Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 1980

Volume 6 Issue 3
    • 363Elizabeth Abel
    • Baudelaire's response to Delacroix's art and theories provides a particularly fruitful focus for a study of the new rapport between the former sister arts. There is little similarity between Delacroix's action-filled exotic subjects and Baudelaire's more intimate and private poetry; their arts must therefore be related in some domain apart from content. We are aided in deciphering this domain by Baudelaire's extensive commentary on Delacroix. Moreover, perhaps because of its subtlety, the relationship between these arts has not received the attention it deserves.1 Yet no sooner is the possibility for such a study recognized than the problems it entails become apparent. Without the focus of common subjects, where does one begin? The dangers of impressionistic comparisons of study are readily apparent in the tendency of Geistesgeschichte studies to transfer stylistic terms from one art form to another, creating such bizarre transpositions as "the visible chamber music of the bent furniture" or the "Titian style of the madrigal" in Spengler's Decline of the West or Wylie Sypher's suggestion that a Shakespearean play is like a Renaissance painting because it makes use of "perspective" to create a real and believable world.2 And indeed it would be misleading to look for particular stylistic similarities between Delacroix and Baudelaire. Delacroix's dissolution of solid color masses into separate strokes of different colors, for example, would appear to be closer to Rimbaud's disjointed language than to Baudelaire's carefully interwoven sentences. Only by viewing the two art forms as interconnected systems can we determine their relationship. If the new affiliation of poetry and painting in the Romantic period derives from the expression of imaginative unity, a critical approach to their relationship must be attuned to different ways of expressing unity. The theoretical framework that accounts most completely for the kind of relationship existing between Delacroix and Baudelaire is provided by the structuralists, although, as we shall see, even this approach has limitations.


      ·  1. There are several studies of Baudelaire's aesthetics and criticism, such as André Ferran's L'Esthétique de Baudelaire (Paris, 1968), Margaret Gilman's Baudelaire the Critic (New York, 1943), and Jean Prévost's Baudelaire: essai sur l'inspiration et la création poétiques (Paris, 1953), which contain sections on the influence of Delacroix but do not extend their analysis into Baudelaire's poetry as a whole. More specific works, such as Lucie Horner's Baudelaire critique de Delacroix (Paris, 1973), provides a detailed study of their relationship based on their correspondence and references to one another, but no analysis of the relationship between their two art forms. Some studies of Baudelaire's poetry, such as Lloyd James Austin's L'Univers poétique de Baudelaire: symbolisme et symbolique (Paris, 1956) and Martin Turnell's Baudelaire: A Study of His Poetry (London, 1953), point out aspects of Baudelaire's poems that appear relevant to the relationship with Delacroix, but they do not make these connections themselves. Most commentary on the relationship of Delacroix to Baudelaire's poetry is limited to those few poems that Baudelaire wrote on Delacroix's paintings.

      ·  2. Wellek and Warren quote the comments on Spengler in Theory of Literature, p. 131. Sypher's comments are in Four Ages of Renaissance Style: Transformations in Art and Literature 1400-1700 (Garden City, N.Y., 1955), pp. 79-80.

      See also: Elizabeth Abel, Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation

      Elizabeth Abel is an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago. A coeditor of Critical Inquiry, she is currently writing a book on literary and psychoanalytic representation of female identity.

    • 385Ernest B. Gilman
    • In Quarles' world the emblem as traditionally conceived must strain across a widening gap between the verbal and the visual. Rosemary Freeman's criticism of Quarles, that in a mechanical "imposition of meaning" the text of the emblem applies an interpretation to, rather than discovers a significance within, the image, is more apt than Freeman realized. With the semantic congruence between word and image no longer guaranteed, artists attempting to yoke the two would have to reconceive the relationship between them. Seen as a response to this need, Blake's illuminated books complicate the emblem tradition in an art of dazzling improvisatory juxtapositions. Indeed, his revaluation of the ties between "body" and "soul" may be taken in one sense as a revision of the emblematist's traditional distinction. Words, once the soul of the emblem, now become truly animate for Blake - flowing, sprouting, multicolored - while their quirky energy, no longer restrained by standardized print, is embodied on sensual, quasi-pictorial shapes; images speak in a new and private vocabulary of emblematic birds, curling tendrils, and other forms that gesture allusively from plate to plate. These frame, underscore, celebrate, intrude upon, parody, or oppose themselves by "contraries" to the meaning of the adjoining text. If Quarles' work signals the failure of the emblem in England, its success in probing the problems of combining language and imagery points toward the renewal of the form in Blake.

      See also: Franco Moretti, Style, Inc. Reflections on Seven Thousand Titles (British Novels, 1740–1850)

      Ernest B. Gilman, assistant professor of English at the University of Virginia, is the author of The Curious Perspective. He is currently working on a book on joint literary and pictorial forms in the Renaissance.

    • 411Leo Steinberg
    • Let us agree, to begin with, that we are not shown [in Last Judgment], as Life Magazine long ago phrased it, a Saint Bartholomew who "holds his own mortal skin, in which Michelangelo whimsically painted a distorted portrait of himself.”1 The face was sloughed with the rest of the skin and goes with it. What we see is a Saint Bartholomew with another's integument in his hand. We next consider an aspect of the self-portrait which even La Cava left out of account - its relative siting. This has to matter since the portrait lies in the path of Christ's imminent action. More than that, it lies on a diagonal that traverses the fresco like a heraldic bend chief to base - from left top to right bottom. The twofold competence thus assumed by the self-portrait - in its concrete location and in the range of its influence - is something to marvel at. A hangdog face flops to one side, helpless and limp. But the tilt of its axis projected upward across the field strikes the apex of the left-hand lunette, the uppermost point of the fresco. And if, departing once again from the skin's facial axis, we project its course netherward, we discover the line produced to aim straight at the fresco's lower right corner. Such results do not come by chance. To put it literally, letting metaphor fall where it may: it is the extension of the self's axis that strings the continuum of heaven and hell.


      ·  1. Life Magazine, 6 December 1949, p. 45. So also Redig de Campos speaks of the lifeless Apostle's own skin, "dove il Buonarroti ha nascoto un singolare caricatura tragica della sua 'infinita miseria'" (Il Giudizio Universale di Michelango [Rome, 1964], p. 39). Tolnay sees the matter correctly: "It is the artist's empty skin which the saint holds in his hand" (The Final Period, p. 44.)

      See also: Giulio Carlo Argan, Ideology and Iconology

      Leo Steinberg is Benjamin Franklin Professor and University Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. His publications include Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art, Michelangelo's Last Paintings, Borromini's San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, as well as studies of Leonardo, Pontormo, Velazquez, and Picasso.

    • 455Gerald Mast
    • If narrating—the feeling of stories, fictional or otherwise—is an inherent possibility of motion pictures (in fact, the first possibility to be realized in the history of film), then Kracauer's distinction between the realist and formative tendencies must be questioned and, in effect, the two must be synthesized. Wasn't the practical problem for the earliest films how to construct a formative sequence of events within an absolutely real-looking visual context? Wasn't the paradox of film narrative the combination of an obviously unreal sequence of events with an obviously real visual and social setting? And isn't that paradox the most intriguing and complex problem of narrative film today, when the visual and social setting have become increasingly real-seeming? And doesn't this paradox have something to do with the fact that narrative film today seems richer and more important than it did a decade ago, at a time when various admirers of both cinéma vérité and cinéma pur had announced the death of fictional filmed narrative?


      Kracauer's realist aesthetic, concentrating exclusively on the photographic surfaces of things in the material world (as neither Bazin's nor Cavell's aesthetic does), overlooks this paradox altogether. It overlooks the fact—extremely relevant to the cinema—that the term "realist" means one thing in its common application to a painting or photograph and quite another thing in its equally common application to a novel or play. A realistic visual image is one that is said to "look like," "resemble," "reproduce," "iconically represent" the surfaces of the visual world. We see—or think we see—in a painting what we see—or think we see—in the real world.1 But a realistic story is one that is said to chronicle "credibly," "probably," and "believably" the way we think people feel, think, or act, the way things happen, and the reasons they happen, all of which are consistent with the reader-audience-society's beliefs about psychology, motivation, and probability. The standard of one sense of realism is primarily visual while the standard of the other is primarily psychological. One might see the early films groping, then, toward a synthesis of the visual realism of late-nineteenth-century painting/photography with the psychological realism of late-nineteenth-century novel/drama.


      ·  1. This equivocation deliberately avoids the question of whether there is anything actually real about what one sees in a painting or photograph. The fact is that a very large number of viewers operate in this assumption because they think there is something real about what they see, despite the theoretical imprecision of their holding such a belief.

      See also: Gerald Mast, What Isn't Cinema?

      Gerald Mast is the author of, among other works, A Short History of the Movies, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies, and Film/Cinema/Movie: A Theory of Experience. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, "What Isn't Cinema?," appeared in the Winter 1974 issue.

    • 477John R. Searle
    • Now, back to the picture. On the illusionist reading the spectators have become identical with Philip IV and Maria Ana. Given its position across the room and our position at the front of the scene, we would have to see ourselves in the mirror, but we only see the royal couple. Now what exactly is the painter on the left painting? Well it is obvious that he is painting us, that is, Philip IV and his wife. He looks straight at us, scrutinizing our features, before applying the brush to the canvas. We have plainly caught him in the very act of painting us. But in what sort of picture is he painting us? The standard interpretation is that he is painting a full length portrait of what we see in the mirror. But there is an objection to that interpretation which seems to me fairly convincing. The canvas he is painting on is much too large for any such portrait. The canvas on which he is painting is indeed about as big as the one we are looking at, about 10 feet high and 8 feet wide (the dimensions of Las Meninas are 3.19 meters by 2.67 meters). I think that the painter is painting the picture we are seeing; that is, he is painting Las Meninas by Velazquez. Although this interpretation seems to me defensible on internal grounds alone, there are certain bits of external evidence: as far as we know, the only portrait Velazquez ever painted of the royal couple is the one we are looking at, Las Meninas. Velazquez is plainly painting us, the royal couple, but there is no other picture in which he did that; and indeed he seldom used such large canvases for interiors. The Spinners is a large-scale interior but most of his big canvases are equestrian portraits of Spanish royalty.

      See also: Joel Snyder and Ted Cohen, Reflexions on "Las Meninas": Paradox Lost

      John R. Searle, professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of Speech Acts, The Campus War, and Expression and Meaning.

    • 489Rudolf Arnheim
    • The habit of separating the intuitive from the abstractive functions, as they were called in the Middle Ages, goes far back in our tradition. Descartes, in the sixth Meditation, defined man as "a thing that thinks," to which reasoning came naturally; whereas imagining, the activity of the senses, required a special effort and was in no way necessary to the human nature or essence. The passive ability to receive images of sensory things, said Descartes, would be useless if there did not exist in the mind a further and higher active faculty capable of shaping these images and of correcting the errors that derive from sensory experience. A century later Leibnitz spoke of two levels of clear cognition.1 Reasoning was cognition of the higher degree: it was distinct, that is, it could analyze things into their components. Sensory experience, on the other hand, was cognition of the lower order: it also could be clear but it was confused, in the original Latin sense of the term; that is, all elements fused and mingled together in an indivisible whole. Thus artists, who rely on this inferior faculty, are good judges of works of art but when asked what is wrong with a particular piece that displeases them can only reply that it lacks nescio quid, a certain "I don't know what."


      · 1. Leibnitz, Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain (Paris, 1966), bk. 2, chap. 29.

      See also: Rudolf Arnheim, On the Nature of Photography

      Rudolf Arnheim is the author of Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, Toward a Psychology of Art, The Dynamics of Architectural Form, and Visual Thinking. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are "On the Nature of Photography" (Autumn 1974) and "A Stricture on Space and Time" (Summer 1978).

    • 499Joel Snyder
    • I find it more than merely suggestive that we call many different kinds of pictures "realistic." As a category label, "realistic" is remarkably elastic. We cheerfully place into the category pictures that are made in strict accordance with the rules of linear perspective, pictures that are at slight variance with those rules but that nonetheless look perfectly "correct" (e.g., paintings that have been "fudged" so that certain "distortions" generated by strict adherence to the stipulated geometry have been "softened" or corrected), and pictures made in flagrant contravention of perspective geometry (e.g., pictures that look like they were made with one point perspective but that have two vanishing points). We accept as realistic pictures that are made in strict accordance with the rules of perspective construction that we could never judge as being similar to anything we might or could ever see (e.g., a picture done in three point perspective looking down at skyscrapers). We accept as realistic pictures that are in sharp disagreement with what we now take to be the facts of vision (e.g., an architectural view across a plaza in which all objects in every plane are in focus; a brief look around the room he is sitting in will convince the reader that we cannot see that way.) . . . There is something charming and yet nasty about the belief in the special relation of picture to world. It is charming because it allows us to "enter" with ease into pictures and allows them to "extend" into our world. It allows us to think of pictures as "true to life," to use [Ernst] Gombrich's beguiling term, to look at a picture and ask questions of it, as if we were looking at the world through a window. It allows us to treat pictures as substitutes for the objects they represent (I do not mean to imply that they represent only objects) and so, for example, to buy clothing from an illustrated catalogue, or to analyze architectural styles from pictures of buildings. In brief, it allows us to feel proximity to what is depicted and urges us to conclude that in certain important respects looking at a picture is equivalent to looking at what is pictured.

      See also: Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision, and Representation

      Joel Snyder, associate professor of humanities and of art and design at the University of Chicago, teaches aesthetics, and theory and history of photography. A practicing photographer, he is currently completing a monograph on the photographer Timothy H. O'Sullivan. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Photography, Vision, and Representation" (written with Neil Walsh Allen)( Autumn 1975) and "Reflexions on Las Meninas: Paradox Lost", written with Ted Cohen in the Winter 1980 issue.

    • 527Robert P. Morgan
    • There is no question, of course, that music is a temporal art. Stravinsky, noting that it is inconceivable apart from the elements of sound and time, classifies it quite simply as "a certain organization in time, a chrononomy."1 His definition stands as part of a long and honored tradition that encompasses such diverse figures as Racine, Lessing, and Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer, putting the case in its strongest terms, remarks that music is "perceived solely in and through time, to the complete exclusion of space," thus making explicit the opposition between time and space and ruling out the latter as a possible area for legitimate musical experience.


      Yet anyone familiar with the philosophical and theoretical literature dealing with music must be struck by the persistence with which spatial terminology and categories appear. Indeed, it would seem to be impossible to talk about music at all without invoking spatial notions of one kind or another. Thus in discussing even the most elementary aspects of pitch organization—and among the musical elements, only pitch, we should remember, is uniquely musical—one finds it necessary to rely upon such spatially oriented oppositions as "up and down," "high and low," "small and large" (in regard to intervallic "distances"), and so on. Space, then, pace Schopenhauer, apparently forms an inseparable part of the musical experience.


      ·  1. Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons, trans, Arthur Knodel and Ingolf Dahl (Cambridge, Mass., 1947), p. 28.

      See also: Robert P. Morgan, Secret Languages: The Roots of Musical Modernism

      Robert P. Morgan is active as both a music composer and theorist. A professor of music at the University of Chicago, he is currently composing a concerto for flute, oboe, and string orchestra to be performed at Swarthmore College. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, "On the Analysis of Recent Music," appeared in the Autumn 1977 issue. Anthony Gilbert responds to the current essay in "Musical Space: A Composer's View" (Spring 1981).

    • 539W. J. T. Mitchell
    • Although the notion of spatiality has always lurked in the background of discussions of literary form, the self-conscious use of the term as a critical concept is generally traced to Joseph Frank's seminal essay of 1945, "Spatial Form in Modern Literature."1 Frank's basic argument is that modernist literary works (particularly by Eliot, Pound, and Joyce) are "spatial" insofar as they replace history and narrative sequence with a sense of mythic simultaneity and disrupt the normal continuities of English prose with disjunctive syntactic arrangements. This argument has been attacked on several fronts. An almost universal objection is that spatial form is a "mere metaphor" which has been given misplaced concreteness and that it denies the essentially temporal nature of literature. Some critics will concede that the metaphor contains a half-truth, but one which is likely to distract attention from more important features of the reading experience. The most polemical attacks have come from those who regard spatial form as an actual, but highly regrettable, characteristic of modern literature and who have linked it with antihistorical and even fascist ideologies.2 Advocates of Frank's position, on the other hand, have generally been content to extrapolate his premises rather than criticize them, and have compiled an ever-mounting list of modernist texts which can be seen, in some sense, as "antitemporal." The whole debate can best be advanced, in my view, not by some patchwork compromise among the conflicting claims but by a radical, even outrageous statement of the basic hypothesis in its most general form. I propose, therefore, that far from being a unique phenomenon of some modern literature, and far from being restricted to the features which Frank identifies in those works (simultaneity and discontinuity), spatial form is a crucial aspect of the experience and interpretation of literature in all ages and cultures. The burden of proof, in other words, is not on Frank to show that some works have spatial form but on his critics to provide an example of any work that does not.


      ·  1. Frank's essay first appeared in Sewanee Review 53 (Spring, Summer, Autumn 1945) and was revised in his The Widening Gyre (New Brunswick, N.J., 1963). Frank's basic argument has not changed essentially even in his most avante-garde statements; he still regards spatial form "as a particular phenomenon of modern avante-garde writing." See "Spatial Form: An Answer to Critics," Critical Inquiry 4 (Winter 1977): 231-52. A useful bibliography, "Space and Spatial Form in Narrative," is being complied by Jeffrey Smitten (department of English, Texas Tech University).

      ·  2. This charge generally links the notion of spatial form with Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound, the imagist movement, the "irrationality" and pessimistic antihistoricism of modernism, and the conservative Romantic tradition. Frank discusses the complex motives behind these associations in the work of Robert Weimann and Frank Kermode in his "Answer to Critics," pp. 238-48.

      See also: Earl Miner, That Literature Is a Kind of Knowledge

      W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is the author of Blake's Composite Art, and The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon. The present essay is part of Iconology: The Image in Literature and the Visual Arts. "Diagrammatology" appeared in the Spring 1981 issue of Critical Inquiry. Leon Surette responds to the current essay in "‘Rational Form in Literature’" (Spring 1981).