Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 2007

Volume 33 Issue 3
    • 471Harry Harootunian
    • Ever since 9/11 there has been a swelling chorus of opinion aimed at demonstrating how the destruction of the World Trade towers has constituted an event of world historical magnitude announcing the installation of a new time marked by a boundless present. As if transported by a time machine, Americans were instantly relocated within a new temporal architecture that declared the removal of an antecedent past from the present, history from its future. The nation was forcibly induced to embark upon an unprecedented, endless war against terror, and its citizens were persuaded to accept the imperative of living a new reality in a perennial present. Remarkably, this urgent appeal to a new time echoed Japanese pronouncements at the outset of World War II announcing the inauguration of total war and calling for the establishment of emergency measures as a condition of mobilizing the population to wage an endless war against the West in order to realize the promise of its world historical mission in the present.

      See also: Harry Harootunian, Conjunctural Traces: Said's “Inventory”  ·  Harry Harootunian, Theory’s Empire: Reflections on a Vocation for Critical Inquiry

      Harry Harootunian is the Max Palevsky Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Chicago and is now teaching history and East Asian studies at New York University. His most recent publication is Japan after Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present (2006), and he is completing a book on history and comparability entitled Borrowed Time: History and Its Temporalities.

    • 495Michael Fried
    • One of the most important developments in the so‐called visual arts of the past twenty‐five years has been the emergence of large‐scale, tableau‐sized photographs that by virtue of their size demand to be hung on gallery walls in the manner of easel paintings and, in other respects as well, aspire to what might loosely be called the rhetorical or beholder‐addressing significance of paintings while at the same time declaring their artifactual identity as photographs. This is a topic that goes beyond the scope of the present essay.2 The point I want to stress, however, is that Wall has been a central figure in that development and that Adrian Walker is a striking example of such a work.

      · 2. See Jean‐François Chevrier, “Les Aventures de la forme tableau dans l’histoire de la photographie,” in Photo‐Kunst: Arbeiten aus 150 Jahren (exhibition catalogue, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1989), pp. 47–81.

      See also: Michael Fried, Barthe's Punctum  ·  Michael Fried, The Structure of Beholding in Courbet's "Burial at Ornans"

      Michael Fried is J. R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and the History of Art at Johns Hopkins University. His most recent books are Menzel’s Realism: Art and Embodiment in Nineteenth‐Century Berlin and The Next Bend in the Road (poems). In 2004 he received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award.

    • 527Charles Altieri
    • If I am going to be arrogant enough to model my discourse on Wittgenstein’s, I probably should be willing just to let this text speak for itself. But I fear it needs an introductory supplement. It will be clear that what I present has none of the authority of Wittgenstein’s text and little of his pursuit of an ideal of logical form. Moreover Wittgenstein would not treat matters of poetics as if they could be correlated with the logical form of propositions; poetry for him is a matter of showing and not at all of telling. Yet I find the format of the Tractatus Logico‐Philosophicus a fascinating one for poetic theory. This format establishes conditions for writing that are as close as I will ever come to what artists do. Because each sentence must stand virtually alone, each creates a challenge to capture what is distinctive about this particular segment of one’s thinking. The less one can rely on the context to flesh out one’s prose, the greater the need for careful labor in articulating each point and the greater the sense that every sentence is endlessly perfectible.

      See also: Charles Alteri, An Idea and Ideal of a Literary Canon  ·  Charles Alteri, John Ashbery and the Challenge of Postmodernism in the Visual Arts

      Charles Altieri is professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

    • 543John Limon
    • To understand the shame of Abu Ghraib, understand that America is a sophisticated shame culture. I do not mean that it is a shame culture that is otherwise sophisticated, for example, scientifically or technologically. I mean that it is sophisticated in its shame, in its ramifications of it. America is, in one sense, inevitably a shame culture; following Bernard Williams, I do not believe that shame can be divided absolutely from guilt.1 Guilt is a kind of purified shame—shame entirely in the realm of ethics, where culpability can be, in principle, cleanly assigned. But guilt cannot do what it pretends to do: transcend all societies. The ideal subject of a guilt culture is without individual moral character so as to be perfectly absorbed in a morality without borders; no such subject or morality exists. America, however, is supposed to be a guilt culture, and the supposition matters.

      · 1. See Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley, 1993).

      See also: Nasser Hussain, Beyond Norm and Exception: Guantánamo  ·  John Limon, The Integration of Faulkner's "Go Down, Moses" 

      John Limon, the John J. Gibson Professor of English at Williams College, is the author of Stand‐Up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America (2000). He is currently completing work on a study tentatively entitled Death and Adulthood: Critical and Personal Essays on Learning Mortality.

    • 573David Nirenberg
    • Why should we worry about the abiding importance of love in our attempts to imagine more perfect forms of community and communication? There are those (like Schmitt) who believe that the language with which we represent the political is extraneous to the question of determining the essence or concept of the political itself. I have tried to show that the opposite is true. Particular histories of struggle to reconcile the inescapably mediated nature of communal and communicative life with evolving political ideals of love generate specific anxieties and figures of exclusion, figures that shape the ways in which political love can be imagined, and eventually lend their form to concepts of the political itself. If this codependence is difficult to concede, it is in part because the vocabulary of love has a most peculiar virtue. Through it we fantasize the overcoming of those very exclusions that the history of its use has generated.

      See also: Owen Ware, Love Speech

      David Nirenberg is the author of Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages. He recently joined the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

    • 606Arnold Krupat
    • Part of the resistance to colonialism around the globe, as is well known, was and is cultural; art of a variety of kinds has worked to counter the repressive hegemony of the European metropolis by presenting and re‐presenting the world in ways that have challenged colonial representations. The aim has been to unsettle the ideational and ideological perspectives underpinning Euramerican sociopolitical hegemony.

      See also: Arnold Krupat, An Approach to Native American Texts  ·  Arnold Krupat, Native American Literature and the Canon

      Arnold Krupat teaches literature in the Global Studies Faculty Group at Sarah Lawrence College. His most recent books are Red Matters: Native American Studies (2002) and The Turn to the Native: Studies in Criticism and Culture (1996). All That Remains: Native Studies is forthcoming. He is the editor for Native American literatures for the Norton Anthology of American Literature, and (with Brian Swann) he has edited Here First: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers (2002).

    • 632Bruce Robbins
    • If intellectuals don’t see magic in ordinary people’s patterns and practices of consumption, they are as wilfully blind as Bilgrami accuses them of being about American religion. I say this without implying that intellectuals should in fact bend over backwards to accept either of these forms of enchantment. Being democratic in this sense is not what we’re here for. If the disenchantment of the world hasn’t yet happened, as I’ve been suggesting, then perhaps a somewhat stronger dose of it might be, as Gandhi said of Western civilization, a good idea.

      Bruce Robbins teaches English and comparative literature at Columbia University. His most recent book is Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State (2007).

    • 641Akeel Bilgrami
    • Against my view of values, Robbins announces grandly and irrelevantly: “I would not like to see us begin to derive our oughts from any natural is” (p. 638). No one has invited him to derive any ought from any is, let alone a natural is. To say that the world, including nature, contains values is to say that the oughts are there in nature and need no derivation. He doesn’t have to like this view of value, but he has to get right what it is that he likes and dislikes.

      Akeel Bilgrami is the Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and the director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities. He is the author of Belief and Meaning (1992), Self‐Knowledge and Resentment (2006), and Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity (forthcoming).