Corpse poem is a curious paradox. A dead body and a poetic discourse are mutually incompatible, two formal states each precluding the other. A poem implies subjective depth while a corpse negates interiority. A poem signals presence of voice while a corpse testifies to its absence. A poem quickens language while a corpse stills it. The fantastical coupling of corpse and poem denotes an extravagant rhetorical conceit, an impossible literary utterance. What to make, then, of an entire tradition of poems that deploy the strange literary device of a speaking corpse? Writers as diverse as Emily Dickinson and Thomas Hardy, Randall Jarrell and Richard Wright, H.D. and Dan Pagis have all used human cadavers as subjects of prosopopoeaic speech. Attributing consciousness and voice to an inanimate body, these writers irretrievably breach the boundary between the place where language intensifies (the poem) and the place where language vanishes (the corpse). Giving voice to the voiceless cadaver, corpse poems bring language more fully in line with death; they are literary fictions that seek to revivify and reauthorize the dead, at the risk of contaminating and killing poetry. To give voice to a corpse changes both.
Diana Fuss is professor of English at Princeton University. She is the author of Essentially Speaking (1989), Identification Papers (1995), and the forthcoming The Sense of an Interior. The present essay is part of a book in progress on literary corpses.
In fact Othello anatomizes this reading, and this kind of reading, as unsustainable critical behavior—behavior compulsively motivated by toxic theoretical and methodological assumptions. What does it mean to be put in this position with the help of a text, by its enabling capacity to invoke a kind of interpretation that it also renders symptomatic of a prescribed pathology? What does it mean to have come to be conditioned to need some thing at some time (analytically, bodily, theatrically, theoretically) that one also has learned to be objectively undesirable, implausible, unsustainable? What does it mean to occupy a position that appears so hopelessly confused about the boundaries between matter and metaphor?It means that one is addicted. And however unsustainable my necessary case for Othello and tobacco, I intend to demonstrate convincingly that the play is all about addiction. By addiction I mean the emphatic ascription of agency and causality to time‐bound matter that cannot completely support such investment.
Dennis Kezar is assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Guilty Creatures: Renaissance Poetry and the Ethics of Authorship (2001), and editor of Solon and Thespis, a forthcoming volume on law and theater in the English Renaissance. He is currently at work on a book‐length study tentatively called Renaissance Addictions: Subjections Legal, Material, and Theoretical in Renaissance England.
That Eichmann does not at all escape the cliched language of Nazi bureaucracy, however, means that he falls short of the specifically political demands of the vita activa. He remains passive, as prosecutor Gideon Hausner sarcastically charges, with the limited meaning he does find in social life coming from the cliches offered him by both petty bourgeois life and Nazi national ideology. This language is at times so ordinary, as in Eichmann’s stilted invocation of funeral oratory at his own execution, that it becomes a source of the book’s most bitter satire of the human condition, for it is his passivity as a human actor and not his individual motivation and conscious responsibility that makes him guilty. Empirical crime seems fully separate from rational intention (mens rea).
See also: Shoshana Felman, Theaters of Justice: Arendt in Jerusalem, the Eichmann Trial, and the Redefinition of Legal Meaning in the Wake of the Holocaust · Susan Rubin Suleiman, “History, Memory, and Moral Judgment in Documentary Film: On Marcel Ophuls’sHotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie
Benjamin Robinson is assistant professor of German at Northern Illinois University. He is completing a manuscript on the socialist imagination of an alternate modernity entitled Other Systems: German Literature on the Ultimate Vacation from Economy. His current book project examines incidents where literature represents the law and law tries literature in five different twentieth‐century German states.
Recently the Colombian artist Juan Manuel Echavarría gave this a twist. Reacting against the stupendous violence in his country, he humanized flowers by photographing them like botanical specimens, replacing the stems, leaves, flowers, and berries with what look like human bones. He called this series of thirty‐two black‐and‐white photographs The Flower Vase Cut, referring to the name of one of the mutilations practiced in the Colombian violencia of the 1940s and 1950s in which the amputated limbs were stuffed, so it is said, into the thorax via the neck of the decapitated corpse.
Michael Taussig was born in Sydney, Australia, has a degree in medicine, and teaches anthropology at Columbia University. His books include Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing, The Nervous System, Mimesis and Alterity, and Defacement. His Law in Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza and My Cocaine Museum will be published fall 2003 and spring 2004.
Language poetry has survived both the historical situation it originally addressed and the intellectual framework that underwrites its practice; it promises to outlive as well the institutional ethos (that of the “voice centered” poetry writing workshop) whose dominance initially justified Language writers’ sense of themselves as an embattled movement from the very moment of inception. The stylistic practices associated with Language poetry are increasingly central to American poetry in the present. In such a changed literary scene, critique seems not only too late (Language poetry having already triumphed over its detractors) but beside the point. The ever‐widening appeal of a Language‐informed poetics and the energy with which it has charged the scene of contemporary poetry suggests that the mere critique of Language poetry as historically belated or theoretically benighted must be missing something important about the work.
Oren Izenberg is assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago. He is currently completing a book entitled Being Numerous: The Poetic Imagination of the Ground of Social Life. He is also working on a study of the relation between lyric poetry and the philosophy of mind.
Binswanger’s focus on the patient as a person was dependent on the role of the psychiatrist as an empathic and perceptive being—in short, as a well‐honed epistemological instrument. Those with an intellectual/spiritual (geistiges) grasp of the complexities of experience, mixed with a good dose of artistic and ethical understanding, were equipped to practice this new phenomenological psychiatry. This sort of psychiatrist embodied the qualities of an elite, educated middle class (Bildungsbürger), who engaged in a complex psychological understanding of the other, rather than merely calculating results from physiological or associative tests. The psychiatrist was to mine the resources of philosophy, ethics, and even aesthetics in order to perceive and empathize with the patient as a suffering moral entity. The schizophrenic’s hallucination was no longer a sign of cognitive disarray or a product of a diverted libido but was now an expression of the patient’s moral struggle. Binswanger’s epistemology of the clinic thus transformed a medical language into an ethical one.
Susan Lanzoni is an NSF postdoctoral fellow and research associate at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. This essay originated from her dissertation, “Bridging Phenomenology and the Clinic: Ludwig Binswanger’s Science of Subjectivity,” completed at the history of science department at Harvard University. She is presently working on a history of empathy.
For three reasons, we believe Jerome Christensen’s treatment of the film Batman in “The Time Warner Conspiracy: JFK, Batman, and the Manager Theory of Hollywood film,” (Critical Inquiry 28 [Spring 2002]: 591–617) to be ill‐judged. His argument seems to us to rely on slender evidence and—at an important point—to move in a circle. Second, he takes as evidence of allegorical significance in 1989 the appearance in the film of signs that had been part of the Batman narrative for many years. Finally, there are unfortunate ethical consequences when Christensen applies his manager theory of Hollywood film to Batman, yielding “an instrumental allegory contrived to accomplish corporate objectives” (p. 591). Such a claim ignores those known to have worked on Batman, and it also denies the film’s debt to the authors and editors of Batman comics whose narratives—by inspection—give the film’s protagonist his mask, cape, beloved, utility belt, butler, insignia, automobile, origin, nemesis, city, and two identities.
Peter L. Havholm is professor of English at The College of Wooster. He is at work on a book entitled The Collaboration of Politics and Art in Rudyard Kipling's Fiction. Philip Sandifer is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. He is currently investigating the constructions of gender in fan fiction.
While driving to my office on the morning of 10 January 2000, I heard the report on NPR that the entertainment conglomerate Time Warner, under the leadership of its CEO Gerald Levin, had negotiated a merger with the leading internet service provider America Online (AOL), headed by Steven M. Case. Merger in this instance meant that Time Warner had been bought out by AOL, a company that, floating high on the dot‐com bubble, then had a market valuation double that of the largest media company in the world. I stopped off in the office of a colleague who had read over a draft of an essay I’d been writing on the Time Warner merger. I passed on the news and then half jokingly added, “There’s got to be a movie about this merger.” Five minutes later I had an email from him with the message “There is” and a link to Timothy Noah’s Chatterbox column in that morning’s Slate.
Jerome Christensen is chair of the department of English at University of California, Irvine. He is most recently the author of Romanticism at the End of History (2000) and is currently at work on a book provisionally entitled Hollywood’s Corporate Art: Studio Authorship of American Motion Pictures.