Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 2006

Volume 33 Issue 1
    • 1Fredric Jameson
    • Sokurov and Arabov have removed the science‐fictional scaffolding and retained (and intensified) only the mysterious interruptions in the face of which the various protagonists give up, commit suicide, get themselves shot by the army, retreat into a humdrum life without ambitions, witness enigmatic explosions, or simply leave town. Only Malianov himself remains true to his vocation (also a change from the novel), a persistence reinforced by the alleged experimental associations in his research between religious belief and physical resistance to disease, a belated version, no doubt, of the great modernist conception of the Absolute. What is, however, postmodern is the representation of the unrepresentable, namely, the forces that impinge on our monad from the outside.

      See also: Fredric Jameson, Ideology and Symbolic Action · Fredric Jameson, The End of Temporality

      Fredric Jameson is director of the Institute for Critical Theory at Duke University and a professor of French and comparative literature. Among his recent books is A Singular Modernity (2002).

    • 13Jeremi Szaniawski
    • I want to tell you that your reaction is very important to me because a lot of people refuse to understand Father and Son. They don’t understand it, and this scares me. They see things that I did not want to express. There are things that the collective conscience hasn’t yet reached. It’s too early to do a film like this, to show it. In music and in painting, things are less concrete. Music resonates, to be sure, so the relation is not exactly figurative. But its contents don't reach you in the same way as in cinema. Cinema’s relation to the viewer is active and concrete.

      See also: Dudley Andrew, The Core and the Flow of Film Studies

      Aleksandr Sokurov is the director of over twenty documentaries and thirteen feature films, the latest being The Sun (2005). His films have been awarded prizes at film festivals in Toronto, Berlin, and Cannes. Today he lives and works in St. Petersburg.

    • 28Michael Taussig
    • To equate calor with color detaches us from a visual approach to vision and makes color the cutting edge of such a shift. Color vision becomes less a retinal and more a total bodily activity common to fairy tales in that we may pass into the image while we are looking at it. Three of my favorite authors relish this power of color: Walter Benjamin, William Burroughs, and Proust. All three see color as something alive, like an animal, and all three expend considerable verbal talent in getting this across. Benjamin concentrated on the child’s view of color, Burroughs on drugs, sex, and games with language, Proust on the fullness of involuntary memory transporting one’s body to the event by chance recalled.

      See also: Michael Taussig, The Beach (A Fantasy)  ·  Michael Taussig, Dying Is an Art, like Everything Else

      Michael Taussig is professor of anthropology at Columbia University and author of several books, including My Cocaine Museum (2004), Law in a Lawless Land (2003), Defacement (1999), Mimesis and Alterity (1993), The Nervous System (1992), and Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man (1987).

    • 52Gil Anidjar
    • Clearly, Said’s use of the term secular was idiosyncratic, although I am not aware of his ever deploying, and certainly not in this particular case, that key phrase of bona fide academic rhetoric, “what I would like to call x.” If Said called or named secularism, if he talked about what he allegedly chose to call secularism and secular criticism out of some personal commitment, it is first of all because he wished vocally to oppose secular criticism to religious criticism, because he did think and write about religion, about theological and quasi‐theological structures and institutions, religious and quasi‐religious issues and practices. How idiosyncratic was that?

      See also: Aamir Mufti, Auerbach in Istanbul: Edward Said, Secular Criticism, and the Question of Minority Culture  ·  Akeel Bilgrami, Occidentalism, the Very Idea: An Essay on Enlightenment and Enchantment

      Gil Anidjar is associate professor in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. He is the author most recently of The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy (2003) and the editor of Jacques Derrida’s Acts of Religion (2005). He is currently completing two manuscripts entitled Semites: Race, Religion, Literature and Blood: A Critique of Christianity.

    • 78Ian Hunter
    • One of the most striking features of recent discussions of the moment of theory in the humanities is the lack of even proximate agreement about what the object of such theory might be and about the language in which it has been or should be conducted. [...]

      Rather than pursuing a philosophical history that provides theory with unifying conditions of possibility, we should begin a history of theory by topicalizing the fact of irresolvable conflict between rival accounts of such conditions. Such conflict is in keeping with the observation that the theory boom began when a certain kind of philosophical interrogation surfaced inside a wide variety of disciplines—linguistics, literary criticism, sociology, political economy, the “psy” disciplines, even jurisprudence—where it assumed the form of an array of associated but rivalrous theoretical vernaculars. This is a pointer to why it is fruitless to begin a history of theory by trying to identify its common object or shared language.

      See also: Bruno Latour, Why Has Critique Run out of Steam?  ·  Robert Pippin, Critical Inquiry and Critical Theory: A Short History of Nonbeing  ·  Elizabeth Abel, Mania, Depression, and the Future of Theory

      Ian Hunter is a research professor in the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland, Australia. He has published various works on the history of philosophical and political thought, including Rival Enlightenments (2001), Natural Law and Civil Sovereignty (coedited with David Saunders) (2002), and The Philosopher in Early Modern Europe (coedited with Conal Condren and Stephen Gaukroger) (2006). Together with Thomas Ahnert and Frank Grunert, he has recently completed the first English translation of the works of Christian Thomasius: Essays on Church, State, and Politics (2007). His current research is concerned with the persona of the philosopher and the history of theory.

    • 113Art & Language
    • In the world of academic art history and art criticism, considerable industry has been devoted in recent years to establishing the terms of the postmodern settlement. In all competing accounts, the conceptual art movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s plays a crucial part, though there are considerable differences in the ways in which that movement is defined and the roles it is accorded in the succession from modernism. In its widest popular usage the term conceptual art serves well beyond the historical confines of the movement in question to designate a continuing current of art that is generic, in the sense of owing little or nothing to the material traditions of painting or sculpture. In its slightly more restricted art‐world sense and, indeed, in the world of artists, conceptual art has been waved as a banner proclaiming various rappels à l’ordre and purifications and as a headline for various career moves. In academic narratives, however, conceptual art tends to be defined by reference to the crisis of modernism in the 1960s and in terms of specific relations of difference with high modernist abstract art. Driven by an overdeveloped sense of the necessity of the succession, the account of this crisis and of the relations in question has been widely conventionalized. It has also acquired a marked teleological aspect.

      See also: Jeff Wall, Conceptual, Postconceptual, Nonconceptual: Photography and the Depictive Arts  ·  Terry Smith, Contemporary Art and Contemporaneity

      Art & Language’s recent exhibitions have been held at the Lisson Gallery (London), the Center for Art and Media Technology (Karlsruhe), and the Grita Insam Gallery (Vienna), and recent publications include the monograph Homes from Homes II (2006). Charles Harrison, professor of history and theory of art at the Open University, is coeditor of Art in Theory and author of Essays on Art & Language (2001), Conceptual Art and Painting: Further Essays on Art & Language (2001), and Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art (2005).

    • 136N. Katherine Hayles
    • The vast majority of the literate public who are not computer programmers becomes aware of this dynamic interaction through ordinary experiences. The easy flow of writing and reading human‐only languages on computers, increasingly routine for the millions who populate cyberspace, is regularly interrupted by indications that unseen forces are interacting with the language flow, shaping, disrupting, redirecting it. I mistype a word, and my word processing program rearranges the letters. I think I am making the keystroke that will start a new paragraph and instead the previous paragraph disappears. I type a URL into the browser and am taken to a destination I do not expect. These familiar experiences make us aware that our conscious intentions do not entirely control how our language operates. Just as the unconscious surfaces through significant puns, slips, and metonymic splices, so the underlying code surfaces at those moments when the program makes decisions we have not consciously initiated. This phenomenon suggests the following analogy: as the unconscious is to the conscious, so computer code is to language. I will risk pushing the analogy even further; in our computationally intensive culture, code is the unconscious of language.

      See also: N. Katherine Hayles, Simulating Narratives: What Virtual Narratives Can Teach Us  ·  N. Katherine Hayles, Patrick Jagoda, and Patrick LeMieux, Speculation: Financial Games and Derivative Worlding in a Transmedia Era

      N. Katherine Hayles, John Charles Hillis Professor of Literature and professor of English and Design/Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles, teaches and writes on the relations of literature, science, and technology in the twentieth and twenty‐first centuries. Her recent books include How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (1999) and My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (2005). She is currently at work on a study of the interaction between narrative and database.

    • 158Michael Rothberg
    • If testimony and documentation are to have a politics and not just an ethics, they must be oriented toward the creation of publics, toward circulation and not just exposure. What is perhaps most difficult to find today is the attention Warner deems necessary to the creation of a public; the encounter with torture has been fleeting, a flickering image on the screen of public attention. Whatever the marginality of the French Left in its struggle against the late colonial state, the force it did possess derived from the collective memories that haunted it. Those memories of war and genocide helped forge a counterpublic that, if nothing else, established a legacy for the politics of the future. To be sure, collective memory is not simply an archive awaiting political instrumentalization; the haunting of the past cannot be harnessed in the present without unforeseen effects. And yet. Les Belles Lettres teaches us that the work of memory not only preserves the past but can slow down the vanishing of the political present.

      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  ·  Miriam Bratu Hansen, "Schindler's List" Is Not "Shoah": The Second Commandment, Popular Modernism, and Public Memory

      Michael Rothberg is associate professor of English and comparative literature and director of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana‐Champaign. He is the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation and coeditor, with Neil Levi, of The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings. This essay is taken from a larger project on Holocaust memory in the age of decolonization.

    • 185Slavoj Žižek
    • Is there not something slightly surprising in this obviously excessive subjective animosity? In academia, a polite way to say that we found our colleague’s intervention or talk stupid and boring is to say, “It was interesting.” So if, instead, we tell a colleague, “It was boring and stupid,” he would be fully justified to be surprised and ask, “But if you found it boring and stupid, why did you not simply say that it was interesting?” This unfortunate colleague would be right to take the direct statement as involving something more, not only as a comment about the quality of his paper but as an attack on his very person. So the difference between Laclau and me is that while Laclau tells me that my text is boring and stupid, I am telling him politely that his is interesting.

      See also: Slavoj Žižek, A Plea for a Return to Différance (with a Minor Pro Domo Sua)  ·  Slavoj Žižek, Tolerance as an Ideological Category

      Slavoj Žižek is codirector of the International Center for Humanities, Birkbeck College, at the University of London. Recent publications include The Parallax View (2006) and How to Read Lacan (2006).