Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 2002

Volume 29 Issue 1
    • 1Robert B. Pippin
    • The emergence of abstract art, first in the early part of the century with Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian, and then in the much more celebrated case of America in the fifties (Rothko, Pollock, and others) remains puzzling. Such a great shift in aesthetic standards and taste is not only unprecedented in its radicality. The fact that nonfigurative art, without identifiable content in any traditional sense, was produced, appreciated, and, finally, eagerly bought and, even, finally, triumphantly hung in the lobbies of banks and insurance companies, provokes understandable questions about both social and cultural history, as well as about the history of art. The endlessly disputed category of modernism itself and its eventual fate seems at issue.

      Robert B. Pippin is the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, the department of philosophy, and the College and chair of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books on the modern philosophical tradition, on the nature of European modernity, and a recent book on literature, Henry James and Modern Moral Life (2000).

    • 25Lawrence Kramer
    • When classical music is used on a movie soundtrack, it is a safe bet that most members of the audience will neither be able to identify it nor, as they say, identify with it. Even at its most expressive or impassioned, classical music today carries a distinct charge of historical distance for most listeners. The cultural marginality responsible for this distance may be cause for regret, but the distance itself should not be. A sense of its positive value is one of the underpinnings of this paper. The question I want to ask is, What happens when a film made in the 1990s, based on a novel written in the 1870s, uses music composed in the 1820s to negotiate historically specific spaces of social, personal, and sexual desire? What does happen will prove not only to remap those spaces but also—in its own good time—to register recent cultural tendencies that go well beyond the immediate topics broached by the names of Campion, James, and Schubert.

      Lawrence Kramer is professor of English and music at Fordham University and coeditor of Nineteenth‐Century Music. His most recent books include Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge (1995), Franz Schubert: Sexuality, Subjectivity, Song (1998), and Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History (2001).

    • 53Joan DeJean
    • Of late, a new phrase has won widespread acceptance in French: le travail de mémoire, memory work. The phrase serves as a reminder of the importance granted in the twentieth century’s closing decades to the phenomenon of societal memory. Memory work designates the slow process by which citizens come together to deal collectively with the most painful episodes from their nation’s past, the struggle to break down a wall of denial and to end the collective self‐censorship that had kept these events outside of representation.

      The new awareness of the difficulty of remembering often obscures the prior societal process on which memory work depends.

      Joan DeJean is Trustee Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author, most recently, of The Reinvention of Obscenity: Sex, Lies, and Tabloids in Early Modern France (2002).

    • 81Mark Reinhardt
    • To seek the words of antebellum American slaves is to confront a paradox, for those words are at once everywhere and nowhere in the archive of the era. On the one hand, as Toni Morrison remarks, “no slave society in the history of the world ever wrote more—or more thoughtfully—about its own enslavement.”1 The evidence can be found in letters, speeches, interviews, and formal autobiographies; where else but in the United States of this period can one encounter so much “slave testimony”? Though it is constrained in various ways by the discursive conventions of a white supremacist society, this testimony offers invaluable insights into slaves’ lives and beliefs, hopes and fears.

      Mark Reinhardt is professor of political science and American studies at Williams College. He is the author of The Art of Being Free: Taking Liberties with Tocqueville, Marx, and Arendt (1997), The Strange Case of Margaret Garner: A Brief History with Documents (2003), and coeditor of Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress (2002). “Who Speaks for Margaret Garner?” is part of a book in progress on the interrelated problems of speaking, truth, and power in American political culture.

    • 120Alan Sinfield
    • My hunch is that class, age, and race are important because, as much as gender, they key into the principal power vectors in Western societies. They structure the contradictory and conflicted patterns through which we make sense of the world and our subjectivities. They inform the language through which we come to consciousness and are reaffirmed in our daily interactions. They empower and oppress us. Hence, they structure our psychic formations and our sexual relations, in fantasy and in actuality.

      Alan Sinfield is professor of English at the University of Sussex, England, where he teaches in the Sexual Dissidence and Cultural Change program. He is the author, most recently, of Out on Stage: Lesbian and Gay Theatre in the Twentieth Century (1999).

    • 139Barrett Watten
    • [A]t a moment that seems instantaneous and unreal, a gap in the rationality of the system—a chasm where once was a ground—opened in Sproul Plaza before a crowd of witnesses. The attempted arrest of Jack Weinberg—who had been singled out, as he said, from any number of students who were manning so‐called illegal information tables—created such a chasm in the ground of rational debate that it had immediately to be taken into account by those witnessing it. By virtue of the attempt at exclusion, the subject‐position of the student radical is formed (as a chain of substitutions of many students for Jack Weinberg), founded on the right to speech (acted immediately on the roof of the police car) but that must see its claim to that right as a self‐condemning violation, leading to its own exclusion (that speech is outside the law). At that moment, the student radical is constituted in terms of the right of speech, a loss of self that is identified with the arrest of Jack Weinberg, and the extension of both that right and its loss in a chain of equivalences that forms a group. It now becomes a win‐or‐lose situation, both politically and for the well‐being of each individual student, who must survive the attempted exclusion. In the unfolding of the FSM, the students did succeed in their objectives, making provisionally viable the subject‐position of the student radical.

      Barrett Watten’s The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics is due to appear in 2003. His creative works include Frame (19711990) (1997) and Bad History (1998). He is currently associate professor of English at Wayne State University.