Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 1984

Volume 10 Issue 3
    • 391Anne, Margaret, and Patrice Higgonet
    • “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century” juxtaposes elliptical descriptions that reveal the interiorization of commodities in the economy of high capitalism. “Allegory in the nineteenth century vacated the outer world, to colonize the inner world.”32 Each of the exposé’s six sections consists of two parts: “Fourier, or the Arcades,” “Daguerre, or the Panoramas,” “Grandville, or the World Exhibitions,” “Louis-Philippe, or the Interior,” “Baudelaire, or the Streets of Paris,” “Haussmann, or the Baricades.”33

      The commercial arcade and not the factory is the logical starting point for Benjamin. Paris, like London, the other capital of nineteenth-century capitalism, is an administrative and financial but not an industrial center. Paris is the locus classicus of bourgeois culture, which finds its most conspicuous expression in the arcade. The arcade cuts through and commercializes the residential block. It harnesses the technology of cast-iron “Pompeian” pillars, to offer in its enticing bay windows the latest, most sophisticated form of bourgeois merchandising. Fourier houses his “land of Cockaigne” in a “reactionary modification” of the arcade.34

      Parallel to the technical innovation of the arcades is that of the lifelike painted panoramas, which serve Jacques-Louis David’s pupils when they “draw from nature.” Politically superior, the city still dreams of the country. “The panoramas, which declare a revolution in the relation of art to technology, are at the same time an expression of a new feeling about life.”35 They drive a wedge between “plastic foreground” and “informational base.” The worker in the literary panorama is “a trimming for an idyll.” Technical innovations in photography (a simultaneously urban and commercial phenomenon) reduce the representational significance of painting. Now photography “is given the task of making discoveries”: it explores the sewers and catacombs. It markets events. With impressionism and cubism, painting in turn transcends bourgeois conceptions of realism.


      32. “Die Allegorie hat im neunzehnten Jahrhundert die Umwelt geräumt, um sich in der Innenwelt anzusiedeln” (1:681).

      33. Adorno objects to the use of people’s names in these titles and suggests that objects like dust or plush would bemore illuminating. Benjamin retains the names to evoke bourgeois interiorization. Louis-Philippe, however, is anomalous, since he is emblem rather than allegorist; the true allegorist of the “Louis-Philippe, or the Interior” section is the collector. Otherwise, the organization is strictly symmetrical: Benjamin discusses Charles Fourier, Louis Daguerre, and Grandville at the end of the sections in which they appear, the others at the beginning.

      34. Trans. Jephcott, p. 148. “Das Schlaraffenland,” “ihre reaktionäre Umbildung” (5:47).

      See also: Miriam Bratu Hansen, Benjamin's Aura

      Anne Higonnet, formerly a student at the Ecole du Louvre, is a graduate student of art history at Yale University. Margaret Higonnet, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut, has written on Romantic and modern literary theory. Patrice Higonnet is Goelet Professor of French History at Harvard University. He has written on the French Revolution and, with Margaret Higonnet, is coauthor of a forthcoming book on suicide in eighteenth-century France.

    • 420Garry Wills
    • Washington eludes us, even in the city named for him. Other leaders are accessible there—Lincoln brooding in square-toed rectitude at his monument, a Mathew Brady image frozen in white, throned yet approachable; Jefferson democratically exposed in John Pope’s aristocratic birdcage. Majestic, each, but graspable.

      Washington’s faceless monument tapers off from us however we come at it—visible everywhere, and perfect; but impersonal, uncompelling. Yet we should remember that this monument, unlike the other two, was launched by private efforts. When government energies were stalled, in the 1830s, subscriptions kept the project alive. Even when Congress took over the project, stones were added by the citizenry, those memorial blocks one can study while descending the long inner stairway. The classical control of the exterior hides a varied and spontaneous interior—an image of the puzzle that faces us, the early popularity of someone lifted so high above the populace. The man we can hardly find was the icon our ancestors turned to most easily and often. We are distanced from him by their generosity, their willingness to see in him something more than human.

      The larger they made Washington, the less they left us to admire—until, in Horatio Greenough’s George Washington, he becomes invisible by sheer vastness. Greenough took for his model what the neoclassical period believed was the greatest statue ever created, by the greatest sculptor who ever lived—the Elean Zeus of Phidias. Since that chryselephantine wonder was no longer extant, artists had to rely on the description given by Pausanias in the Description of Greece, and on coins of Elis that celebrated the work. Here is what Pausanias had to say.

      The seated god is himself fashioned from gold and ivory; the garland on his head appears to be real olive shoots. In his right hand he holds a Victory, also of gold and ivory, offering a ribbon, a garland on her head. In the god’s left hand there is a scepter, encrusted with every kind of metal, and the bird on the tip is an eagle.1


      1. Pausanias Description of Greece 5. 11.

      See also: Garry Wills, Critical Inquiry ("Kritik") in Clausewitz

      Garry Wills, a prize-winning author and journalist, is Henry R. Luce Professor of American Culture and Public Policy at Northwestern University. Among his many books are Nixon Agonistes (1970), Inventing America (1978), and The Kennedy Imprisonment (1982). His forthcoming book, Cincinnatus: George Washington in the Englightenment, will appear in June 1984. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry was “Critical Inquiry (Kritik) in Clausewitz” (December 1982).

    • 442Robert P. Morgan
    • It is frequently noted that a “crisis in language” accompanied the profound changes in human consciousness everywhere evident near the turn of the century. As the nature of reality itself became problematic—or at least suspect, distrusted for its imposition of limits upon individual imagination—so, necessarily, did the relationship of language to reality. Thus in the later nineteenth century, the adequacy of an essentially standardized form of “classical” writing was increasingly questioned as an effective vehicle for artistic expression: even though often in “elevated” form, such writing bore too close a connection to ordinary discourse. Indeed, it was precisely the mutually shared, conventional aspects of language that came to be most deeply distrusted for their failure to mirror the more subjective, obscure, and improbable manifestations of a transcendent reality or, rather, realities—the plural reflecting an insistence upon the optional and provisional nature of human experience. Language in its normal manifestations—with its conventionalized vocabulary and standardized rules for syntactical combination—proved inadequate for an artistic sensibility demanding, in Friedrich Nietzsche’s words, “a world of abnormally drawn perspectives.”

      This dissatisfaction with “normal” language received its classic statement through Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Lord Chandos. Writing in 1902, Hofmannsthal conveys through the figure of the aristocratic Chandos the loss of an encompassing framework within which the various objects of external reality are connected with one another and integrated with the internal reality of human feelings. Chandos’ world has become one of disparate, disconnected fragments, resistant to the abstractions of ordinary language. It is a world characterized by “a sort of feverish thought, but thought in a material that is more immediate, more fluid, and more intense than that of language.” Chandos longs for a new language in which not a single word is known to me, a language in which mute objects speak to me and in which perhaps one day, in the grave, I will give account of myself before an unknown judge.”2 The content and forms of art thus shifted away from exterior reality, which no longer provided a stable, “given” material, toward language itself—to “pure” language in a sense closely related to the symbolists’ “pure” poetry. “No artist tolerates reality,” Nietzsche proclaimed.3 And Gustave Flaubert’s farsighted advice to himself was that he should write “a book about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be held together by the internal strength of its style.”4


      2. Hugo von Hofmannsthal, “Ein Brief,” Gesammelte Werke, ed. Bernd Schoeller with Rudolf Hirsch, 10 vols. (Frankfurt am Main, 1980), 7:471-72; my translation. All further translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.

      3. Friedrich Nitzsche, Complete Works, ed. Oscar Levy, 18 vols. (London, 1909-15), vol. 15, The Will to Power, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici, p. 74.

      4. Gustave Flaubert, Flaubert to Louise Colet, 16 Jan. 1852, The Letters of Gustave Flaubert 1830-1857, ed. and trans. Francis Steegmuller (Cambridge, Mass., 1980), p. 154. Other passages in this letter are equally remarkable for their “modernist” tone. Flaubert argues that from the standpoint of l’Art pur, “one might almost establish the axiom that there is no such thing as subject—style in itself being an absolute manner of seeing things” (p. 154). Further:

      The finest works are those that contain the least matter; the closer expression comes to thought, the closer language comes to coinciding and merging with it, the finer the result. I believe the future of Art lies in this direction. I see it, as it has developed from its beginnings, growing progressively more ethereal …. Form, in becoming more skillful, becomes attenuated, it leaves behind all liturgy, rule, measure; the epic is discarded in favor of the novel, verse in favor of prose; there is no longer any orthodoxy, and form is as free as the will of its creator. This progressive shedding of the burden of tradition can be observed everywhere: governments have gone through similar evolution, from oriental despotisms to the socialisms of the future. [P. 154]

      See also: Robert P. Morgan, Musical Time/ Musical Space

      Robert P. Morgan, professor of music at the University of Chicago, is currently writing a history of twentieth-century music and working on a study of form in nineteenth-century music. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are “On the Analysis of Recent Music” (Autumn 1977) and “Musical Time/Musical Space” (Spring 1980).

    • 462Gerald L. Bruns
    • Thus it would not be the content or meaning of a written Torah that Jeremiah would attack; rather it would be the Deuteronomic “claim to final and exclusive authority by means of writing” (pp. 38-390). Jeremiah’s problem is political rather than theological. He knows that writing is more powerful than prophecy and that he will not be able to withstand it—and he knows that the Deuteronomists know no less. As Blenkinsopp says, “Deuteronomy produced a situation in which prophecy could not continue to exist without undergoing profound transformations” (p. 39)—that is, without ceasing to be “free prophecy,” or prophecy unbound by any text, including its own. “It might be considered misleading or flippant to say that for [Deuteronomy], as for rabbinic orthodoxy, the only good prophet is a dead prophet. But in point of fact the Deuteronomic scribes, despite their evident debt to and respect for the prophets, contributed decisively to the eclipse of the kind of historically oriented prophecy (Geshcichtsprophetie) represented by Jeremiah and the emergence in due course of quite different forms of scribal prophecy” (pp. 38-39; see also pp. 119-20).

      It is at this point that we reach a sort of outer limit of biblical criticism—a threshold that scholars, with their foundations in literary criticism, their analytical attitude toward texts, and their theological concerns, are not inclined to cross. In any case, it is no accident that the political meaning of the conflict of prophecy and canon has received its most serious attention not from a biblical scholar but from a radical historian, Ellis Rivkin. In The Shaping of Jewish History, a brilliant and tendentious book, Rivkin proposes to treat the question of canon-formation and the promulgation of canonical texts of the Scriptures, not according to literary criteria but according to power criteria. For Rivkin, the production of the Hebrew Scriptures “was not primarily the work of scribes, scholars, or editors who sought out neglected traditions about wilderness experience, but of a class struggling to gain power.”23


      23. Ellis Rivkin, The Shaping of Jewish History: A Radical New Interpretation (New York, 1971), p. 30; further references to this work will be included in the text.

      See also: Gerald L. Bruns, Intention, Authority, and Meaning

      Gerald R. Bruns is professor of English at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language (1974) and Inventions: Writing, Textuality, and Understanding in Literary History (1982). The present essay is from a work in progress, Hermeneutics, Ancient and Modern.

    • 481James Chandler
    • To see what might be at stake in the question of Pope’s place in the poetic canon—in the question as such, before anything is said of critical theory—we must understand that late eighteenth-century England was developing a different sort of canon from the one which Pope and the Augustans had in view. As everyone knows, Pope’s classics were, well, classical. His pantheon was populated with poets of another place and time whose stature was globally recognized. One recalls the tribute to these “Bards triumphant” in An Essay on Criticism (1711):

                              Still green with Bays each ancient Altar stands,

                  Above the reach of Sacrilegious Hands,

                  Secure from Flames, from Envy’s fiercer Rage,

                  Destructive War, and all-involving Age.

                  See, from each Climes the Learn’d their Incense bring;

                  Hear, in all Tongues consenting Paeans ring!

                  In Praise so just, let ev’ry Voice be join’d,

                  And fill the Gen’ral Chorus of Mankind!14

      Pope’s song of praise here forms just a part of mankind’s “Gen’ral Chorus.” These are poets for all climates and languages, and for all nations, even “Nations unborn” and “Worlds…that must not yet be found” (ll. 193-94). Although I want to place adequate stress on Pope’s deep commitment to this universalized canon, it would be misleading to suggest that he was completely uninterested in the poetry of his own nation. He studied it an imitated it. He even sketched a plan for a possible history of poetry in England. It is to the point here, however, that this project remained only a sketch and that England would have no major overview of its national accomplishment until the 1770s and 1780s, when Thomas Warton issued the first three volumes of his pioneering History of English Poetry, and Johnson, his Lives of the English Poets.

      Building on the scholarship of René Wellek, Lawrence Lipking has offered a compelling account of the emergence of these great works at that time, buy reference to the “interested and demanding public” that called for them.15 What the public wanted and got, Lipking explains, “was a history of English poetry, or a survey of English poets, that would provide a basis for criticism by reviewing the entire range of the art. Warton and Johnson responded to a national desire for an evaluation of what English poets had achieved” (p. 238). Such terms are most useful, although “evaluation” connotes a greater degree of neutrality than even Lipking’s own subsequent analysis permits. For example, among the public needs served by such work as Johnson’s and Warton’s, Lipking lists the “patriotic” and the “political” as primary. These needs are obviously related. The patriotic need expresses itself as a hunger for “a glorious national poetic pantheon” (p. 328); that is, for a specifically national rather than a global canon of classics. Such a canon would in turn serve political purposes that Lipking sees motivating “the poets” of mid-century, Thomson and Akenside and Collins and Gray and Mason and Smart,” who all “wrote variations on the mythopolitical them of Milton: sweet Liberty, the nymph who had freed English pens to outstrip the cloistered conservative rule-bound verses of less favored nations.” Politically, in other words, and this is the crucial point, “English literary history was shaped by the need for a definition of the superiority of the national character” (p. 329).

      See also: James Chandler, On the Face of the Case: Conrad, Lord Jim, and the Sentimental Novel

      James Chandler, assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago, is the author of Wordsworth’s Second Nature: A Study of the Poetry and Politics (forthcoming this autumn). His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry was “Romantic Allusiveness” (Spring 1982).

    • 510Michael Fried
    • Near the beginning of Charles Baudelaire’s Salon of 1846—one of the most brilliant and intellectually ambitious essays in art criticism ever written—the twenty-five-year-old author states that “the critic should arm himself from the start with a sure criterion, a criterion drawn from nature, and should then carry out his duty with a passion; for a critic does not cease to be a man, and passion draws similar temperaments together and exalts the reason to fresh heights.”1 It may be the emphasis on passion, indeed on strong personal feeling of every kind, not only here but everywhere in the Salon, that has prevented commentators from taking wholly seriously the possibility that a single criterion is in fact at work throughout it. But what if that criterion operates in the realm of feeling, if it is itself a feeling or complex of feelings, and if, moreover, as Baudelaire as much as says, no conflict between the claims of reason and of passion exists within his conception of the critical enterprise? Not that scholars have failed to recognize either the brilliance or (within limits) the ambitiousness of the Salon of 1846; on the contrary, it is widely regarded as the major extrapoetic text of Baudelaire’s early career and especially in recent years has received extensive commentary. But by and large, those who have written about it have focused primarily on topics, such as Baudelaire’s conception of nature, his vision of the creative process, and the relation of his ideas to those of other critics, that seem to me, if not quite pseudoproblems, at any rate concerns that lead us to ignore what the text may be saying about its own manner of proceeding.2 I acknowledge, too, that certain features of that manner—the mixture of irony and seriousness in the opening dedication to the bourgeois, the many abrupt fluctuations of tone in the body of the essay, the seeming breaks in the argument from section to section, the texture and movement of the prose—could hardly be less systematic in effect. And yet it would not be hard to show that the Salon as a whole is the product of a remarkable effort, not merely to ground the judgment of individual works of art in a single experiential principle but also to bind together a number of diverse concerns—pictorial, literary, political, philosophical—in an intellectually coherent structure every part of which is meant to be consonant with every other. No wonder the last sentence of the Salon apostrophizes Balzac: the sheer inclusiveness of Baudelaire’s undertaking recalls nothing so much as the scope of the Comédie humaine.


      1. Charles Baudelaire, Salon of 1846, Art in Paris 1845-1862: Salons and Other Exhibitions, ed. and trans. Jonathan Mayne (Ithaca, N.Y., 19810, p. 45; for the original French, see Baudelaire, Salon de 1846, “Curiosités esthétiques,” “L’Art romantique,” et autres oeuvres critiques, ed. Henri Lemaître (Paris, 1971), pp. 101-2. All further references to the Salon of 1846 (the translation and the original, in that order) will be included parenthetically in the text (occasionally I have modified Mayne’s renderings in the interest of greater exactness). I have also consulted the recent edition, Baudelaire: “Salon de 1846,” ed. David Kelley (Oxford, 1975), which includes a useful introduction and bibliography.

      2. See, for example, Margaret Gilman, Baudelaire, the Critic (New York, 19430, pp. 3-54; Lucie Horner, Baudelaire, critique de Delacrois (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1955; Geneva, 1956), pp. 12-53 and 77-111; F. W. Leakey, “Les Esthétiques de Baudelaire: Le ‘Système’ des annés 1844-1847,” Revue des sciences humaines, n.s., fasc. 127 (July-Sept. 1967) : 481-96, and Baudelaire and Nature (Manchester, 1969), pp. 73-88; and Kelley, “Deux Aspects du Salon de 1846 de Baudelaire : La Dédicace aux bourgeois et la couleur,” Forum for Modern Language Studies 5 (Oct. 1969) : 331-46, and introduction to Baudelaire: Salon de 1846,” pp. 1-114.

      See also: Michael Fried, Painter into Painting: On Courbet's After Dinner at Ornans and Stonebreakers

      Michael Fried, professor of humanities and the history of art and director of the Humanities Center at the Johns Hopkins University, is the author of Morris Louis and Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot. He is currently at work on a book on Gustave Courbet. His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry, “The Structure of Beholding in Courbet’s Burial at Ornans,” appeared in the June 1983 issue.