Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 2010

Volume 37 Issue 1
    • 1Daniel Shore
    • Over the past fifteen years the letters WWJD? and the question they abbreviate, what would Jesus do? have become prominent features of American culture, appearing on book covers, buttons, bracelets, blue jeans, board games, bumper stickers, teddy bears, T-shirts, ties, key chains, coffee mugs, pencils, and even women's underwear. (This last item is truly a complex cultural artifact; is it worn by the devout or the derisive, to deter seducer or seducee, and by aesthetic or ethical deterrence?) In more recent years, the question has given rise to scores of spin-offs, devout and derisive alike. The “Who Would Jesus Vote For?” website,, is a self-described “progressive political blog that highlights the infringement of religion upon today's government.” Those seeking a “Christian nutrition handbook” need look no further than What Would Jesus Eat? which bills itself as a “healthier, Bible-based eating program.”1 (Think water, bread, and lots of fish.) The Evangelical Environmental Network, a progressive evangelical group, launched the “What Would Jesus Drive?” ad campaign in 2002; now the question appears on bumpers across the nation.2

      1. This is from the publisher's description for Don Colbert, What Would Jesus Eat? (Nashville, 2002).

      2. See Jay W. Richards, “What Would Jesus Drive?” National Review, 25 Sept. 2007,

      Daniel Shore is an assistant professor of English at Grinnell College, where he teaches Renaissance literature. He is completing a book titled Otherworldly Persuasions: Milton and the End of Humanist Rhetoric. This essay is part of a new book project, Cyberformalism, on literary form in the digital archive.

      See also: Gregory S. Jackson, A Game Theory of Evangelical Fiction  ·  Stefani Engelstein, The Eighteenth-Century Organism and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate  ·  Franco Moretti, Reflections on Seven Thousand Titles

    • 26Michael Taussig
    • Anthropology graduate student finishes two years of fieldwork and returns home with a computer full of notes and a trunk full of notebooks. Job now is to convert all that into a three-hundred-page piece of writing. No one has told her or him (1) how to do fieldwork or (2) that writing is usually the hardest part of the deal. Could these omissions be linked?

      I mean—what a state of affairs! Here we have what are arguably the two most important aspects of anthropology and social science, and they are both rich, ripe secrets—secret-society-type shenanigans. Why so? Could it be that both are based on impossible-to-define talents, intuitions, tricks, and fears?

      All the more reason to talk about them, you say.

      Yes, but what sort of talk?

      Michael Taussig teaches anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of The Devil and Commodity Fetishism (1980); Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man (1987); The Nervous System (1992); Mimesis and Alterity (1993); Law in a Lawless Land (1993); and My Cocaine Museum (2004).

      See also: Michael Taussig, Dying Is an Art, like Everything Else  ·  Michael Taussig, What Color Is the Sacred?  ·  Michael Taussig, The Language of Flowers

    • 34Daniel M. Gross
    • Civilization entails, apparently, a distinct emotional regime that separates it from the uncivilized, thereby contradicting an evolutionary theory that sees our continuity with Pleistocene hunter-gatherers but doesn't see the distortions inevitably imposed by our interpretive lens. According to Darwin we need historical narratives (however dubious in this instance), first, to denaturalize what might appear to be an innate feeling such as devotion, and, second, to explain in positive terms a feeling that we might experience and observe as universal. This is Darwin's skeptical work. Darwin's historical work is part and parcel of his careful scientific observation; without it the we of his first audience would naturalize some particular posture and thereby see the emotional phenomenon poorly. Meanwhile the we of his universal audience fails to recognize a particular posture at all, which is itself crucial data revealed by way of comparative anthropology and human history. In his microstudy of devotion and other emotions, Darwin takes into account the emotion's linguistic and visual mediation, its occasion in the service of a pointed argument, and personal perspectives of varying historical immediacy. That is to say, again, that Darwin's scientific theory of emotion is inherently rhetorical, which is a methodological strength instead of a weakness.

      Daniel M. Gross is an associate professor of English, director of composition, and core faculty in the critical theory emphasis at the University of California, Irvine. He is author of The Secret History of Emotion: From Aristotle's “Rhetoric” to Modern Brain Science (2006) and coeditor, with Ansgar Kemmann, of Heidegger and Rhetoric (2005). Current projects include a book, The Art of Listening, and a study of sentimental literature from the perspective of situated cognition theory.

      See also: Jonathan Kramnick, Against Literary Darwinism  ·  Leonard B. Meyer on science and the humanities  ·  Gary Tomlinson, Evolutionary Studies in the Humanities

    • 60Adam Herring
    • A monumental Inca building at 410 Calle Hatunrumiyoc, Cusco, Peru ranks among the old Inca capital's best-preserved precontact structures. It is also perhaps its most famous, thanks to a large block set midway along the building's northwestern face, la Piedra de Doce Angulos (the Stone of Twelve Angles). Artists, aesthetes, and travelers continue to muse on the kind of architecture the Stone of the Twelve Angles exemplifies: “rocky petals,” mused Pablo Neruda;1 “an enigma in stone,” scribbled the young Ché Guevara.2 [...]

      In this historiographic context, the challenging formalism of the Twelve-Angled Stone affords an opportunity to reassess Inca visuality as cultural production. How did this masonry encode Inca ways of seeing, building, and imagining?

      1. Pablo Neruda, “Heights of Machu Pichu” (1950), trans. Stephen Kessler, in Barry Brukoff, Machu Picchu (New York, 2001), p. 72. Alcide D'Orbigny's, Walter Pater's, and Neruda's associations of ancient Andean visuality with botany of the Andean region carried forward a seventeenth-century fascination with Inca gardens and plants. See Neil Safier, Measuring the New World: Enlightenment Science and South America (Chicago, 2008).

      2. Ernesto Guevara, “Machu-Picchu: Enigma de piedra en América,” Siete, 12 Dec. 1953, p. 18; rpt. in Revista de Casa de las Américas 28 (July–Aug. 1987): 51.

      Adam Herring is associate professor of art history at Southern Methodist University. He is the author of a study of ancient Maya calligraphy, Art and Writing in the Maya Cities, A.D. 600–800: A Poetics of Line (2005).

      See also: Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Atlantis and the Nations  ·  Michael Taussig, Zoology, Magic, and Surrealism  ·  Marshall Sahlins, Infrastructuralism

    • 106D. A. Miller
    • For though everyone in the theater may be familiar with Hitchcock's identity, this familiarity is not shared by anyone on screen. It is in relation to these ignorant “persons of the fiction” that our feelings of superiority have been instigated and feel justified. As whom, after all, does Hitchcock appear in his films? Certainly, he never appears as anyone other than Hitchcock; he is never a character who bears another name or even anonymously exercises the slightest narrative function. As Anthony Shaffer put it, “he would be himself, but he wouldn't be anybody else”; and, accordingly, we do not say, “there is a bassist played by Alfred Hitchcock,” but “there is Alfred Hitchcock carrying a bass.” Yet though the fiction never identifies its author as someone else, neither does it ever come to acknowledge him as Hitchcock. Guy Haines, for instance, is utterly—and, to us, amazingly—oblivious to the fact he has just crossed paths with a film director as famous for his image as for the films regularly signed by that image. This is the self-contradiction intrinsic to the appearance; the fat man is nobody but Hitchcock, and yet Hitchcock is nobody but a fat man.

      D. A. Miller is John F. Hotchkis Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His recent publications include Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style (2003) and a study of Federico Fellini's (2008).

      See also: Chris Dumas on Žižek and Hitchcock  ·  Stanley Cavell on Hitchcock’s North by Northwest  ·  Daniel Morgan, On the Aesthetics and Ethics of Camera Movement

    • 131Keri Walsh
    • Rourke specialized in moments when a totally submissive character suddenly lashes out or a dominant one suddenly buckles. And those exchanges, always held in reserve beyond the point when you might expect them, were his dramatic thrills, the electrical jolts his performances always gave. He had no middle register, no small talk, but vacillated between scenes of extreme intimacy and sudden, violent retreats, always pulling away just when he got closest. Rourke's imitators never got it right. Some mimicked the explosive moments but forgot about the tender ones that threw them into relief (Vincent Gallo in Buffalo '66, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Killshot). Others played self-effacement without the ego bursts (Michael Madsen in Thelma and Louise). Rourke played both sides each against the other. His fluctuations were perfectly timed, slow to emerge and quick to dissolve. Each switch was enacted with lunatic brilliance, the result of the improvisatory practice through which he seemed able to generate an infinite number of objective correlatives for the moment of exchange. In Diner, it was throwing back his head to drink like a junkie from a canister of sugar; in Year of the Dragon (1985), leaping fully clothed into the bathtub with his lover; and in The Wrestler, slamming his hand into a running meat slicer. Through Rourke, submission was not just a dramatic device but a pleasurable principle of giving over totally to the other, then asserting selfhood just when it seemed that selfhood was lost. Where did this dialectical, Dionysian performer come from?

      Keri Walsh is assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College in Los Angeles. She is the editor of The Letters of Sylvia Beach (2010) and is completing a monograph entitled Antigone in Modernism: Classicism, Feminism, and Theatres of Protest.

      See also: Rae Beth Gordon, Unconscious Imitation and Spectatorship in French Cabaret and Early Cinema  ·  Robert Pippin on Orson Welles's The Lady from Shanghai   ·  Lesley Stern, Paths That Wind through the Thicket of Things