Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 1979

Volume 5 Issue 3
    • -3Robert E. Streeter, Wayne C. Booth, W. J. T. Mitchell
    • It is strange to write for the pages of this journal a statement which will not come under the eye of its founding editor, Sheldon Sacks. For nearly five years everything that appeared in Critical Inquiry—articles, critical responses, editorial comments—was a matter of painstaking and passionate concern to Shelly Sacks. With a flow of questions and suggestions and a talent for unabashed cajolery, he generated articles and rejoinders to those articles. He worked tirelessly in editorial consultation and correspondence with contributors, especially young writers, helping them to discover the best way of giving form to their ideas. Among the essays submitted to this journal he searched eagerly, even anxiously, for those which seemed, in his words, "right for C.I."


      What was right for C. I. was never, for Shelly Sacks, a cut-and-dried choice. In his own intellectual life, in his teaching and writing, he delighted in arguing important general questions: theories of representation in the arts, points of possible intersection between linguistic science and literary criticism, the interplay of social forces and cultural expressions. Not surprisingly, in reconnoitering for Critical Inquiry, he found special satisfaction in identifying writers who shared his passion for reexamining fundamental topics in the intellectual disciplines. If such writers made their case forcefully, so much the better: in choosing an essay for publication he assessed its capacity to stimulate interesting counterargument.


      At no time, however, did Shelly Sacks confuse his own beliefs with the nature of intellectual discourse. As an editor he was hospitable to writers whose premises he questioned and whose conclusions he deplored. Nor did Shelly attempt to achieve a spurious catholicity by following a quiet quota system designed to give each major line of interpretation—deconstructionist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, what have you—an occasional airing in Critical Inquiry. For Shelly each article stood on its own ground: if its author dealt responsibly and freshly with an interesting problem, that was enough. And, along with his commitment to theoretical inquiry, he responded warmly to the personal, the offbeat, the idiosyncratic. He regarded the feature Artists on Art, for example, as a central element in our design.


      As an editor Sheldon Sacks was above all a shaper. He labored to find and suggest connections in the phenomena of intellectual life. Even the construction of a table of contents for a typical Critical Inquiry issue became for him an opportunity to influence the reader's experience of what we offered. The eminence of an author or the allure of a title were put to one side as Shelly sought to orchestrate, through placement, a kind of intellectual counterpoint from one essay to another. Unheard melodies, doubtless, for many of us, but for Shelly real and sustaining.


      In this valedictory note we have spoken of Sheldon Sacks' editorial accomplishment—in our friendly view, a very distinguished one—rather than of the personal qualities which made working alongside him an exhilarating experience. We should report, however, that for more than half the life of this journal Shelly was ill and knew that the time available to him was likely to be relatively brief. Faced with this diminishing perspective, he did not—indeed it is more accurate to say he could not—moderate his involvement with the life of this journal. At his death, as at the launching of this enterprise, he held to the high ambition that Critical Inquiry encourage comeliness, vigor, and continuity in the discourse of our time.


      The appropriate "critical response" to this great loss is that Sheldon Sacks’ editorial colleagues, and our publisher, the University of Chicago Press, pledge whatever talents and energies we possess to the continuing life of the journal he imagined and brought into being.

    • 425Arnold Hauser
    • EDITORIAL NOTE.—Arnold Hauser died in February 1978 shortly after returning to his native Hungary; he had lived nearly half of his 85 years in a kind of self-imposed exile. He is considered, by those who know his work, to be perhaps the greatest sociologist of art, though his last years were spent in comparative neglect and obscurity. We present here as a testament to the importance of both the critic and the discipline he helped shape a section from the translation of his Sociology of Art (1974).


      Hauser's work draws on the influences of his teachers, Simmel, Bergson, Lukács, Mannheim, Sombart, and Troeltsch. He developed in his immense Social History of Art (1951) the groundwork for a sociological analysis of art ranging from prehistoric cave painting to film. In his later works—The Philosophy of Art History (1958), Mannerism: The Crisis of the Renaissance and the Origins of Modern Art (1964), and The Sociology of Art—he continued to redefine his brilliant defense of art for society's sake.


      The theory of l'art pour l'art wants nothing to do with this contradiction and denies not only the moral and social usefulness of art but its every possible practical function as well. "Nobody would write poetry," says Eugenio Montale, "if the problem of literature consisted in making oneself understood." It has been doubted whether the capacity of making oneself understood, the unambiguous communication of feelings and experiences, even lies within the power of art. What Eduardo Hanslick asserts about music in Von musikalischen Schönen, namely, that its relation to everything which is nonmusical, everything which has emotional content, is vague and noncommittal, is to some extent true for all arts. Just as music expresses something which cannot be translated into any other form, so literature expresses something which is eminently literary, linguistic, something locked into words and syntactic structures. In the same way the untranslatable content of a painting, a pictorial idea, a vision, can only be seized and held onto in optical forms. The composer thinks in tones, the painter in lines and colors, the poet in words, tropes, and rhythms. Indubitable as this is, it is not the whole truth; side by side with the content which can only be expressed adequately in a particular form, there is an intrinsic value which can be translated into any form.

      See also: Erwin Panofsky, Kenneth J. Northcott and Joel Snyder, The Concept of Artistic Volition

      Kenneth Northcott, translator of this essay, is professor of older German literature and of comparative literature at the University of Chicago. He is currently engaged in the translation of The Sociology of Art and in the study of late medieval satire in Germany and the works of Harold Pinter, in whose plays he also delights to act.

    • 441James S. Ackerman
    • That art historians have felt it necessary to emulate this effort to express personal input can be explained by our need to gain credibility in that aspect of our work that is indistinguishable in method from other historical research: the reconstruction, through documents and artifacts, of past events, conditions, and attitudes. Most of us simply ignore the ambivalence of our position; I cannot recall having heard or read discussions of it, but it is bound to creep out from under the rug. If a student asks me why I think Rembrandt and Picasso are good artists—which most students are too well trained to do—and if I answer that judgments of value are not discussed by historians, I am within my rights, like a witness at a congressional hearing claiming the protection of the Fifth Amendment. But I ought to be found in contempt of the classroom. And if I try to answer seriously, I ought not begin by saying that I chose Rembrandt because he has been acknowledged by generations to have been a great artist but rather because I find more to think, feel, and speak about in his works than in those of, for example, Nicolaes Maes, and because I believe that the student stands to gain more by looking at them. I want the student to have the most rewarding experiences, and, as a result, perhaps to learn to make value discriminations of his own—even ones different from mine and from the so-called consensus of history—and ultimately to explain the grounds on which he makes them. This means having to know and to explain what I think is "rewarding."

      See also: Alain Robbe-Grillet, Order and Disorder in Film and Fiction

      James S. Ackerman, professor of fine arts at Harvard University, is the author of, among other works, The Architecture of Michelangelo, Art and Archaeology, The Cortile del Belvedere, and Palladio. He is currently writing on Renaissance art, science, and naturalism and making a film on Andrea Palladio and his influence in America. "Transactions in Architectural Design," his previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, appeared in the Winter 1974 issue.

    • 471W. V. Quine
    • The distinction between moral values and others is not an easy one. There are easy extremes: the value that one places on his neighbor's welfare is moral, and the value of peanut brittle is not. The value of decency in speech and dress is moral or ethical in the etymological sense, resting as it does on social custom; and similarly for observance of the Jewish dietary laws. On the other hand the eschewing of unrefrigerated oysters in the summer, though it is likewise a renunciation of immediate fleshly pleasure, is a case rather of prudence than morality. But presumably the Jewish taboos themselves began prudentially. Again a Christian fundamentalist who observes the proprieties and helps his neighbor only from fear of hellfire is manifesting prudence rather than moral values.1 Similarly for the man with felony in his heart who behaves himself for fear of the law. Similarly for the child who behaves himself in the course of moral training; his behavior counts as moral only after these means get transmuted into ends. On the other hand the value that the child attaches to the parent's approval is a moral value. It had been a mere harbinger of a sensually gratifying caress, if my recent suggestion is right, but has been transmuted into an end in itself.


      ·  1. Bernard Williams, Morality (New York, 1972), pp. 75-78, questions the disjointedness of these alternatives. I am construing them disjointedly.

      See also: W. V. Quine, A Postscript on Metaphor

      W.V. Quine, Edgar Pierce professor emeritus of philosophy at Harvard University, is the author of many influential works, including The Roots of Reference. "A Postscript on Metaphor," his previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, appeared in the Autumn 1978 issue. The present essay is being published in a festschrift, Values and Morals: Essays in Honor of William Frankenna, Charles Stevenson, and Richard Brandt.

    • 481P. D. Juhl
    • Suppose a computer prints out the following little "poem":


      The shooting of the hunters she heard
      But to pity it moved her not.


      What can we say about the meaning of this "poem"? We can say that it is ambiguous. It could mean:

      (1) She heard the hunters shooting at animals, people, etc., but she had no pity for the victims. . . .
      (2) She heard the hunters being shot but did not pity them. . . .
      (3) She heard the hunters shooting at someone or something and she heard the hunters being shot (at) but did not pity either.


      An author could use the above word sequence (the text of the "poem") to convey either (1), (2), or (3). But since (by hypothesis) we cannot treat the text produced by the computer as anyone's use of the words in question, it would not make sense to decide among its linguistically possible readings, just as it would not make sense to choose among the linguistically possible readings of an ambiguous sentence if it is considered in abstraction from its use by a speaker on a particular occasion. For example, it would not make sense to say of the sentence "He saw the man carrying the suitcase" that it just means "He saw the man who is carrying the suitcase" if we know that and in which what ways the sentence is ambiguous. If someone did say this, we would be inclined to think either that he does not know that the sentence is ambiguous or that he is talking not about the sentence but about an utterance (i.e., a use) of that sentence by a speaker on some occasion.


      Hence all we can do in interpreting the computer "poem" is to specify the set of its linguistically possible readings, namely, {(1), (2), (3)}. But it would not make sense to select (1), for example, and say, "That is what the computer poem means, not (2), nor (3)."

      See also: Hoyt Long and Richard Jean So, Literary Pattern Recognition: Modernism between Close Reading and Machine Learning

      P. D. Juhl is an assistant professor of German at Princeton University. The present essay, in a different form, will appear in his forthcoming book, The Nature of Literary Interpretation.

    • 489Charles Altieri
    • If Milton is the grand expositor of human culture as a middle realm, Williams can be seen as in many respects his secular heir, an heir careful to work out how the poetic imagination serves to make man's expulsion from Edenic origins bearable and even invigorating. Williams' poetics begins, as Riddel makes clear, in the awareness that there is no inherent or even recoverable correspondence between words and facts in the world, but Williams then devotes most of his energies to denying the metaphysical alternative to that position—the claim that all language can do is reflect on and play with the emptiness or fictiveness of its signifiers. If words do not copy but produce meanings, then they can be used significantly to focus our attention on the activities of the artist and his constructed characters as they engage in that process of production. The act of producing meanings can be the process by which to achieve another kind of reference, for the act of expression can itself become the focus generating a poem's significance by calling attention to the various ways authors and characters station themselves in relation to specific situations. Fiction then is not so much a term describing the ontological status of certain kinds of language (since many utterances in ordinary behavior also do not have referents) but a term characterizing a particular way of using language to reflect upon forms of behavior in which we are not fully conscious of the quality of our activities. Williams' position on the artist's language is clearest in his frequent metaphor of the artist as farmer. The initial activity of both men is a kind of violence, an assertion of the difference between human desires and indifferent "blank fields." But what begins as antagonism does not result in the creation of self-referential fictive structures or the gay wisdom of maintaining and disseminating differences. Rather antagonism is the precondition for what Williams richly labels "composition": the farmer-poet organizes the blank field into a fertile, life-sustaining set of relationships which are not simply linguistic.1


      ·  1. Williams, Imaginations, ed. Webster Schott (New York, 1970), pp. 98-99. Williams' image of arts as antagonistic composing has important parallels with the Russian Formalist concept of "defamiliarization," but for Williams it is not simply a scene but a total human act that is revealed by this process.

      See also: Charles Altieri, An Idea and Ideal of a Literary Canon

      Charles Altieri teaches modern literature and literary theory in the English department at the University of Washington. The author of Enlarging the Temple: New Directions in American Poetry of the 1960s, he has just completed a study of literary meaning. "Culture and Skepticism: A Response to Michael Fischer" was contributed to Critical Inquiry in the Winter 1979 issue.

    • 511Richard McKeon
    • Justification for reading Pride and Prejudice as a philosophical novel may be found in its much cited and variously interpreted opening sentence: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." This universal law is the first principle of a philosophical novel, although I shall also interpret it as the statement of a scientific law of human nature, a characterization of the civility of English society, and as a pronouncement on the manners of an economic class. Pride and Prejudice is a philosophical novel both in the sense of presenting a philosophy in exposition and of embodying a philosophy in action, and literary criticism exercises its proper function by expounding that philosophy and by explicating and clarifying the thought and action of the novel by means of it. The thought of Pride and Prejudice may be uncovered by interpreting it in accordance with any of a variety of philosophies, but it is peculiarly appropriate, and enlightening, to recognize its Platonizing echoes since the dialogues of Plato have gone through a history of interpretation that has evolved distinctions which are useful in interpreting Pride and Prejudice. Many interpreters of Plato's dialogues, in antiquity and later, argue that they are not statements of thoughts or opinions but are simply exhibitions of how philosophers talk; others, beginning with the Old Academy, interpret them as the expression of the truth not of the doctrines of one philosopher, but of all philosophers; some, beginning with the skepticism of the Middle or New Academy, hold that the method of Socrates was to demonstrate that all doctrines are false and therefore, by the same token, true; and some, following the Neoplatonists, sought in them the adumbration of a truth transcending human thought and expression. Neoplatonic truths are suited to tragedy and epic; skeptical Academic opinions provide a place and expectation proper to comedy. All Platonisms share hierarchical structures of being, thought, and aspiration. Plato himself describes three ladders of being, knowledge, and love in the Republic and the Symposium. The New Academic skepticism chooses a low place on those ladders, which is excellently named in the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice: knowledge is based on self-evident truths, opinion can rise no higher than "a truth universally accepted," "possession of a good fortune" is a dubious degradation of vision of the ideal God to possession of material goods, and "want of a wife" is a transformation of charity or agape or love of the good in itself to concupiscence or eros or matrimony.

      See also: Richard McKeon, Arts of Invention and Arts of Memory: Creation and Criticism

      Richard McKeon is the editor of The Basic Works of Aristotle and coeditor of Peter Abailard, Sic et Non: A Critical Edition. He delivered an earlier version of this paper at the 1977 Modern Language Association's session of the Division on Philosophical Approaches to Literature. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Arts of Invention and Arts of Memory: Creation and Criticism" (Summer 1975) and "Canonic Books and Prohibited Books: Orthodoxy and Heresy in Religion and Culture" (Summer 1976).

    • 529Victor E. Vogt
    • Part of Frost's continuing appeal to the "popular imagination" stems from his pronunciamentos on diverse topics: the metaphoric "pleasure of ulteriority," "the sound of sense," poems beginning in wisdom and ending in delight—"a momentary stay against confusion." These phrases along with favorite one-liners ("earth's the right place for love" and "good fences make good neighbors") have made their way into our lexicon as memorable formulations both of Frost's ars poetica and of quotidian reality. Even schoolboys allegedly know the poet in these or similar terms. And why not? Yet the supposed "commonness" of Frost is precisely what must be brought under radical scrutiny—including his formulaic statements of intent. Though these statements have been used effectively for critical purposes, the fact remains that they themselves are often problematic and tend toward the disconcertingly devious.1 That Frost's recourse to the rhetoric of irony and indirection is by no means confined to his poetry should not deter us from using his statements of intent to understand his poetry more fully. A cautionary "go slow," however, is in order.


      ·  1. This is one reason I have difficulty accepting Elaine Barry's claims for Frost as a theorist. Having distinguished between Frost as "critical theorist" and as "practical critic," Barry concludes: "Robert Frost has left us a body of critical theory that is probably larger than that of any American poet. It has scope and depth, wit and subtlety—and a great sanity. In its significance, it bears favorable comparison with the formalized criticism of Eliot or Pound . . ." (Robert Frost: On Writing [New Brunswick, N.J., 1973], p.33). Frost makes some most suggestive statements—often requiring de-metaphorization—about poetry, especially his own. But taken as a whole, those statements constitute, at best, only an approximation of "theory." That this is not merely semantic haggling over the definition of theory should be evident from Barry's favorable comparison of Frost to Pound and especially Eliot.

      See also: Donald Wesling, Difficulties of the Bardic: Literature and the Human Voice

      Victor E. Vogt has recently completed a study on love, death, and the quotidian in modern American drama and is currently working on the moral and sociological aspects of dramatism.

    • 553Earl Miner
    • The account in Part I of this essay posited two related but distinct sequences of development: of literary systems proper and of critical systems. Or, more simply, we must recognize that literary practices and systematic ideas about them develop in different ways. Today we can see in retrospect that lyric, narrative, and lyric-narrative or narrative-lyric begin literary cultures. Systematic ideas about literature develop, however, more by accident, what seems to be the result of conditions producing important critical minds at times propitious for reflection. Any full account would have to consider such things as bipropertied conceptions. This has been mentioned before, but a specific example can be given here. Chinese wen designated not merely poetry but also prose historical writing: the fu (usually called "prose-poem") established a kind of middle ground between them. In any event, such combinations, such bipropertied conceptions, do exist in very sophisticated times. Another matter of crucial importance involves the difference between the actual or descriptive existence of a literary variety and normative or valued critical consideration of a given kind. Various evidence shows that ancient Greece had lyrics as well as narrative, and preliterary Japan, narrative as well as lyrics. In the case of Greece, we tend today to think of narrative normatively as the early literature, although Plato and Aristotle lumped it with lyric and concerned themselves almost entirely with their crucial genre, drama. As for early Japan, the narrative was largely a possession of reciters, and so few heroic cycles are left from the nondominant peoples that narrative poetry is more a supposition that a presence. But there is in what remains from early times a mixture of lyric poetry with narrative prose. That combination did not prove crucial for a systematic poetics, although it is of utmost significance for later developments. It can hardly be said emphatically enough that the literary system comes first and the critical system after some interval. But the various complexities in different cultures are such that to get our bearings we may well consider the course of literary development in a single culture.

      See also: Earl Miner, On the Genesis and Development of Literary Systems: Part I

      Earl Miner is Townsend Martin, Class of 1917, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. "That Literature is a Kind of Knowledge," his previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, appeared in the Spring 1976 issue. His works include Literary Uses of Typology from the Middle Ages to the Present (of which he is editor and a contributor) and Japanese Linked Poetry. Part I of the present essay appeared in the Winter 1978 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 569Gerald Graff
    • Wellek is surely right in arguing that the New Critics did not intend to behave as formalists, but I think he needs to explain why they came so close to doing so in spite of themselves. One explanation may lie in a sphere Wellek mentions but might have probed even more fully, the long-standing Romantic and modernist revolt against the culture of science, positivism, and utilitarianism. In Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (London, 1958), Raymond Williams argues that the Romantic reaction against industrial-utilitarian society led to a specialization of literature that attenuated literature's claims in a self-defeating way. Instead of contesting the realm of objective knowledge, the defenders of literature conceded this territory to science and commerce, either celebrating literature for its very freedom from such knowledge or claiming for it some alternate form of knowledge (not "about" anything) that could not be made rationally respectable. One could argue that the same pattern of misplaced reaction is seen in the New Criticism, that its revolt against the utilitarian, "Platonic" drives of science and positivism took the form of an attempt to divest literature of objective "truth of correspondence." Having equated this kind of truth with the most reductive forms of scientism, moralism, and propagandizing, the New Critics made it difficult to justify their own ambitious claims for the humanistic knowledge embodied in literature. Their way of reacting against the depravities of technological culture continues to be a common one today and can even be found in such adversaries of the New Critics as the cultural revolutionaries, the phenomenologists, and the deconstructionists—all of whom express the paradigms of our modern "adversary culture." It is an understandable and even perhaps an admirable reaction, but it has led to distortions in our conception of the humanities—one of which is the aggravation of that very dissociation of sensibility into scientific and poetic components that we all say we want to have done with.


      Gerald Graff, chairman of the English department at Northwestern University, is the author of Poetic Statement and Critical Dogma and, most recently, Literature against Itself: Literary Ideas in Modern Society. He responds in this article to René Wellek's "The New Criticism: Pro and Contra," published in Summer 1978 in Critical Inquiry.

    • 576RenĂ© Wellek
    • Graff's second point about formalism does not refute my argument that the New Critics upheld the coherence or organicity of a work of art and yet did not ignore its relation to reality. I argued this to be a defensible view also from a parallel with painting. The individual New Critics emphasized one or the other side, in different contexts, and I am not prepared to defend the clarity and consistency of every one of their pronouncements. But even the loosely phrased quotation from Allen Tate's essay "Narcissus as Narcissus" (1938) can be defended. In saying that "it [Tate is discussing his own "Ode to the Confederate Dead"] is not knowledge 'about' something else," he means that the poem does not make statements about the solipsism and narcissism that he discusses later. "The poem is rather the fullness of that knowledge"; that is, it is a creation, a new thing which has its meaning as a totality, and that meaning surely refers to the outside world: the cemetery, the dead, the Civil War, and so on. . . . To judge from Graff's book, Poetic Statement and Critical Dogma, we are not so far apart in our estimate of the New Criticism. I also have my troubles (as my writings on I. A. Richards, Ransom, Blackmur, and Burke show), mainly with their psychologism and the dichotomy between emotional and propositional language, but on the points that I discussed in the article—the supposed lack of historical outlook, aestheticism, formalism, and scientism—the New Criticism, has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. It needs and deserves the rehabilitation I have attempted.


      Rene Wellek, Sterling Professor Emeritus of comparative literature at Yale University, is the author of Theory of Literature (with Austin Warren) and of A History of Modern Criticism, 1750-1950. He has contributed "Notes and Exchanges Between Rene Wellek and Wayne C. Booth" (Autumn 1977) and "The New Criticism: Pro and Contra" (Summer 1978) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 580William C. Dowling
    • The problem of internal audience is thus that no such audience exists, that the X or abstract boundary of intentionality to which we want to give the name audience cannot be described in the terms of a world in which audiences listen to utterance. For that is the world that is annihilated in our objective comprehension of the work, and the X becomes the sole reality. Yet the only terms available to us to describe the reality that is the work must be taken from the only world we know, and the only escape from theoretical confusion is to see that such terms have, in their new use, a purely analogous function, that they draw on the world only as an unreal analogy of the X (and its world) that is real.


      I'm not certain that Rabinowitz's discussion of Pale Fire is in any way central to his "four audience" theory, but I'd like to end by saying that it misses an essential point.


      William C. Dowling is an associate professor of English at the University of New Mexico and the author of The Boswellian Hero.

    • 585Peter J. Rabinowitza
    • To be sure, I agree that Nabokov creates a "sense of dizzying complexity," but I don't see how Dowling accounts for it at all. First of all, the passage he cites from Pnin is not an instance of the Liar's Paradox. The Liar's Paradox occurs when a single person claims that he or she always lies—for in that case, there is no logically consistent way to call the claim either true or false. In Pnin, however, we have something quite different: a person, whom we suspect of often filtering the truth to serve his own ends, claims that someone else has called him a liar. That's confusing, perhaps, but not logically inconsistent; for instance, it would be logically inconsistent to say that Pnin is wrong, or is at least exaggerating, when he says that you shouldn't believe anything that the narrator says. Indeed, Pnin is wrong, and the careful reader can sort out the narrator's claims with a fair degree of accuracy, at least on the second reading. The odd sensation that Pnin inspires comes not because there's no logically consistent way to determine the truth or falsity if the narrative but rather because we can figure out when and how the narrator has slanted his statements only once we have finished the book, for only the last chapter gives us the evidence we need to interpret the earlier chapters properly.


      Peter J. Rabinowitz, assistant professor of comparative literature at Hamilton College, is the author of articles on Raymond Chandler, Faulkner and Dostoyevsky, and literary borrowing and is, as well, a music critic for Fanfare.