Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 1981

Volume 7 Issue 3
    • 449Tzvetan Todorov
    • It was his mother's death which allowed [Roland] Barthes to write: "I looked through…" "To write on something is to forfeit it," Barthes used to say, reciprocally, it is licit to write on what is already dead, it was Barthes himself in one of his acceptations. His mother was for Barthes the internal order, who permitted both the external other and the I to exist. Once she was dead, his life was over and could therefore become the object of writing. Barthes no doubt had other books to write; but he no longer had any life to live.


      I find it emblematic that his last book should have been "on photography" (however deceptively). Eloquent or discreet, a photograph never says anything but: I was there; it leads to a gesture of monstration, to a silent deixis, and symbolizes a pre- or post-discursive world; it makes me an object, that is, a dead man. What Barthes himself calls "my last investigation" (accident? oversight? premonition?) also concerned death.

      See also: Tzvetan Todorov, The Verbal Age

      Tzvetan Todorov, of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, has numerous books on literary theory, including Théories du symbole and Symbolisme et interprétation, which has been published in English. His previous contribution to Crtitical Inquiry, "The Verbal Age," appeared in the Winter 1977 issue. Richard Howard, a poet and critic, has translated many works by Roland Barthes, Tzvetan Todorov, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze.

    • 455Garrett Stewart
    • The ending of neither story [Heart of Darkness] nor film [Apocalypse Now] is confused, just bifocal. In Coppola we find writ large, for Willard as well as for us, what Conrad seems to keep from Marlowe by ironic distance: that the return to civilization from primitive haunts can never lay the ghostly image of that bestial horror lurking within us, the horror that finds such kinship, regressed beyond any ethical restraint, in the jungle's heart of darkness. It is a horror which the tropical rain droning on the sound track as the film's last trace can scarcely wash clean. For just before, staring straight at the camera and through it at us for one final time, confirming earlier suggestions of the universal complicity in evil, Willard's disembodied face - the reflective mind as if unmoored from its whole self, decapitated - slides out of view to the right behind the dead but deathless carved image. With the film's narrator absorbed into the immemorial icon of that anthropomorphic vanity and villainy which has comprised his tale, Kurtz's "horror" comes onto the sound track as a primal echo in the soul, an echo drenched from without by the sounds of a world that outlasts but cannot quench it.

      See also: J. Hillis Miller, Ariadne's Thread: Repetition and the Narrative Line

      Garrett Stewart, professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of Dickens and the Trials of Imagination. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, "Modern Hard Times: Chaplin and the Cinema of Self-Reflection," appeared in the Winter 1976 issue.

    • 475David M. Halperin
    • Why did Solzhenitsyn choose to insert an indictment of Epicureanism into the text of his novel?


      The answer to this question is simple, but it requires elaborate argumentation. Epicureanism in The First Circle stands for the ethics of Stalinist society and furnished Solzhenitsyn with the vehicle for a destructive critique of Stalinist moral theory. But Stalinism has tended to be viewed in the West chiefly as a vicious form of political opportunism, its implicit ethical structure has escaped due recognition. But Stalinism was more than one man's strategy for the seizure and consolidation of power, more even than the collective aims, policies, and methods of the Soviet bureaucracy. The ideological component of Stalinism must not be neglected. Howsoever the integrity of its doctrines was subordinated to political exigencies of the moment, Stalinist ideology could lay claim to a coherent and distinguished intellectual ancestry: it was heir to the materialist philosophy of the so-called Left Hegelians (Feuerbach, Belinskii, Marx, and Engels), a philosophy militantly reinterpreted by the architects of the Russian Revolution. Stalinist ideology expected a profound influence on the popular notions of obligation and moral value during the period of its ascendancy, smoothing the way of acquiescence and cooperation for the reluctant, the dubious, and the conscience-stricken. One need not therefore subscribe to an idealist interpretation of history in order to agree with Solzhenitsyn that Stalin's creation of an univers concentrationnaire would have been impossible without an accessory code of official ethics.

      See also: David M. Halperin, Michel Foucault, Jean Le Bitoux, and the Gay Science Lost and Found: An Introduction

      David M. Halperin, an assistant professor of literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the author of articles on Solzhenitsyn, Conrad, Augustine, Virgil, and ancient bucolic poetry.

    • 499Elizabeth Ermarth
    • I argue that in realism the identity of things, increasingly independent from typological paradigms, becomes series-dependent; that is, it becomes a form emergent from a series of instances rather than a form intelligible through one instance alone. Realistic identity, in other words, becomes abstract, removed from direct apprehension to a hidden dimension of depth. In speaking of realistic identity, I use the term "identity" to mean the oneness or the invariant structure by which we recognize a thing, by which we judge it under varying conditions to be the same. This conception of identity and all it implies about the regularity of nature and about the possibilities of knowledge belongs to an empirical epistemology which, though foreign to the Middle Ages and radically modifies today, was current throughout the otherwise diverse period from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century. It is a conception of identity so obvious to us that we have ceased to see it as the convention it is, but it was not obvious in the Renaissance, and it took a long time to become common sense.

      See also: Ricardo Gullón, On Space in the Novel

      Elizabeth Ermarth teaches English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is the author of several articles on George Eliot.

    • 521Phillip Harth
    • It is easy to overlook the fact that the kind of personalist criticism Brower, Wimsatt, and other New Critics were reacting against was a method of interpretation bequeathed by the nineteenth century which most of us would now regard as naïve, simplistic, and sometimes absurd. With the exception of a few poems such as Browning's dramatic monologues, which provided the speaker with an explicit identity as unmistakable as that of a character in a play—"I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave! / You need not clap your torches to my face"—lyric and didactic poems of the first person were invariably treated as personal statements. The voice, emotions, attitudes, and state of mind of the speaker were those of the poet, and even the most symbolic details were often read as literal aspects of the poet's self or environment. Many critical studies and anthologies remain today on library shelves testifying to the persistence of these critical habits of the late 1940s and 1950s. On the assumption that Rochester's love poems describe his actual sexual experiences, Vivian de Sola Pinto was able to write a much longer biography of the poet than would have been possible if personalist criticism had not been in vogue.1 David Nichol Smith could assert that Dryden's Religio Laici "was wholly spontaneous"—the familiar Romantic criterion - and show the poet arguing out "his problems for the peace of his own mind."2 If it became unfashionable to speak in that manner of these and numerous other poems, it was because the New Critics, along with the Chicago critics, had shown convincingly that a lyric poem can be dramatic, the imitation of a fictitious speaker responding to an imagined situation, and that a didactic poem can deal with public issues instead of private agonies.


      ·  1. See Vivian de Sola Pinto, Rochester: Portrait of a Restoration Poet (London, 1935).

      ·  2. David Nichol Smith, John Dryden (Cambridge, 1950), p. 61.

      See also: Sarah Kareem, Flimsy Materials, or What the Eighteenth Century Can Teach Us About Twenty-First Century Worlding

      Phillip Harth is Merritt Y. Hughes Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is the author of Swift and Anglican Rationalism and Contexts of Dryden's Thought.

    • 539Jonathan D. Kramer
    • As this century has found new temporalities to replace linearity, discontinuities have become commonplace. Discontinuity, if carried to a pervasive extreme, destroys linearity…There were two enormous factors, beyond the general cultural climate, that promoted composers' active pursuit of discontinuities. These influences did not cause so much as feed the dissatisfaction with linearity that many artists felt. But the impact has been profound.


      One factor contributing to the increase of discontinuity was the gradual absorption of music from totally different cultures, which had evolved over the centuries with virtually no contact with Western ideas…Cross-cultural exchange in music will, of course, never destroy aesthetic boundaries, but music of non-Western cultures continues to show Western composers new ways to use and experience time.


      The second tremendous influence on twentieth-century musical discontinuity was technological rather than sociological: the invention of recording techniques. Recording has not only brought distant and ancient musics into the here and now, it has also made the home and the car environment just as viable for music listening as the concert hall. The removal of music from the ritualized behavior that surrounds concertgoing struck a blow to the internal ordering of the listening experience. Furthermore, radios, records, and, more recently, tapes allow the listener to enter and exit a composition at will. An overriding progression from beginning to end may or may not be in the music, but the listener is not captive to that completeness. We all spin the dial, and we are more immune to having missed part of the music than composers might like to think.

      See also: Jonathan D. Kramer, Can Modernism Survive George Rochberg?

      Jonathan D. Kramer is an associate professor of music theory and composition and director of electronic music at the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati. The present essay is part of his book, Time and Meaning in Music.

    • 557Mari Riess Jones
    • An obvious result of including time rules into specifications of world patterns is the rather persuasive representation of rhythm. Rhythm as a property of world patterns has received relatively little attention recently, although it has had a long and distinguished history in psychology. Nonetheless, its recent neglect means that all too often we have failed to consider the implications of time patterning of stimuli that we as psychologists routinely present to individuals in our attempts to study human performance in many tasks, tasks which often do involve explicitly musical stimuli. Often in our psychological studies we present as stimuli words, lights, colored forms, or other items in a fashion that is regularly spaced in time. It's just common sense, and besides it's easier. And other current paradigms have not encouraged experimental questions about the temporal patterning of stimuli. But consider what this pacing means. We are rhythmically programming events. Is it possible that this temporal regularity forms attentional waves that buoy up our studies and so make it likely that we can study what we are most interested in? And, with our own attention as psychologists fixed steadily upon the topic of our immediate concern (Polanyi's focal target?), is it possible that we overlook the fact that underlying our effects is a rhythmic regularity that is crucial to having the subject's attention on the task at hand?

      See also: Ingrid Monson, Hearing, Seeing, and Perceptual Agency

      Mari Riess Jones is professor of psychology at Ohio State University and has written numerous articles on the human response to patterns in time.

    • 577Roger Scruton
    • It seems odd to say that photography is not a mode of representation. For a photograph has in common with a painting the property by which the painting represents the world, the property of sharing, in some sense, the appearance of its subject. Indeed, it is sometimes thought that since a photograph more effectively shares the appearance of its subject than a typical painting, photography is a better mode of representation. Photography might even be thought of as having replaced painting as a mode of visual representation. Painters have felt that if the aim of painting is really to reproduce the appearances of things, then painting must give way to whatever means are available to reproduce an appearance more accurately. It has therefore been said that painting aims to record the appearances of things only so as to capture the experience of observing them (the impression) and that the accurate copying of appearances will normally be at variance with this aim. Here we have the seeds of expressionism and the origin of the view (a view which not only is mistaken but which has also proved disastrous for the history of modern art) that painting is somehow purer when it is abstract and closer to its essence as an art.

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

      Roger Scruton is the author of Art and Imagination, The Aesthetics of Architecture, The Meaning of Conservatism, From Descartes to Wittgenstein, and The Politics of Culture and Other Essays.