, foretold the "inevitable" disappearance of the Eskimos in the face of encroaching white civilization. In the evolutionary framework he evoked, the primitive, however tragically, must disappear upon the arrival of the more advanced (read superior) Western world.

      See also: Arnold Krupat, Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner and Its Audiences


      Shari Huhndorf is assistant professor of English at the University of Oregon and author of the forthcoming book Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination. She is currently working on a collection of essays coedited with Patricia Penn Hilden entitled Topographiesof Race and Gender: Mapping Cultural Representations.

    • 149Carlo Celli and Marcello Pezzetti
    • The tragedy of the Shoah is already so enormous that there is no need to make it any bigger than it is. Many films are so dramatic, but they try to express something which in itself is inexpressible. Our film was done by having the survivors speak directly because all voices have a right to be heard and not only those of a certain type that have al-ready been expressed. In my film there are even these Italian Jews from Rome who used irony at Auschwitz in their attempt to survive. It is a human reaction because that's the way that Roman Jews are, a way to survive from a certain point of view. There are many ways to survive, but the Roman Jews had this remarkable sort of reaction. So after forty or fifty years we were able to give a platform for their voices because they represent a part of the Jews who died there. They really did not even really understand what was happening even when they were in the midst of it. So they tried to react against what was happening, al-though they knew all about the gas chambers.

      Carlo Celli is assistant professor of Italian and film studies at Bowling Green State University.