Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 1977

Volume 3 Issue 4
    • 609Lawrence Lipking
    • The difference between Poe's and [Paul] Valéry's theory of notes—between a theory that emphasizes the nonsensical unpredictability of notes and a theory that discovers in notes the essential logic not only of all reading but of the mind itself—cannot be resolved. To some extent, perhaps, it derives from a conflict between two genres: marginalia, and the marginal gloss. Marginalia—traces left in a book—are wayward in their very nature; they spring up spontaneously around a text unaware of their presence. Nor could they have been considered publishable until the Romantic period had encouraged a taste for fragments and impulses, the suggestive part rather than the ordered whole. Significantly the term was introduced by Coleridge, that great master of the fragment; and Poe himself (so far as I can find) was the first author ever to publish his marginalia. The charm of such notes depends on their being on the edge: the borders of intelligibility (Poe) or consciousness (Valéry). The reader catches an author off his guard, intercepting a thought that may scarcely have risen to formulation. At their best, marginalia can haunt us like a few passing words overheard in the street; all the more precious because the context remains unknown.

      See also: Lawrence Lipking, Aristotle's Sister: A Poetics of Abandonment

      Lawrence Lipking, professor of English and comparative literature at Princeton University, is the author of The Ordering of the Arts in Eighteenth-Century England and coeditor of Modern Literary Criticism 1900-1970. Some of the material in this article is drawn from a book currently in progress, The Poet-Critics, a study of the relations between poetry and criticism in the work of authors who have excelled in both. "Arguing with Shelly" appeared in the Winter 1979 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 657Christian Metz
    • Trucage then exists when there is deceit. We may agree to use this term when the spectator ascribes to the diegesis the totality of the visual elements furnished him. In films of the fantastic, the impression of unreality is convincing only if the public has the feeling of partaking, not of some plausible illustration of a process obeying a nonhuman logic, but of a series of disquieting or "impossible" events which nevertheless unfold before him in the guise of eventlike appearances. In the opposite case, the spectator undertakes a type of spontaneous sorting out of the visible material of which the filmic text is composed and ascribes only a portion of it to the diegesis. The services of the department of agriculture have worked more quickly because they were approached in an appropriate manner: this amounts to the diegesis. The film makes light of this sudden rapidity; ironically, it exaggerates it: here is the intention, which amounts to the enunciation. In the exact degree to which this perceptible bifurcation is maintained, the connotated will be unable to pass for denotated, and there is no trucage. The optical effect has not merged with the usual game of the photograms, the entire visual material has not been mistaken for the photographic, the diegetization has not been total.

      See also Françoise Meltzer, After 1945: Latency as Origin of the Present

      Christian Metz, one of the foremost French theorists of the cinema, is the author of Essais sur le signification au cinéma, Propositions méthodologiques pour l'analyse du film, and Langage et cinéma. He is Sous-Directeur d'Etudes Suppléant à l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris. This is the first English translation of "Trucage et cinéma," which appeared in Essais sur la signification au cinéma (Editions Klincksieck, 1972). Francoise Meltzer [the translator of this essay] is a professor of French literature and of comparative literature at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Trial(s) of Psychoanalysis, Salome and the Dance of Writing, and Hot Property: The Stakes and Claims of Literary Originality. Her essay, "Color as Cognition in Symbolist Verse," is published in Critical Inquiry in the Winter 1978 issue.

    • 677Mark Roskill
    • There are certain ways in which the spectator's response to a work of art is liable to interference or a potentially deflecting kind of persuasion. What one is told is there in the work, or relevant in it, may play such a role; and so may what one supposes to be there, as opposed to what actually is. Since similar problems apply in the perception of the real world, including the people and the actions in it, to say this is not yet to say that there is, or should be, a pure and untrammeled kind of perception that one aims at or learns to use in front of works of art; that being already a form of critical theorizing which places some kinds of limits or ideal construction on what is permissible in the form of a response. But there are in fact two distinct realms in which perception and related cognitive processes occur, one artistic, the other nonartistic. For the present purposes, rather than any larger presupposition being entertained here, it is assumed simply that, differences of situation and context notwithstanding, there is no type of statement concerning the perception of a work of art which does not have a parallel or equivalent in the perception of the real world. Such is the philosophical basis for the line of inquiry to be followed here.

      See also: Mark Roskill, Van Dyck at the English Court: The Relations of Portraiture and Allegory

      Mark Roskill is the author of a book-length interpretation of cubism, from which the present essay has been adapted. The author of Van Gogh, Gauguin and the Impressionist Circle, What is Art History?, and a book on photography, he teaches courses in the history of modern art and in critical theory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has contributed "A Reply to John Reichert and Stanley Fish" to the Winter 1979 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 709Richard Wollheim
    • Armed with a theory of representation, or with answers to the two questions, What is a representation? and What is it to represent?, we might imagine ourselves approaching a putative representation and asking of it, Is it a representation?, and then, on the assumption that the answer is yes, going on to ask of it, What does it represent? Now, the answers that such questions receive might be called the applied answers of the theory that we are armed with. It is in terms of this notion—that of the applied answers of a theory—that we may introduce the second way of classifying theories of representation. Theories of representation might be classified according to the degree of dependence or independence between the applied answers they provide in the case of any given representation.

      See also: E. H. Gombrich, Standards of Truth: The Arrested Image and the Moving Eye

      Richard Wollheim is Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic in the University of London and the author of F. H. Bradley, Socialism and Culture, Art and its Objects, Sigmund Freud, On Art and the Mind, and the novel, A Family Romance. He is currently working on a book dealing with pictorial style. In somewhat different form this paper was originally presented at the Annual Conference of the Developmental Section of the British Psychological Society, Surrey, 1976. The proceedings of that conference are published as The Child's Representation of the World, Plenum Press, 1977.

    • 725Robert E. Streeter
    • After all, ever since the abandonment of the classical curriculum in the mid-nineteenth century, the courses of studies in American colleges have been characterized by ever-increasing diversity, responses to highly particular social and individual demands, spin-offs from traditional disciplines, specializations breeding subspecializations, and the like. Stringent counterrevolutions, such as the one undertaken in the College of the University of Chicago some thirty years ago, have been infrequent and brief. What, then, is so special about the present seductive disarray in literary studies. Chiefly, I think, the importance of this compartmentation lies in the way we are encouraged to think of literary works and to respond to them. If we persuade ourselves that novels and plays and poems are written by members of an identifiable subgroup—whether that group be defined in national, ethnic, sexual, class, or special interest terms—and can be properly understood, and appreciated only by those who know the code of the same subgroup, we should be prepared to accept the implications of the position we are espousing. If, to cite a specific example, what is called the Black Aesthetic points to a mode of artistic apprehension that is not available to non-Blacks, it casts the rest of us, however curious and interested, in the roles of voyeurs and eavesdroppers. Here, as so often, our best writers anticipate and dramatize notions which become solemn critical propositions later on. In Saul Bellow's second novel, The Victim, published thirty years ago, the protagonist, Leventhal, recalls a party at which two of his friends, both Jewish, were singing spirituals and old ballads. They were being needled by a drunken New England WASP named Kirby Albee.


      "Why do you sing such songs?" he said. "You can't sing them."
      "Why not, I'd like to know?" said the girl.
      "Oh, you, too," said Albee with his one cornered smile. "it isn't right for you to sing them. You have to be born to them, it's no use trying to sing them."

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

      Robert E. Streeter served for many years as Dean of the College and later as Dean of the Humanities at the University of Chicago where he is now Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor. He is one of the editors of Critical Inquiry. "WASPs and Other Endangered Species" was presented as the Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture at the University of Chicago on 5 April 1977.

    • 741John Gardner
    • My object here is to try to make the idea of moral criticism, and its foundation, moral art, sound at least a trifle less outrageous than it does at present. I'd like to explain why moral criticism is necessary and, in a democracy, essential; how it came about that the idea of moral criticism is generally hoo-hooed or spat upon by people who in other respects seem moderately intelligent and civil human beings; and that the right kind of moral criticism is, or should be. Partly this involves explaining why sophisticated modern free society tends to be embarrassed by the whole idea of morality and by all its antique, Platonic- or scholastic-sounding manifestations: Beauty, Goodness, Truth. In other words, it involves, partly, explaining how perverse and false philosophers, and educated but sequacious mind, obscuring truths once widely acknowledged; and partly it involves sketching out a way of thinking that might supplant the cowardly Laodicean habits into which American intellectuals (among others) have in recent times fallen.


      John Gardner, novelist, poet, and essayist, has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for his latest novel, October Light. His other popular works of fiction include Grendel, The Sunlight Dialogues, and the book-length poem, Jason and Medeia. He has, as well, prepared modern versions of the Gawain poems, an alliterative Morte Arthure and five other Middle English poems and written The Construction of the Wakefield Cycle, The Poetry of Chaucer, and the biography, The Life and Times of Chaucer. "Death by Art" is the first chapter of a book concerned with morality in literature.

    • 773Carol and Richard Ohmann
    • To address, as Miller does, the text of Catcher particularly, we would argue that Holden's experiences of old age, physical repulsiveness, sex, aloneness and isolation, and even death are embedded in his full experience of society, and that his responses, moment by moment, bear the imprint of his total response to the competitive, dehumanizing world he is in the process of rebelling against and rejecting. He finds old Spencer pathetic (and very touching) not just because he is elderly and arthritic and snuffy with flu, but because he is relatively powerless, not very well off, and naïve (though uncomfortable) in urging upon Holden his teacherly prescriptions for life: be sensible, do your lessons, take care for your future—as if with one's own efforts alone could guarantee one's worldly future. (Ours is, of course, a society where the worth of people is primarily defined by their ability to earn and/or exercise power; in the war of all against all, old age is a handicap and hence a cause for disrespect; it has always been so in our culture and is not everywhere so today.)


      This essay is a reply to disagreements raised by James E. Miller, Jr. (Spring 1977) to the Ohmanns' “Reviewers, Critics, and The Catcher in the Rye” (Autumn 1976). Carol Ohmann has also contributed "Virginia Woolf's Criticism: A Polemical Preface" (December 1974) with Barbara Currier Bell.

    • 781James R. Kincaid
    • The frontiers of pluralism, it appears, are fortified right at the deconstructionists' borders. Admitting freely the possibility of ambiguities, even radical ones, M. H. Abrams still insists on the text as a product of an intention, however complex. Writers write "in order to be understood," he says; there is a certain limited degree of interpretative freedom, but we must always respect the fact that "the sequence of sentences these authors wrote were designed to have a core of determinate meanings."1 Hillis Miller's deconstruction of the hybrid Booth/Abrams charge—"every effort at original or 'free' interpretation is plainly and simply parasitical" on "the obvious or univocal reading"2—attempts to demonstrate that the “obvious or univocal reading” is an illusion. These are positions so extreme and so starkly clear that no one needs a comparative listing of the assumptions at work.


      ·  1. M. H. Abrams, "Rationality and Imagination in Cultural History: A Reply to Wayne Booth," Critical Inquiry 2, (1976): 457.

      ·  2. Wayne C. Booth, "M. H. Abrams: Historian as Critic, Critic as Pluralist," Critical Inquiry 2, (1976): 441.


      James R. Kincaid is the author of Dickens and the Rhetoric of Laughter, Tennyson's Major Poems: The Comic and Ironic Patterns, and a new book scheduled to appear this autumn, The Novels of Anthony Trollope. He is a professor of English at Ohio State University. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Pluralistic Monism" (Summer 1978), and "Fiction and the Shape of Belief: Fifteen Years Later" (Winter 1979). A response to the present article comes from Robert Denham's "The No-Man's Land of Competing Patterns" in the Summer 1977 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 803Morse Peckham
    • It is idle of [J. Hillis] Miller and [Wayne C.] Booth, and [M. H.] Abrams too, to talk about the methodology of interpreting complex literary texts before they have determined what interpretational behavior is in ordinary, mundane, routine, verbal interaction. The explanation for this statement lies in the logical and historical subsumption of literary written texts by all written texts. In the subsumption of written texts by spoken verbal behavior, in the subsumption of spoken verbal behavior by semiotic behavior, and in the subsumption of semiotic behavior by whatever it is we are responding to when we use the word "meaning." If Professor Booth goes into his usual coffee shop to get his morning coffee, and says to the waiter, "I'd like a cup of coffee, please," and the waiter brings it to him, what has happened? What is the methodology of the waiter? It is not absurd to ask why the waiter does not bring the America Cup filled to the brim with unroasted coffee beans, nor why Professor Booth does not say, "I asked you for a cup of coffee, but you have brought me a cup of mostly hot water." Moreover, if Professor Booth searches the literature of linguistics and of psychology in order to locate those studies and experiments which will tell him about the methodology of the waiter, he will find very little. The original program of linguistics set forth a hierarchy of investigation, beginning with phonemics, and going on through morphemics, syntactics, semantics, to pragmatics. But as yet very little has been accomplished above syntactics. Psychologists, at least of the typical academic breed, seem to be unaware of the problem.


      Morse Peckham, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina, is the author of Beyond the Tragic Vision, Man's Rage for Chaos, Victorian Revolutionaries, Art and Pornography, Explanation and Power: An Inquiry into the Control of Human Behavior, and two volumes of collected essays, The Triumph of Romanticism and Romanticism and Behavior.