Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 2002

Volume 28 Issue 3
    • 591Jerome Christensen
    • Formed in 1989, after the fall of the Wall, which had symbolically segregated rival versions of the truth, Time Warner, the corporate merger of fact and fiction, was deeply invested in a vision of American democracy gone sour and sore in need of rescue. That investment is most salient in two films: Batman, released in 1989 during the merger negotiations between Time Inc. and Warner, and JFK, the signature film of the new organization. I will argue that Batman and JFK are corporate expressions: the former an instrumental allegory contrived to accomplish corporate objectives, the latter a scenario that effectively expands the range of what counts as a corporate objective. Batman is an allegory addressed to savvy corporate insiders, some of whom are meant to get the message, while others err. JFK aspired to turn everyone into an insider. It inducts its viewers into a new American mythos wired for an age in which successful corporate financial performance presupposes a transculturalist politics: corporate populism. Under corporate populism the old, corporate liberal agencies for integrating a pluribus of individuals into a social unum are to be superseded by a mass entertainment complex capable of projecting a riveting logo that summons all people’s attention, that offers membership in an invisible body by virtue of collective participation in a spectacular event or cathexis of a corporate person or enthrallment in a sublime virtuality, and that substitutes for credal affiliation a continuously renewable identification with logo, trademark, slogan, or brand.

      See also: Jerome Christensen, “Like a Guilty Thing Surprised": Deconstruction, Coleridge, and the Apostasy of Criticism  ·  Jerome Christensen, Spike Lee, Corporate Populist

      Jerome Christensen is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University, where he chairs the department and heads the film studies program. He is most recently the author of Romanticism at the End of History (2000). He is currently at work on a book provisionally entitled Hollywood’s Corporate Art: Studio Authorship of American Motion Pictures.

    • 618Brent Hayes Edwards
    • I am less interested in the truth or fiction of the anecdote than in its perseverance, its resilience as a touchstone legend of origin. What’s fascinating about the story is the seeming need to narrate scat as a fall, as a literal dropping of the words—as an unexpected loss of the lyrics that finally proves enabling. The written words slip to the ground, and an entirely new approach to the singing voice is discovered in the breach, in the exigencies of musical time. It is not exactly that the “song” is separated from the “script,” but more that the anecdote relies on an oral/written split to figure the way that Armstrong’s voice peels gradually away from the reiteration of the chorus, and from linguistic signification altogether.

      See also: Ingrid Monson, Doubleness and Jazz Improvisation: Irony, Parody, and Ethnomusicology

      Brent Hayes Edwards is an assistant professor in the department of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Practice of Diaspora: Translating Black Internationalism in Harlem and Paris (2002) and a coeditor of Social Text.

    • 650Kristin Ross
    • If new memories of 1968 have begun to surface in France in recent years, then it is certainly due in part to the immensely popular labor strikes of the winter of 1995. The strikes awakened new forms of political expression in France, and at the same time they altered what could be perceived and what could be said about the recent past. My concern in this essay has less to do with May ’68 itself than with the vicissitudes of its memory: specifically, the way in which a consensus, neutralizing view of a violent rupture that touched the lives of millions in France came to hold sway in the late 1980s. During 1968 in France, unlike in America, the student movement and the workers’ movement achieved an admittedly brief but significant union. In fact, May ’68 in France was the largest mass movement in French history, the biggest strike in the history of the French labor movement, and the only general insurrection the overdeveloped world has known since World War II.

      See also: Kristin Ross, The Paris Commune and the Literature of the North  ·  Kristin Ross, The World Literature and Cultural Studies Program

      Kristin Ross is professor and chair of comparative literature at New York University. She is the author of The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune (1988); Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (1995); and May ’68 and Its Afterlives (forthcoming).

    • 677James D. Herbert
    • The charge bites with the instant veracity of the best of his aphorisms. “All of Wagner’s heroines,” quipped Nietzsche in his late and vicious essay Der Fall Wagner, “without exception, as soon as they are stripped of their heroic skin, become almost indistinguishable from Madame Bovary!” Yes, of course! Without her armored breastplate the goddess Fricka shrinks down to the measure of a Biedermeier housewife, worried into fits about her philandering husband and their mismanaged Haushalt. Gods fare no better than goddesses: Wotan himself becomes hopelessly enmeshed in binding contracts and ill‐conceived bargains—the standard legal vehicles of the small‐time businessman—as he attempts to look after the entirely bürgerlich concerns of preserving his uncertain corner of power and extending his questionable legacy.

      See also: James Herbert, Bad Faith at Coventry: Spence’s Cathedral and Britten’s War Requiem

      James D. Herbert is a professor in the department of art history and the Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is currently working on a book entitled Gods, Kings, and Other Self‐Made Men: Sight and Character from Louis XIV’s Versailles to Monet’s Orangerie.

    • 709Christine Poggi
    • When F. T. Marinetti founded the futurist movement in February 1909 by publishing an inflammatory manifesto on the front page of the French newspaper Le Figaro, he announced his desire to address both elite and mass audiences. Many of the manifesto’s most extreme declarations—the glorification of war, militarism and patriotism, scorn for women, the call for libraries, museums, and academies of all kinds to be destroyed, the celebration of courage, audacity, and revolt, a new aesthetic of speed and struggle—can be understood as deliberately provocative. But, on a deeper level, these sometimes conflicting demands reveal that futurism did not seek merely to establish a literary or artistic school but to provoke the cultural and political regeneration of Italy. To this end it fused the destruction of tradition central to avant‐garde rhetoric with calls for new forms of patriotic consciousness and action. Marinetti clearly understood the necessity of reaching beyond a small circle of elite intellectuals and bourgeois supporters if his movement were to bring about the revolution he desired. Yet his embrace of the masses was always paradoxical, mediated by a Nietzschean cult of the superman, and filtered through an ideology that both celebrated and derided the crowd as a force of the future and a regression to a primitive past. This essay explores the multiple ways in which the futurists sought to interpellate and galvanize the masses, focusing particularly on their performative interpretation of late–nineteenth‐century French and Italian crowd theory. By attending to the futurists’s pervasive effort both to shape and to merge with the masses, we gain a clearer understanding of the motivations that drove some of their most famous avant‐garde inventions: the futurist serata (evening), parole in libertà (free‐word poetry), and their pictorial syntheses of visual and verbal “images.”

      See also: Jeffrey Schnapp, Border Crossings: Italian/German Peregrinations of the Theater of Totality

      Christine Poggi is associate professor of the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism, and the Invention of Collage (1992) and is currently completing a book titled Modernity as Trauma: The Cultural Politics of Italian Futurism.

    • 749Frances Ferguson
    • In 1857 three men stood as defendants, charged by the state with having corrupted the public morals in bringing Madame Bovary into the world. They were Leon Laurent‐Pichat, editor of the Revue de Paris, in which Madame Bovary first appeared in installments; Auguste‐Alexis Pillet, printer for the Revue; and Gustave Flaubert, author of the novel. Although the defendants were all acquitted, it has been difficult (or, in other words, all too easy) for modern readers to see why the prosecution was brought in the first place. Historians and critics generally conclude their inquiry into the matter by quoting Flaubert’s remark that the authorities wanted to strike a blow against the Revue and that they almost accidentally charged him in the process. [...] Yet that view minimizes an important feature of Flaubert’s writing that has intrigued and disquieted many, something that is difficult to localize and yet so palpable that Sartre explicitly names it the desire to demoralize and makes it the chief burden of his magisterial (if incomplete) biography.

      See also: Frances Ferguson, Pornography: The Theory  ·  Pierre Bourdieu, Flaubert’s Point of View

      Frances Ferguson is Mary Elizabeth Garrett Professor of English and Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Her work includes Wordsworth: Language as Counter‐spirit (1977), Solitude and the Sublime: Romanticism and the Aesthetics of Individuation (1991), and the forthcoming Pornography: The Theory.

    • 780Marianna Torgovnick
    • Survivor testimony at the Eichmann trial, Felman writes, shows how “a Jewish past that formerly had meant only a crippling disability was now being reclaimed as an empowering and proudly shared political and moral identity.” It forms a “newborn sacred narrative” (pp. 233, 236–37). The vocabulary used in these sections of the essay troubles me. It suggests “empowerment and proudly shared political and moral identity” and “crippling disability” as two alternatives—neither of which seems appropriate to the legacy of the Holocaust. The diction tilts the trajectory of Felman’s essay close to what Peter Novick calls the sacralization of the Holocaust as the central point of modern Jewish identity.1 In such rhetoric, Mauthausen becomes “sacred” (as it did, in a recent controversy over a benefit concert scheduled to be staged there) and Auschwitz can be called “the Holy of Holies” (as it was in the recent documentary, Mr. Death). Such language jars the imagination and the intellect.

      · 1. See Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (New York, 1999), p. 11.

      Marianna Torgovnick is professor of English at Duke University. She is the author of, among other works, Primitive Passions (1997), Crossing Ocean Parkway (1994), and Gone Primitive (1990). She is now working on a study of the cultural memory of World War II, using the events of fall 2001 as a point of reference.

    • 785Shoshana Felman
    • The trouble with current debates about the Holocaust is that they attach themselves to code words, to ready‐made patterns of thought dependent on stereotypical clichés. Thus Torgovnick, citing my words in isolation from their context and in extrapolation from pseudorecognizable, stereotypically encoded meanings, blames me for my less‐than‐vigilant “vocabulary,” for my disturbing “use of these terms” such as “myths,” “folktale,” and “sacred” (p. 781). Let me address these point by point.

      Shoshana Felman is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Yale University. She is the author of The Literary Speech Act (1984), Writing and Madness (1985), Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight (1987), and What Does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference (1993). She is also the editor of Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading—Otherwise (1982), the coauthor, with Dori Laub, of Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (1992), and the author of The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century (forthcoming).