Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 1976

Volume 2 Issue 4
    • 3Sheldon Sacks
    • The publication in this issue of Leonard B. Meyer’s superbly detailed analysis of the Trio of Mozart’s G Minor Symphony became the occasion of us to reexamine and restate some of the general aims of Critical Inquiry.


      From its inception Critical Inquiry was based on the assumption that we can indeed understand each other, at least to the point where critical exchange becomes meaningful and fruitful. It is this belief, for example, that has led us to eschew the more fiery debates and to concentrate instead on articles in which distinguished critics of all the arts attempt to explore the issues that divide them—the correspondence between Gombrich and Bell, for example, Booth’s attempt to represent his understanding of Abrams followed by Abrams’ representation of how he understands his own work, or, similarly, the exchange between Angus Fletcher and Northrop Frye. Even in our more heated Critical Response section, we have tended to reject those arguments that reflect primarily the egos of the disputants in favor of discourse that reveals the actual issues that separate them. We have been fully conscious that such a focus eliminates some of the excitement of fiery battle, and we are aware as well that we have not always succeeded in our attempt.

      See also: Robert E. Streeter, Sheldon Sacks 1930-1979

    • 631C. Truesdell
    • Progress cannot be reversed; what it has killed, we cannot restore to life. Professionalism, like pollution, is here to stay. However, the fact that professionalism and pollution are facts does not force us to welcome and implement them. Indeed, there are those who would accelerate "progress," their effective definition of which is what is going to happen willwe nillwe. I wonder why progressive thinkers do not, since it is inevitable we shall all die one day, advocate present universal suicide.


      Preferring to cling to the remains of life rather than renounce it, preferring to strive for light so long as I can see a glimmer, I first recall the qualities ideal in one who is to search and trace the development of science.1


      The workshop of the scholar in the history of science is the periods in which his authors lived. He should know those periods' ways of life and belief and education, both the common and the eccentric; their political histories; their variety in aspects; their social and economic structures; their architectures, literatures, and arts. He should feel at home in the houses of those times, sit easily in their chairs, both figurative and wooden, and discern what was then mostly admired or rejected in painting and sculpture and decoration. He should have read not only the books that carried the intellectual products of his period but also those that were then the fare of young minds as they were taught, such books having been commonly of an earlier time. The student who does not command, as a minimum, the main episodes of Holy Scripture, classic mythology, and the corpus of golden Latin is glaucomatose in the modes of thought of Western men educated before 1900.


      ·  1. The text printed here is based on an address delivered at the banquet of the History of Science Society and the Society for the History of Technology, Washington, D.C., December 29, 1972. So as to retain definiteness and immediacy, I have not blurred the original focus upon the history of science and technology, trusting that any reader who can understand me at all will be able to turn the same lens upon his own field of learning or pseudolearning.

      See also: Jerome McGann, A Note on the Current State of Humanities Scholarship

      Clifford Ambrose Truesdell, III, Professor of Rational Mechanics at John Hopkins University, is the author of, among others, Rational Thermodynamics, Six Lectures on Modern Natural Philosophy, and Essays in the History of Mechanics. He has edited or coedited six volumes of the Encyclopedia of Physics; he has founded three international journals of scientific and historical research and continues to edit two of them. Among his many honors, Professor Truesdell is a Foreign Member of seven European National Academies of Science.

    • 649Paul de Man
    • In the Social Contract, the model for the structural description of textuality derives from the incompatibility between the formulation and the application of the law, reiterating the estrangement that exists between the sovereign as an active, and the State as a static, principle. The distinction, which is not a polarity, can therefore also be phrased in terms of the difference between political action and political prescription. The tension between figural and grammatical language is duplicated in the differentiation between the State as a defined entity (Etat) and the State as a principle of action (Souverain) or, in linguistic terms, between the constative and the performative function of language. A text is defined by the necessity of considering a statement, at the same time, as performative and constative, and the logical tension between figure and grammar is repeated in the impossibility of distinguishing between two linguistic functions which are not necessarily compatible. It seems that as soon as a text knows what it states, it can only act deceptively, like the thieving lawmaker in the Social Contract, and if a text does not act, it cannot state what it knows. The distinction between a text as narrative and a text as theory also belongs to this field of tension.

      See also: Paul de Man, The Epistemology of Metaphor

      Paul de Man, Tripp Professor in the humanities and chairman of the French department of Yale University, is the author of Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism. His forthcoming study of the theory of figural language, of which this essay will be a part, centers on Rousseau and involves as well Rilke, Proust, and Nietzsche. He has also contributed "The Epistemology of Metaphor" (Autumn 1978) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 677Joyce Carol Oates
    • Ulysses is certainly the greatest novel in the English language, and one might argue for its being the greatest single work of art in our tradition. How significant, then, and how teasing, that this masterwork should be a comedy, and that its creator should have explicitly valued the comic "vision" over the tragic—how disturbing to our predilection for order that, with an homage paid to classical antiquity so meticulous that it is surely a burlesque, Joyce's exhibitionististicicity is never so serious as when it is most outrageously comic. Joyce might have been addressing his readers when he wrote to Nora in 1909: "Now . . . I want you to read over and over all I have written to you. Some of it is ugly, obscene, and bestial, some of it is pure and holy and spiritual: all of it is myself."

      See also: Joyce Carol Oates, “The Picture of Dorian Gray": Wilde's Parable of the Fall  ·  Joyce Carol Oates, Lawrence's "Götterdämmerung": The Tragic Vision of "Women in Love"

      Joyce Carol Oates is the author of, among others, them, Wonderland, and The Assassins. "Jocoserious Joyce" is part of a book on tragedy and comedy. Her contributions to Critical Inquiry, include "Lawrence's Gotterdammerung" and “The Picture of Dorian Gray: Wilde's Parable about the Fall" (Winter 1980).

    • 689Alistair Elliot and Richard Stern
    • [Alistair Elliot:]


      Inside the margins of a book
      through the screen doors of ink
      you find yourself among explained people
      whom you imagine from one clue, or two,
      people you cannot bore or smell,
      who will not love you or seduce your friend.
      They have names out of telephone books—
      Baggish and Schreiber—
      but of course they are not real.


      [Richard Stern:]


      Dear Mr. Elliot. Or—for these lines anyway—
      Dear Alistair ("invisible, recognisable reader").
      I wish I were as fictional as Baggish
      And could answer with impalpable visibility,
      but here I am, beside a Dutch canal,
      two hundred clumsy pounds
      and one American election older than you.
      (I read the Contributor's Note.)
      Your poem is on the bed beside my socks.


      Alistair Elliot is the author of Air in the Wrong Place, a collection of his poetry, and has translated Euripides' Alcestis and Aristophanes' Peace. He is presently compiling a new collection of his verse entitled Contentions. In addition to the novel which generated this poetic exchange, Richard Stern's works include the fictions Golk, In Any Case, and Other Men's Daughters, and an "orderly miscellany," The Books in Fred Hampton's Apartment.

    • 693Leonard B. Meyer
    • Few will, I think, doubt that the Trio from the Minuetto movement of Mozart's G Minor Symphony (K. 550) seems simple, direct, and lucid—even guileless. Its melodies are based upon common figures such as triads and conjunct (stepwise) diatonic motion. No hemiola pattern, often encountered in triple meter, disturbs metric regularity. With the exception of a subtle ambiguity..., rhythmic structure is in no way anomalous. There are no irregular or surprising chord progressions; indeed, secondary dominants and chromatic alterations occur very frequently. The instrumentation is quite conventional, and no unusual registers are employed.

      See also: Leonard B. Meyer, Concerning the Sciences, the Arts: And the Humanities

      In this essay, Leonard B. Meyer, Benjamin Franklin Professor of music and humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, further explores and details the significance of theories advanced in his book, Explaining Music: Essays and Explorations. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, "Concerning the Sciences, the Arts - AND the Humanities," appeared in our first issue.

    • 763Peter F. Dembowski
    • Literary difficulties vary. Certain genres are "easier" than others. And a knowledge of the historical process, involving what is called convention certainly seems to make difficult works easier. Such is the case of courtly lyrics. They are "simple" and essentially conventional; a reader knows what to expect in them. But the problem of literary difficulties remains there too. The essential difficulties of courtly lyrics are under the surface. They become apparent to a more careful, more thoughtful reader. The realization that such difficulties exist is the first step toward studying them, and only through studying them can we appreciate the real aesthetic wealth of courtly poetry and, I believe, of most of the poetry of other ages and other cultures.


      Peter F. Dembowski is the author of La Chronique de Robert Clari: Etude de la langue et du style and the editor of critical editions of Old French chansons de geste. His recent edition of all known Old and Middle French versions of the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt appears in the series, Publications françaises et romanes.

    • 781Richard McKeon
    • The history of freedom is the record of what men have said and done and the interpretation of the remains of what they have made. The history of freedom of thought and expression, the history of literature and of criticism, is constructed by interference from those records and remains. The documents and artifacts in which thoughts are embodied and expressed and in which historians detect ideas and uncover their consequences in thought and action are the primary matter of the history of freedom of thought and expression. The production of books or other modes of expression, their preservation, dissemination, interpretation, and use are results at each stage of the interplay of freedom and restraint, spontaneity and judgment. The freedom of writers to write, the freedom of readers to read, and the freedom of critics or judges or censors to select criteria which establish communities united by common opinions, beliefs, or institutions supplement and delimit each other.

      See also: Richard McKeon, Arts of Invention and Arts of Memory: Creation and Criticism

      Richard McKeon, editor of The Basic Works of Aristotle, delivered this paper at the International Conference on Freedom of Thought and Expression in the History of Ideas held by the International Society for the History of Ideas in Venice, September 28—October 2, 1975. The essay will be included in a volume of the papers read at the conference to be published by the Society. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Arts of Invention and Arts of Memory: Creation and Criticism" (Summer 1975) and “Pride and Prejudice: Thought, Character, Argument, and Plot” (Spring 1979).

    • 807William W. Morgan
    • Like Kolodny, I think feminism one of the most vital and energizing forces in literary criticism today, but for two reasons I found her exposition of the topic disappointing. It seems to me that (1) she underplays the most crucial of the many aesthetic and pedagogical issues raised by feminist literary study, and (2) she endorses a kind of intellectual defeatism when, in the conclusion of her essay, she places a "Posted" sign between the male readers of Critical Inquiry and her own area of work. Both flaws (as I would call them) arise, it appears, out of her underestimation or understatement of the revolutionary implications of feminist literary study. On the other hand, both flaws may be evidence of her problem in writing for so general an audience, for in addressing a very heterogeneous audience about a topic so potentially incendiary, she has to confront the rhetorical problem of how to tell the truth and still be heard. It is that problem, I think, that may have led Kolodny and other feminists to propose an intellectual separatism of sorts as a necessary interlude. It seems to me that once the revolutionary implications of feminist literary study are understood, separatism can be seen to be one of the most damaging proposals one could make.


      William W. Morgan, associate professor of English at Illinois State University, is a contributor to Thomas Hardy: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him and has published essays on Hardy. He is presently working on a book on Hardy's poetry. This essay is a response to Annette Kolodny's "Some Notes on Defining a 'Feminist Literary Criticism'"(Autumn 1975).

    • 817Beverly Voloshin
    • While I appreciate Annette Kolodny's attempt to clarify the aims of feminist criticism, I would like to correct a historical misconception in her recent article, "Some Notes on Defining A 'Feminist Literary Criticism.'" When Kolodny comes to defining a feminist criticism, near the end of the essay, she advocates applying to individual works, without preconceived conclusions, "rigorous methods for analyzing style and image.” . . . Kolodny implies that Hawthorne wrongly condemned domestic novels without having read them and that once he began reading this body of fiction he reversed his views—in short, that his initial response was unthoughtful and, in current jargon, sexist. Second, Kolodny implies that the modern reader will find the domestic novels of the 1850s as fascinating as Hawthorne found Ruth Hall.


      Beverly Voloshin is a teaching associate at the University of California, Berkeley. Her current area of study is mid-nineteenth-century American domestic fiction.

    • 821Annette Kolodny
    • Reading Morgan's eloquent explanation of himself as a "feminist," self-taught and now wholly enthused at the prospect of teaching a Women Writers course, one comes away sharing Morgan's concern that he not be left out in the cold. It is, after all, exciting and revitalizing to be part of a "revolution"—especially if, like Morgan, one can so generously and wholeheartedly espouse its goals; and, at the same time, it is surely comforting and ego-affirming to experience oneself as a legitimate son of that sacred brotherhood, The Community of Scholars. What clearly disturbs Morgan is any suggestion that the two may not yet be compatible and that, further, if forced to choose, Morgan might find himself without viable options on either hand. For, if the larger academic "community" continues to close its professional ranks to women in general and feminists in particular (as it has also excluded, for example, blacks and Marxists), then Morgan, as a self-styled "feminist" will be forced to seek shelter among the female feminists, many of whom have closed their ranks to men. . . .


      Beverly Voloshin's Note restores to print some factual information which, for the sake of brevity, I cut from my original article, directing the reader, instead, to James D. Hart's concise summary of the original context of Hawthorne’s letter to Ticknor (see my n. 19, p. 88). While she and Hart make much the same point, her longer explication is, of course, welcome. Additionally, her fine explanation of "what was so daring about Ruth Hall" further reinforces my argument that there are fascinating texts to be discovered in the "feminine fifties" - even if only one or two; certainly, that's better than condemning all the women writers of that decade to obscurity. Moreover, since we teach a number of male texts simply on the grounds of their historical or "sociological" interest, why not also include women's texts on these grounds as well?—especially if, as Voloshin suggests, they reveal "numerous covert rebellions against male authority." How fascinating! One looks forward to her doing more than this. Finally, my main point was not the "feminine fifties" per se, but a plea for the careful reconsideration "of texts by women which have, for one reason or another, been either lost or ignored" (p.88). Stretching the "feminine fifties" by only two years, for example, one discovers Rebecca Harding Davis' Life in the Iron Mills (1861), recently reissued by the Feminist Press (New York, 1972).


      Annette Kolodny, assistant professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, has been awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship for the study of women in society. She has written articles on American literature and culture and a feminist analysis of American pastoral, The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters.