Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 1981

Volume 7 Issue 4
    • 667Gary Saul Morson
    •  Among Tolstoy's absolute statements are those that exhibit characteristics of both biblical commands and proverbs—and of other types of absolute statements as well. He also draws, for example, on logical propositions, mathematical deductions, laws of nature and human nature, dictionary definitions, and metaphysical assertions. The language of all these forms is timeless, anonymous, and above all categorical. Their stylistic features imply that they are not falsifiable and that they are not open to qualification: they characteristically include words like "all," "each," "every," "only," and "certainly" and phrases like "there neither is nor can be," "the human mind cannot grasp," and "it is impossible that." Even in sentences that omit such phrases, the very refusal to use a qualifier of any kind can assert unqualifiability. When Tolstoy's absolute statements take the form of syllogisms, the use of the word "therefore" or some explicit or implicit equivalent carries the force of logical inevitability. It carries the same force with Tolstoy's enthymemes, which omit the major premise for the reader to reconstruct. [An example] from The Death of Ivan Ilysch,1 cited above, for instance, contains a minor premise and a conclusion of a syllogism; the reader himself must supply the major premise, which would be: "The simpler and more ordinary a life is, the more terrible it is."

      ·  1. "Ivan Ilysch's life was the most simple and the most ordinary, and therefore the most terrible."

      Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilysch, ed. John Bayley, trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude (New York, 1967), p.225.

      See also: Gary Saul Morson, Who Speaks for Bakhtin?: A Dialogic Introduction

      Gary Saul Morson is an associate professor of Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of The Boundaries of Genre: Dostoevsky's Diary of a Writer and the Traditions of Literary Utopia, and The Broken Frame: The Anti-tradition of Russian Literature. The present article is from a theoretical study of literary creativity and the biography of authors.

    • 689Marshall Brown
    • There can be no question, of course, of any "influence" of Kant's or Rousseau's ideas on Mozart's musical structures. While I have used various loosely synonymous nonmusical terms—reverie, dream, unconscious, ethereal, and so on—the analysis could proceed on a nonmetaphorical, strictly technical basis. Indeed, much of it has. I should therefore clarify why I have superimposed this philosophical and literary layer on the musical analysis, even at the risk of giving the false impression that I wished to make the history of music dependent upon the history of ideas.

      My answer lies, first of all, in the contention—in which I follow chiefly Michel Foucault, though with qualifications—that at every period in history a subterranean network of constraints governs the organization of human thought. Different fields develop and change in parallel not because they affect one another but because the infrastructures of mental activity affect them all. In this respect, the relationship of music and philosophy is no different from the relationship of literature and philosophy. The infrastructure is the precondition of thought and is by definition unconscious and unarticulated. Because it lies outside the limits of the individual disciplines, it cannot really be formulated within any of them. Hence arises the necessity of comparative study. The infrastructure comes to light at the juncture of independent fields. In the present case, it is accurate to say that music and philosophy mutually illuminate one another precisely because they are such different media; where they coincide lie the true invariants of eighteenth-century thought.

      See also: Marshall Brown, The Classic Is the Baroque: On the Principle of Wölfflin's Art History

      Marshall Brown, an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is the author of The Shape of German Romanticism, and Pre-Romanticism: Studies in Stylistic Transformation.

    • 707James B. White
    • From beginning to end, the poem is literally made up of relations…[that] constitute a method of contemplation and criticism, a way of inviting the reader to think in terms of one thing in terms of another. Consider, for example, Odysseus' trip to Chryse in book 1, a passage I never read without surprise: in this tense and heavily charged world, in which everything seems to have been put into potentially violent contention, why are we given this slow and deliberate journey, so heavily formulaic in texture? The answer is that this is a ritual of reconciliation, a kind of healing, which will receive its most ample performance at the great movement in book 24 when Achilles and Priam share their sorrows. A movement begins here that will run throughout the poem.

      It is by such an art of arrangement, by placing one thing against another, that Homer criticizes the world of book 1 with which he began; not, as we expect of a writer today, by elaborating competitive languages of motives and value but by ordering his materials into patterns of experience that teach the reader something different from anything the material itself seems to say.1 In a way the poem, as a whole thus has the form of argument; not, of course, argument in the ratiocinative sense of a thesis supported by propositions, from which it can be said to proceed by the rules of logic or the laws of probability, but argument as an activity of critical engagement, a definition of resources and a testing of limits, that results in the creation of a new position taken by the writer and offered to the reader. An argument goes on in the text, but its method is closer to that of music than debate.

      ·  1. Cf. Cedric H. Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition (Cambridge, Mass., 1958) chap. 6, for another view of the ways that formula and image combine.

      See also: Richard Ellmann, Joyce and Homer

      James B. White is a professor in the law school, the college, and the committee on the ancient Mediterranean world at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Legal Imagination, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, and a book on rhetoric and culture, from which the present article is drawn.

    • 727Frederic K. Hargreaves, Jr.
    • In sum, major critics of the twentieth century continually insist that poetry's unique value lies in its ability to convey meanings for which there are no public criteria whatsoever. But there are no such meanings, and to praise a poem for conveying them is empty. Again, these critics assume that what we understand by emotion is to be identified simply with an inner experience or state of mind and that this state of mind is what is conveyed by, or gives meaning and definition to, words which are used to refer to our emotional life. The emotions or qualities of emotions supposedly communicated by poetry alone, moreover, are said to elude public language altogether; they can be neither defined nor discussed but only embodied in images. But whatever the status these private experiences have for us, they as yet play no part in our language, even our poetic language, and reference to them certainly contributes nothing to our criticism of poetry. Criticism can play a central role in interpreting and shaping our lives, but it will only be worth writing if its vocabulary has content. If criticism is to become intelligible, it must begin by abandoning the appeal to private knowledge.

      See also: Evan Kindley, Big Criticism

      Frederic K. Hargreaves, Jr. received his doctorate in English from Boston University.

    • 747Joel Rudinow
    • We began by…implying a comparison between Duchamp and the swindlers; we lately find ourselves . . . implying a comparison between Duchamp and the child. I believe that in the end both comparisons are essential to a thorough understanding of Duchamp's significance; it is also, however, essential that each comparison temper and qualify the other. The swindlers begin and end as aliens to the community on which they practice their art. Duchamp is as much inside the artworld as is the child inside his community. On the other hand, Duchamp is not disenfranchised, as is the child, though, like the child, he is innocent of certain illusions typical of full enfranchisement. Like the swindlers, and unlike the child, Duchamp is full of guile. He pointedly produces something ambiguous, something which supports diametrically opposed readings, depending on where one's bets are placed. One of the readings amounts to a critique of the other reading as a hoax. But unlike the swindle, whose effectiveness depends on the degree to which the critique remains hidden and the hoax enjoys full rein, Duchamp's gesture is effective, as is the child's unambiguous announcement, to the degree that the critique embarrasses the hoax. It seems, then, that Duchamp embodies some rare and interesting combination of guile and innocence which the fable keeps apart by dividing them between agents whose activities are at cross-purposes. The limitation of the fable as an analogy is that it provides no model for the combination. The fable contains the figures of the swindler, of the gullible mark, and of the observer so innocent as to be incapable of duplicity. What we are confronted with in Duchamp is the figure of the wise guy.

      See also: Jeffrey Wieand, Duchamp and the Artworld

      Joel Rudinow, a conceptual artist, created a multimedia satire entitled Higher Learnin'; or, The Song and Dance of Socrates: In Which the Love of Wisdom Leads to the Discovery that the Unlived Life is Not Worth Examining.

    • 761Stanley Cavell
    • [Alfred Hitchcock's] film is called North by Northwest. I assume that nobody will swear from that fact alone that we have here an allusion to Hamlet's line that he is but mad north-northwest; even considering that Hamlet's line occurs as the players are about to enter and that North by Northwest is notable, even within the oeuvre of a director pervaded by images and thoughts of the theater and of theatricality, for its obsession with the idea of acting; and considering that both the play and the film contain plays-within-the-play in both of which someone is killed, both being constructed to catch the conscience of the one for whose benefit they are put on. But there are plenty of further facts. The film opens with an ageless male identifying himself first of all as a son. He speaks of his efforts to keep the smell of liquor on his breath (that is, evidence of his grown-up pleasures) from the watchful nose of his mother, and he comes to the attention of his enemies because of an unresolved anxiety about getting a message to his mother, whereupon he is taken to a mansion in which his abductor has usurped another man's house and name and has, it turns out, cast his own sister as his wife. (The name, posted at the front of the house, is Townsend, and a town is a thing smaller than a city but larger than a village, or a hamlet.) The abductor orders the son killed by forcing liquid into him. It is perhaps part of the picture that the usurper is eager to get to his dinner guests and that there is too much competitive or forced drinking of liquor. Nor, again, will anyone swear that it is significant that the abductor-usurper's henchmen are a pair of men with funny, if any, names and a single man who stands in a special relationship with the usurper and has a kind of sibling rivalry with the young woman that this son, our hero, will become attracted to and repelled by. These are shadowy matters, and it is too soon to speak of "allusions" or of any other very definite relation to a so-called source. But it seems clear to me that if one were convinced of Hamlet in the background of North by Northwest, say to the extent that one is convinced that Saxo Grammaticus' Danish History is in the background of Hamlet, then one would without a qualm take the name Leonard as a successor to the name Laertes.

      See also: Stanley Cavell, Politics as Opposed to What?

      Stanley Cavell, professor of philosophy at Harvard University, is the author of Must We Mean What We Say?, The Senses of Walden, The World Viewed, The Claim of Reason, and Pursuits of Happiness. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are "On Makajev On Bergman" (Winter 1979) and "A Reply to John Hollander" (Summer 1980).