Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 1978

Volume 4 Issue 4
    • 611RenĂ© Wellek
    • The new methods, the tone, and new taste are clearly discernible first in the early articles and books of John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, R. P. Blackmur, Kenneth Burke, and Yvor Winters, and somewhat later in Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, and William K. Wimsatt. . . . Still, something tells us that there is some sense in grouping these critics together. Most obviously they are held together by their reaction against the preceding or contemporary critical schools and views mentioned before. They all reject the kind of metaphorical, evocative criticism practiced by the impressionists. Tate, Blackmur, Burke, and Winters contributed to a symposium highly critical of the neo-Humanists, and others voiced their rejection elsewhere. They all had no use for Mencken and Van Wyck Brooks, particularly after Brooks became a violent enemy of all modernism. Furthermore, they were almost unanimous in their rejection of Marxism, with the single exception of Kenneth Burke, who in the thirties passed through a Marxist phase and, anyhow, after his first book moved away from his neo-critical beginnings. What, however, in the American situation mattered most was that they were united in their opposition to the prevailing methods, doctrines, and views of academic English literary scholarship. There, in a way the younger generation may find it difficult to realize, a purely philological and historical scholarship dominated all instruction, publication, and promotion. I remember that when I first came to study English literature in the Princeton graduate school in 1927, fifty years ago, no course in American literature, none in modern literature, and none in criticism was offered. Of all my learned teachers only Morris W. Croll had any interest in aesthetics or even ideas. Most of the New Critics were college teachers and had to make their way in an environment hostile to any and all criticism. Only Kenneth Burke was and remained a freelance man of letters, though he taught in later years occasionally at Bennington College and briefly at the University of Chicago. But he very early deserted the New Criticism. It took Blackmur, Tate, and Winters years to get academic recognition, often against stiff opposition, and even Ransom, R. P. Warren, and Cleanth Brooks, established in quieter places, had their troubles. Ransom's paper "Criticism, Inc." (1937) pleaded for the academic establishment of criticism, and thanks to him and others criticism is now taught in most American colleges and universities. But it was an uphill fight. I still remember vividly the acrimony of the conflict between criticism and literary history at the University of Iowa, where I was a member of the English Department from 1939 to 1946.

      See also: Gerald Graff, New Criticism Once More

      René Wellek, Sterling Professor Emeritus of comparative literature at Yale University, is the author of Theory of Literature (with Austin Warren) and of A History of Modern Criticism, 1750-1950. He has contributed "Notes and Exchanges Between René Wellek and Wayne C. Booth" (Autumn 1977) and "A Rejoinder to Gerald Graff" (Spring 1979) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 625Stanley E. Fish
    • A sentence is never not in a context. We are never not in a situation. A statute is never not read in the light on some purpose. A set of interpretative assumptions is always in force. A sentence that seems to need no interpretation is already the product of one...No sentence is ever apprehended independently of some or other illocutionary force. Illocutionary force is the key term in speech-act theory. It refers to the way an utterance is taken—as an order, a warning, a promise, a proposal, a request, etc.—and the theory's strongest assertion is that no utterance is ever taken purely, that is, without already having been understood as the performance of some illocutionary act. Consider, as an example, the sentence "I will go." Depending on the context in which it is uttered, "I will go" can be understood as a promise, a threat, a warning, a report, a prediction, etc., but it will always be understood as one of these, and it will never be an unsituated kernel of pure semantic value. In other words, "I will go" does not have a basic or primary meaning which is then put to various illocutionary uses; rather, "I will go" is known only in its illocutionary lives, and in each of them its meaning will be different. Moreover, if the meaning of a sentence is a function of its illocutionary force (the way it is taken), and if illocutionary force varies with the circumstances, then illocutionary force is not a property of sentences, but of situations. That is, while a sentence will always have an illocutionary force (because otherwise it would have no meaning), the illocutionary force it has will not always be the same.

      See also: Stanley Fish, Working on the Chain Gang: Interpretation in the Law and in Literary Criticism  ·  Stanley Fish, Profession Despise Thyself: Fear and Self-Loathing in Literary Studies

      Stanley E. Fish is the author of, among many other works, Is There a Text in This Class? Interpretative Authority in the Classroom and in Literary Criticism, and The Living Temple: George Herbert and Catechizing. His contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Facts and Fictions: A Reply to Ralph Rader" (June 1975), "Interpreting the Variorum" (Spring 1976), "Interpreting 'Interpreting the Variorum'" (Autumn 1976), "A Reply to John Reichert; or, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Interpretation" (Autumn 1979), and "One More Time" (Summer 1980).

    • 645Rudolf Arnheim
    • The clearest instances of Time experience in music can be observed when the melodic and harmonic structure of a work announces the approach to a climax, for example, the finale. A goal is established in the awareness of the listener and acts as an independent system toward which music is striving. Most other examples that come to mind are extra-musical, that is, they refer to music in relation to something outside of it. A listener who instead of moving with the flow of the musical happening remains outside of it and watches the arriving and passing of phrase after phrase as though he were watching a parade from a viewing stand places himself in a separate temporal system whose relation to that of the music itself is governed by Time. Compare also the radio performance scheduled to finish on the hour or the state of mind of a concertgoer anxious to make the 11:20 suburban train home.


      A literary narrative, like music, tends to be perceived as an ongoing flow. No reference to time is relevant for a description of the sequential action. The work sprouts and grows. But whenever the continuity is broken (for example, when one of the characters of the story reappears a while later), the appearances may form separate systems. The only medium that can bridge the gap may be Time, in which both are embedded. This is generally considered a compositional flaw. A skillful narrator avoids such a break by providing a filament that connects past and present appearances "amodally," as psychologists call it, that is, the way a train's progress is seen as remaining uninterrupted even when it is hidden for a moment by a tunnel. But when Time is embodied as an authentic literary character, such as the "devouring Time" of Shakespeare's nineteenth sonnet, which blunts the lion's paws and plucks the tiger's teeth, it becomes an active system of its own and thus deserves the capitalization.

      See also: Rudolf Arnheim, On the Nature of Photography  ·  Rudolf Arnheim, A Plea for Visual Thinking

      Rudolf Arnheim is the author of Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, Toward a Psychology of Art, and The Dynamics of Architectural Form. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "On the Nature of Photography" (September 1974) and "A Plea for Visual Thinking" (Spring 1980).

    • 657John Hope Franklin
    • But Williams had created a field of historical study, where his white counterparts had not. Single-handedly and without the blessing or approval of the academic community, Williams had called attention to the importance of including Afro-Americans in any acceptable and comprehensive history of the nation long before the historians of various groups of European-Americans or Asian-Americans had begun to advocate a similar treatment for their groups. And if Williams did not impress the white professional historians, he gave heart and encouragement to future Afro-American historians. When the History of the Negro Troops appeared in 1887, nineteen-year-old W. E. B. Du Bois was a college senior at Fisk University and editor-in-chief of the student magazine, The Fisk Herald. In the columns of the Herald Du Bois wrote, "At last we have a historian; not merely a Negro historian, but a man who judged by his merits alone has written a splendid narrative. The Herald congratulates George W. Williams, and the race, which may justly be . . . [proud] of him."1 Many years later, Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and of the Journal of Negro History, described Williams' History of the Negro Troops as "one of the most valuable accounts of the Civil War."2 With words like these from Du Bois and Woodson, on whose shoulders much of the second stage of Afro-American historiography would rest, it is not too much to say that George Washington Williams was responsible for the beginnings of Afro-American historiography.


      ·  1. The Fisk Herald, January 1888, p. 8.

      ·  2. Woodson's appraisal of Williams was found among his papers and made available to me by Dr. Charles H. Wesley when he was executive director of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which had been founded by Woodson in 1915.

      See also: Nancy Bentley, The Fourth Dimension: Kinlessness and African American Narrative

      John Hope Franklin, president-elect of the American Historical Society, has written a biography of George Washington Williams. He is the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago and the author of, among other works, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans and A Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Antebellum North.

    • 673Edward W. Said
    • Derrida and Foucault are opposed to each other on a number of grounds, and perhaps the one specially singled out in Foucault's attack on Derrida—that Derrida is concerned only with "reading" a text and that a text is nothing more than the "traces" found there by the reader—would be the appropriate one to begin with here.1 According to Foucault, if the text is important for Derrida because its real situation is literally an abysmally textual element, l'écriture en abîme with which (Derrida says in "La double séance") criticism so far has been unable really to deal,2 then for Foucault the text is important because it inhabits an element of power (pouvoir) with a decisive claim on actuality, even though that power is invisible or implied. Derrida's criticism therefore moves us into the text, Foucault's in and out of it.


      ·  1. Michel Foucault's attack on Derrida is to be found in an appendix to the later version of Folie et déraison: Historie de la folie à l'âge classique (Paris, 1972), pp. 583-602; the earlier edition has been translated into English: Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (New York, 1965).

      ·  2. Jacques Derrida, La Dissémination (Paris, 1972), p. 297.

      See also: Edward W. Said, Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community

      Edward W. Said, Parr Professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, is the author of Orientalism and The Question of Palestine, along with numerous publications on literature, politics, and culture; his Beginnings: Intention and Method received the first annual Lionel Trilling Memorial Award. "The Problem of Textuality" will appear in a slightly different form in his Criticism between Culture and System.

    • 715Berel Lang
    • The question, How is style possible? assumes the existence of style and sufficient evidence for this assertion, as well as for determining what it means, appears in the talk about style, in the deployment of stylistic categories. That talk extends in common usage to such attenuated references as styles in dress, styles of social exchange, life-styles. To limit the discussion, I speak here primarily of artistic style, but it will be clear that the ramifications of the argument extend beyond the arts, indeed beyond style as well.


      When we pursue this line of inference, the practical question of what the use or function of stylistic analysis is plays a controlling role and in effect sets a dialectic in motion. For if, as I suggest, there is a stopping short in the first—adverbial or instrumental—model of style and an amending completeness in the first—verbial or transitive—model, that difference starts from their respective conceptions of the function which stylistic analysis and finally style itself serve. It is important, then, to keep the question of function in mind, to allow it to spend its own force; that question serves, in fact, as a mediating link between the appearance of style and the discourse about it, on the one hand, and the final question of how style is possible, on the other. The two models of style to be described differ explicitly on the last of these points, and they differ at least tacitly in their conception of the mediating link, the question of the function or use of style. Those differences in turn make a practical difference even in the immediate description of particular styles.

      See also: Berel Lang, Space, Time, and Philosophical Style

      Berel Lang, whose "Space, Time, and Philosophical Style" appeared in the Winter 1975 issue of Critical Inquiry, is professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, the author of Art and Inquiry, co-editor of Marxism and Art: Writings in Aesthetics and Criticism, and the editor of The Concept of Style. "Style as Instrument, Style as Person" is part of Person and Representation: The Intentions of Style.

    • 741Rose Rosengard Subotnik
    • The absence of a clear distinction between notions of the individual and the social or general must, in fact, raise particularly strong reservations about any critical method as preoccupied as French structuralism is with comparisons between art and natural language. To be sure, this preoccupation has led to the isolation of many suggestive likenesses and differences between music and language. Among the likenesses, for example, is the assertion that both language and music constitute semiotic media within which the same techniques for verifying competence (in Chomsky's sense) and correctness of usage (related to Chomsky's "performance") can be applied. Lévi-Strauss is insistent that musical as well as linguistic usage must be subject to verification through reference to some sort of "double articulation," or what will more generally be called here "dual structure," that is, through some method whereby, in effect, speakers and listeners can test each other's competence by altering the relationship between a more general and a more particularized level of a system (such as the levels of sound and of meaning, or the underlying level of a code as opposed to the surface level of the message) and observing each other's responses.1 Nattiez essentially rejects this method of verifying competence, but he proposes two others which have analogues in the linguistic theory, respectively, of Zellig Harris (pp. 231-33) and of Noam Chomsky (pp. 392-92); interestingly these methods, which appear to be more "modern" than Lévi-Strauss', rely far more heavily on faith in fundamentally unexplainable judgments by single individuals, especially by individual "experts."


      · 1. Lévi-Strauss' somewhat obscure account of double articulation in Raw and Cooked (p. 24) differs from standard accounts such as André Martinet's (summarized by Nattiez, p. 421) and John Lyons' in Noam Chomsky (New York, 1970), pp. 19-20. Lévi-Strauss appears to include both phonemes and morphemes in the code level, whereas it is more usual to oppose to the phonemic or sound level a level of meaning which is both semantic and morphemic.

      See also: Rose Rosengard Subotnik, Tonality, Autonomy, and Competence in Post-Classical Music

      Rose Rosengard Subotnik is an assistant professor of music at the University of Chicago. She has written on Adorno's criticism of nineteenth-century music and is currently studying the relation between nineteenth-century German music and philosophy. She has contributed "Tonality, Autonomy, and Competence in Post-Classical Music" (Autumn 1979) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 769Richard Shiff
    • While different groups of viewers may have sought different values in Cézanne's art, the artist's manner of painting and personality both contributed to the ambiguity of his work. Until the last decade of his life he seldom exhibited, and even then his paintings seemed unfinished. He was generally regarded as an "incomplete" artist and often as a "primitive," one whose art was in some way simple or rudimentary, devoid of the refinements and complexities of his materialistic, industrialized (and, some commentators added, atheistic) society.1 He was seen as an isolated man who lived apart from other painters and found human relationship and communication difficult.


      Yet for some symbolists it was this alienation and mystery which made Cézanne's art so attractive. As early as 1891, Fénéon found it appropriate to refer to "the Cézanne tradition," a designation which indicates the influence of the legendary account of the artist promulgated by Gauguin and his associates.2 Gauguin had painted landscapes with the reclusive artist during the summer of 1881, was impressed by his odd style, both personal and pictorial, and in a letter to Emile Schuffenecker of 14 January 1885 described Cézanne as embodying the mysticism of the Orient.3 Such a characterization held special meaning for those like Gauguin who had come more and more to search for an ultimate truth in the experience of the mystical, the transcendental, the intensely real. For the symbolist painter or writer, primitives lived in harmony with the real world; they had an intuitive, mythic understanding of their environment. Most modern Europeans, in contrast, viewed the world through false and short-sighted analytic reason and thus saw only immediate causes and effects, not eternal universal principles. They were Christians who could not see the truth of Buddhism; they were socially indoctrinated Parisians who could not see the purer structure of human society in provincial Brittany; they were refined painters of nature who could not see the expressive power of a flat area of color surrounded by a broad outline. For Gauguin and the symbolists, Cézanne, living in isolation in his seemingly unsophisticated native Provence, qualified as an enlightened contemporary, an inspiring force, a primitive artist.


      · 1. For Cézanne as "incomplete," see, e.g. Thadée Natanson, "Paul Cézanne." Revue blanche 9 (1 December 1895), p. 496; and Gustave Geoffrey, "Paul Cézanne" (16 November 1895), in La Vie artistique (Paris, 1900), p. 218. For Cézanne as "primitive," see, e.g., Georges Lecomte, L'Arte impressionniste (Paris, 1892), pp. 30-31; and Maurice Denis, "Cézanne" (9 September 1907), in Théories, 1890-1910: Du symbolisme et de Gauguin vers un nouvel ordre classique, 2d ed. (Paris, 1912), p. 246. The late nineteenth-century notion of the "primitive" artist was very broad. Included in the category of primitives were artists of the ancient Orient, artists of the earlier stages of development of various Western styles (such as the Archaic Greeks and the pre-Raphaelite Italians), provincial or uneducated European artists, and those of contemporary non-European societies. With regard to the negative evaluation of modern Western European society, see, e.g., Victor de Laprade, Le Sentiment de la nature chez les modernes, 2d ed. (Paris, 1870), pp. 483-88; and Albert Aurier, "Essai sur une nouvelle méthode de critique" (1892), "Le Symbolisme en peinture: Paul Gauguin" (9 February 1891), and "Les Isolés: Vincent van Gogh" (January 1890), in Oeuvres posthumes (Paris, 1893), pp. 202, 216, 262-63.

      · 2. Félix Fénéon, "Paul Gauguin" (23 May 1891), in Oeuvres plus que complètes, ed. Joan Halperin, 2 vols. (Geneva, 1970), 1:192.

      · 3. Lettres de Gauguin à sa femme et à ses amis, ed. Maurice Malingue (Paris, 1946), p. 45. Félix Fénéon, André Mellerio, and Emile Bernard also associated Cézanne's style with mysticism.

      See also: Richard Shiff, Remembering Impressions

      Richard Shiff is an associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written a related article, "The End of Impressionism: A Study of Theories of Artistic Expression". His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Art and Life: A Metaphoric Relationship" (Autumn 1978) and, with Carl Pletsch, "History and Innovation" (Spring 1981).

    • 809Kenneth Burke
    • Cicero could both orate and write a treatise on oratory. A dog can bark but he can’t write a tract on barking.


      If all typically symbol-using animals (that is, humans) were suddenly obliterated, their realm of symbolic action would be correspondingly obliterated.


      The earth would be but a realm of planetary, geologic, meteorological motion, including the motions of whatever nonhuman biological organisms happened to survive.


      The realm of nonsymbolic motion needs no realm of symbolic action; but there could be no symbolic action unless grounded in the realm of motion, the realm of motion having preceded the emergence of our symbol-using ancestors; and doubtless the time will come when motions go on after all our breed will have vanished.


      Kenneth Burke is now developing the implications of the position stated in the present essay. He is also editing his Symbolic of Motives, a work designed to complement his Grammar of Motives and Rhetoric of Motives. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "In Response to Booth: Dancing with Tears in my Eyes" (September 1974), "Post-Poesque Derivation of a Terministic Cluster" (Winter 1977), "A Critical Load, Beyond that Door; or, Before the Ultimate Confrontation; or, When Thinking of Deconstructionist Structuralists; or, A Hermeneutic Fantasy" (Autumn 1978), and "Methodological Repression and/or Strategies of Containment" (Winter 1978). The first section of "(Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic) Action" was presented at a symposium at New York University in May 1976 and will appear in a slightly altered version in the report of those proceedings, Psychoanalysis, Criticism, and Creativity: A French-American Dialogue.

      See also: Kenneth Burke, A Critical Load, beyond That Door; Or, before the Ultimate Confrontation; Or, When Thinking of Deconstructionist Structuralists; Or, A Hermeneutic Fantasy

    • 839James R. Kincaid
    • I admire Robert Denham's enlightening and often very amusing response ("The No-Man's Land of Competing Patterns," Critical Inquiry 4 [Autumn 1977]: 194-202) to my "Coherent Readers, Incoherent Texts" Critical Inquiry 3 [Summer 1977]:781-802). Not surprisingly, however, I remain unconvinced by its arguments, large or small. This may sound defensive, partly because it is, but I do wonder if his use of pluralistic sound sense is quite so fresh or so formidable as he takes it to be. . . . I think Denham understands quite accurately my use of "genre" as representing a traditional structure for organizing plot, character, images, tones, and the like. I think it is true, also, that I use the word to refer both to narrative pattern and to what he calls "intention," that I use both Frye and Sacks as examples of convincing distinctions among ordering patterns. Of course Denham is right in saying that these systems are not necessarily coordinate, that they cover species and subspecies alike, and that the generic patterns are not of the same order. One might have a represented action that is comic, tragic, or even "serious." I wonder if all this really makes my argument "sometimes difficult to follow" (p. 196). I had thought that I was signaling clearly the switch from Frye to Sacks, that neither was using "genre" in an unfamiliar or restrictive sense, and that both presented useful systems that were comprehensive and thus adaptable—as time has surely shown—for the labeling and pigeonholing needs of those seeking coherence at all costs. Since Frye sees narrative patterns as "pre-generic," it would not be difficult to work out coordination simply by saying that Sacks' three general categories of fiction could each exist in any of Frye's twenty-four phases. But things are not that simple, and more important, such devices would surely distract a reader I wanted to be in search of other game. Most of us switch freely from system to system, understanding "genre" to refer to a class that includes epic-drama-lyric-novel, a class that includes comedy-tragedy-romance-irony, a class that includes apologue-satire-represented action. As I see it, the only danger lies in mixing incompatible systems.


      James R. Kincaid is professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His works include Dickens and the Rhetoric of Laughter, Tennyson's Major Poems: The Comic and Ironic Patterns, and The Novels of Anthony Trollope. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Coherent Readers, Incoherent Text" (Summer 1977), and "Fiction and the Shape of Belief: Fifteen Years Later" (Winter 1979).