Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 1999

Volume 25 Issue 4
    • 653Marjorie Garber
    • Signs, linguistic and nonlinguistic, can be put in quotation marks. In order to be recognized as signs, they have to be able to be repeated—to be iterable and citational. (In French the word citation means "quotation.") And since every repetition is a repetition with a difference, duplication becomes "duplicity." The "same" spoken again will always be "different." Derrida's "quotation marks" are here, so to speak, uttered in quotation marks. (With genial rhetorical ingenuousness he would inquire, fifteen years after the appearance of this influential essay, "Why does deconstruction have the reputation, justified or not, of treating things obliquely, indirectly, with 'quotation marks,' and of always asking whether things arrive at the indicated address?")42 To what extent, if at all, can these figurative quotation marks be understood as speaking to the question of quotation?

      · 42. Derrida, "Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority," in Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, ed. Drucilla Cornell, Michel Rosenfeld, and David Gray Carlson (New York, 1992), pp. 15-16.

      See also: Marjorie Garber, Ovid, Now and Then  ·  Marjorie Garber, Loaded Words

      Marjorie Garber is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and director of the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of three books on Shakespeare—Dream in Shakespeare (1974), Coming of Age in Shakespeare (1981), and Shakespeare's Ghost Writers (1987)—and of a number of books of cultural criticism and theory, including Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (1992), Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life (1995), and Dog Love (1996). Her most recent book is Symptoms of Culture (1998).

    • 680David Simpson
    • We have come to this point step by step. The sinking of the Titanic was a proleptic instance of a potentially global catastrophe, but one that remained historically specific and unrepeatable. The catastrophes of 1914 and 1939 stepped up the numbers and refined the techniques whereby many men, women, and children died deaths that were not necessary and not chosen. Saving Private Ryan, which I find much more demanding than many of those who have received it as another piece of Hollywood schmalz (though it has elements of that, too), and which offers almost no incentive to our fantasies of wanting to be there (no Kate, no Leo, and not much of a buddy system), pointedly juxtaposes the effort to decide who lives and who dies with the dark insight that this cannot adequately be done no matter how appealing the emotional and political payoff for one mother, the general, the propaganda machine, and thus the image of the military. Perhaps all of us owe our existence and survival to luck because none of us "deserve" life in a century where deserving does not count, where too many of those deserving have not survived and where too many have died without a hearing. Old Rose has played out Jack's mandate to make it count, restoring a fantasy of coherence and even adequacy to the film's sacrifice of its hero. Private Ryan, in a later place and time, cannot possibly by living his life "earn it," as Captain Miller's dying words bid him do. The ending is not so much schmalz as it is devastatingly bleak: there can be no repayment, no proper rendering of accounts. The six million dead of the Holocaust make the prospect of moral remediation still more implausible. The dead just pile up, and they are still piling up. Because of the pressures of both a brutal present (Bosnia, Rwanda, and so on) and an impossibly exigent past, it is not surprising that many of us want to be among the dead, to feel a little (if only a little) of what they felt, to put ourselves just a little at risk.

      See also: David Simpson, Literary Criticism and the Return to "History"  ·  David Simpson, Criticism, Politics, and Style in Wordsworth's Poetry

      David Simpson is professor and G. B. Needham Fellow in English at the University of California, Davis. His most recent book is The Academic Postmodern and the Rule of Literature (1995).

    • 696Dominick LaCapra
    • One may well argue that the Holocaust represents losses of such magnitude that, while not absolutely unique, it may serve to raise the question of absence, for example with respect to divinity. Still, despite the extremely strong temptation, one may question the tendency to reduce, or confusingly transfer the qualities of, one dimension of trauma to the other—to generalize structural trauma so that it absorbs or subordinates the significance of historical trauma, thereby rendering all references to the latter merely illustrative, homogeneous, allusive, and perhaps equivocal, or, on the contrary, to explain all post-traumatic, extreme, uncanny phenomena and responses as exclusively caused by particular events or contexts. The latter move—what one might term reductive contextualism—is typical of historians and sociologists who attempt to explain, without significant residue, all anxiety or unsettlement—as well as attendant forms of creativity—through specific contexts or events, for example, deriving anxiety in Heidegger's thought exclusively from conditions in interwar Germany or explaining structuralism and the turn to the history of the longue durie in France solely in terms of the postwar avoidance of Vichy and the loss of national prestige and power.57 The former tendency—deriving historical from structural trauma—is a great temptation for theoretically inclined analysts who tend to see history simply as illustrating or instantiating more basic processes. It should go without saying that the critique of reductive contextualism and theoreticism does not obviate the importance of specific contexts or of theory that addresses them and both informs and raises questions for research.

      · 57. The important and influential work of Pierre Bourdieu is sometimes prone to contextual reductionism or at least to a limited understanding of differential responses to contextual (or "field") forces. See, for example, his L'Ontologie politique de Martin Heidegger (Paris, 1988) and The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, trans. Susan Emanuel (1992; Stanford, Calif., 1995).

      See also: Dominick LaCapra, The University in Ruins?  ·  Lawrence Kramer, Recognizing Schubert: Musical Subjectivity, Cultural Change, and Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady

      Dominick LaCapra is professor of history, the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor of Humanistic Studies, and director of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, as well as the associate director of the School of Criticism and Theory. His forthcoming book is History and Reading: Tocqueville, Foucault, French Studies.

    • 728Lydia H. Liu
    • Virginia Woolf once made a remarkable observation about Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. Call it intuition or uncanny lucidity. Under her eyes, an insignificant detail, which has largely escaped the attention of Defoe's critics, emerges out of obscurity and becomes luminous all of a sudden. The illumination radiates from a plain earthenware pot that practically dominates the physical environment of Crusoe's world. Al-though Defoe's reader will remember that this pot is but one of many survival tools that Crusoe has invented during his solitary existence on the island, Woolf insists on seeing more. In her reading, the object ac-quires an enigmatic symbolism:

      Thus Defoe, by reiterating that nothing but a plain earthenware pot stands in the foreground, persuades us to see remote islands and the solitudes of the human soul. By believing fixedly in the solidity of the pot and its earthiness, he has subdued every other element to his design; he has roped the whole universe into harmony. And is there any reason, we ask as we shut the book, why the perspective that a plain earthenware pot exacts should not satisfy us as completely, once we grasp it, as man himself in all his sublimity standing against a background of broken mountains and tumbling oceans with stars flaming in the sky?1

      · 1. Virginia Woolf, "Robinson Crusoe," in The Second Common Reader (New York, 1960), pp. 48-49.

      See also: Lydia H. Liu, iSpace: Printed English after Joyce, Shannon, and Derrida  ·  Lydia H. Liu, The Cybernetic Unconscious: Rethinking Lacan, Poe, and French Theory

      Lydia H. Liu teaches in the departments of comparative literature and East Asian languages at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, and Translated Modernity—China, 1900-1937 (1995) and the editor of Tokens of Exchange: The Problem of Translation in Global Circulations (1999).

    • 758James R. Kincaid and James Phelan
    • Rhetorical reading is all about exchange—and reciprocal debt—between authors and readers through the medium of the text. Authors are indebted to readers because the worlds that authors invite readers to enter depend for their viability on readers' engagement with them. Furthermore, those worlds include roles and responsibilities for readers, and in order to enter authorial worlds readers must accept those roles and responsibilities, even if it means putting on worldviews and value systems that they would ordinarily reject. Readers are simultaneously indebted to authors because of the opportunities for pleasure and learning that entering authorial worlds provides. Indeed, when authors fulfill their implicit promise to reward readers who enter their worlds, readers are more likely to feel that they are receiving more than they are giving.

      See also: James R. Kinkaid, Coherent Readers, Incoherent Texts  ·  Robert Denham, The No-Man's Land of Competing Patterns

      James R. Kincaid is Aerol Arnold Professor of English at the University of Southern California and author, most recently, of Child-Loving (1992), Annoying the Victorians (1995), and Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting (1998). James Phelan, professor and chair of English at Ohio State University, is the editor of Narrative and the author of Beyond the Tenure Track: Fifteen Months in the Life of an English Professor (1991) and three books of narrative theory, the most recent of which is Narrative as Rhetoric (1996).

    • 784Jean-Luc Marion and Jeffrey L. Kosky
    • As out of date as it might seem, the topic of first philosophy is fraught with stakes, as real as they are symbolic, and still occasions polemical and passionate discussion. This should not be surprising since establishing a first philosophy is neither optional nor outside the orbit of philosophy considered as such. In fact, philosophy, when it does not resign itself to joining the ranks of ordinary sciences-founded (or finally without foundation, a possibility that remains within the horizon of the foundation), derived, in short, secondary--should stake a claim to primacy, or at least to a certain type of primacy, in its very definition. Philosophy will remain true to its own essence only by claiming itself to be, in essence, a first philosophy. […]

      See also:  Jean-Luc Marion, Metaphysics and Phenomenology: A Relief for Theology  ·  Jean-Luc Marion, The Other First Philosophy and the Question of Givenness

      Jean-Luc Marion is professor of philosophy at the University of Paris X-Nanterre and in the University of Chicago Divinity School and directs studies in the history of classical philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure. His books include Sur l'ontologieg rise de Descartes: Science cartésienne et savoir aristotélicien dans les Regulae (1975; rev. ed. 1981); L'Idole et la distance: Cinq études (1977); Sur la théologie blanche de Descartes: Analogie, création des vérités éternelles, fondement (1981; rev. ed. 1991); Dieu sans l'être (1982; in English, 1991); Réduction et donation: Recherche sur Husserl, Heidegger, et la phénoménologie (1989; in English 1998); and Questions cartésiennes: Méthode et métaphysique (1991; in English, 1999). His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry is "Metaphysics and Phenomenology: A Relief for Theology" (Summer 1994). Jeffrey L. Kosky holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the translator of Jean-Luc Marion's On Descartes' Metaphysical Prism: The Constitution and the Limits of Onto-theo-logy in Cartesian Thought (1999) and has published essays in philosophy and religious thought.

    • 801James A. W. Heffernan
    • [Shoshana Felman’s] claim can withstand at least some of the resistance it provokes. Before objecting that race makes a fundamental difference between the two cases, we do well to note that Simpson's acquittal, like Pozdnyshev's, occurred in a climate of tolerance for wife abuse that cannot simply be defined in racial terms. Before his wife was killed, Simpson's beating of her—to which he pleaded no contest—brought him only "the same light sentence that most first-time wife-beaters receive," and on the same day that a Simi Valley jury acquitted the police who were videotaped in the act of beating Rodney King, a jury in South Carolina that included eight women acquitted a white husband who had raped, beaten, and tortured his white wife, and had also videotaped a half hour of her ordeal.1 But what are we to make of such scattered evidence? Does it compel the inference that late twentieth-century American society as a whole has inherited the blind spots of nineteenth-century Russia, that all of us-male and female, black and white alike—are just as blind to the suffering of battered wives as Tolstoy's contemporaries were?

      · 1. John Gregory Dunne, "The Simpsons," New York Review of Books, 22 Sept. 1995, p. 36; quoted on p. 756. See Andrea Dworkin, "Trying to Flee," Los Angeles Times, 8 Oct. 1995, p. M6; quoted on p. 765 n. 24.

      James A. W. Heffernan, Professor of English and Frederick Sessions Beebe Professor in the Art of Writing at Dartmouth, has published extensively on English romantic literature and on the relation between literature and art. His recent work includes Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery (1993) and "Looking at the Monster: Frankenstein and Film," Critical Inquiry 24 (Autumn 1997): 133-58.

    • 807Daylanne K. English
    • Gates argues persuasively for a kind of cultural, and perhaps socio-political, correspondence between the 1920s and 1990s, but he does not explore his own impulse to draw parallels between the two decades. Skipping a generation, he is speaking of, and to, the "grandchildren of Du Bois's 'Talented Tenth"' (p. 5). Contemporary scholars' frequent selection of the Harlem Renaissance as a field of inquiry in the 1990s may have reasons beyond the obvious-that is, the movement's rich and thrilling cultural record. At the same time, in what may well be a related phenomenon, there is widespread scholarly acceptance of certain, far from inevitable, constructions of the Harlem Renaissance. All too often, a handful of the editors and arbiters of the "most famous" renaissance are permitted to direct current interpretations, chronologies, and genealogies of the movement. This critical bias results, in part, from contemporary critics' frequent, and surprisingly uncritical, acceptance of the self-conscious (albeit ambivalent) assessment of the Harlem Renaissance offered by some of its own stars-especially W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, and Langston Hughes.

      Daylanne K. English has taught African American literature at Brown University and Caribbean literature at Brandeis University, where she is currently a lecturer. She is at work on two book-length projects: Eugenics, Modernism, and the Harlem Renaissance and The Rise of Africana Women's Novels.