Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 1998

Volume 24 Issue 4
    • 851Teresa de Lauretis
    • The reception of Foucault's work in the U.S., in a cultural context generally resistant to Freud, has promoted a reductive and, I believe, a false dichotomy between two views on the subject of sexuality known as essentialism and social constructionism.1 The latter has embraced Foucault's denaturalization of sexuality, his view that sexuality is a "transfer point [point de passage] for relations of power," as a way to refute Freud's biologically grounded drive (Sexualtrieb),2 to refute its stubbornness and intractability and replace it with the more optimistic and, to my mind, voluntaristic view that sexuality is constructed or "discursive" and, therefore, can be transformed—even, perhaps, transcended. I am going to argue that the setting up of this opposition between Freud's and Foucault's respective theories of sexuality is ill-advised, as well as unfounded, and that the essentialism/constructionism dichotomy is based on an equivocation.

      · 1. For evidence of the resistance to Freud among North American intellectuals, one only need see Frederick Crews's reviews of recent and less recent works about, or rather, against the Father of psychoanalysis: for example, "The Unknown Freud," New York Review of Books, 18 Nov. 1993, pp. 55-66 and "Keeping Us in Hysterics," The New Republic, 12 May 1997, pp. 35-43. The ambivalence displayed by the rhetorical excess of Crews's attacks on Freud, repeated on just about any likely occasion, is but a blown-up and better-informed version of the ambivalence that has characterized American academic studies since the late 1960s and American intellectual life as a whole since Freud's first and only visit to the United States in 1909. See Teresa de Lauretis, "American Freud," American Studies/Amerikastudien
      41, no. 2 (1996): 163-79.

      · 2. Sexualtrieb is usually rendered in English with "sexual instinct" because the Standard Edition of Freud's works translates both Instinkt and Trieb as "instinct." This, I believe, is partly responsible for the anglophone misunderstanding of Freud's concept of drive. However, since I will be quoting from Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. James Strachey, 24 vols. (London, 1953-74), hereafter abbreviated SE, I use the words instinct and drive synonymously throughout the paper.

      See also: Teresa de Lauretis, Becoming Inorganic  · Teresa de Lauretis, Nightwood and the “Terror of Uncertain Signs”

      Teresa de Lauretis is professor of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse Desire (1994) and several other books in English and Italian. She is currently working on Basic Instincts, a book of essays on the drives.

    • 878Susan Gubar
    • I hope to show that a number of prominent advocates of racialized identity politics and of poststructuralist theories have framed their arguments in such a way as to divide feminists, casting suspicion upon a common undertaking that remains in dispute at the turn of the twentieth century. What does it mean that otherwise sagacious proponents of these two at times antagonistic camps—African American as well as postcolonial materialists, on the one hand, and Foucauldian as well as Derridean theorists, on the other—have produced discourses that in various ways hinder the tolerance and understanding needed for open dialogue?

      See also:  Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Masterpiece Theatre: An Academic Melodrama  ·  Susan Gubar, Representing Pornography: Feminism, Criticism, and Depictions of Female Violation

      Susan Gubar is Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies at Indiana University. With Sandra M. Gilbert, she is coauthor of The Madwomainn in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (1979) as well as its three-volume sequel, No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century (1988-94), and coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. Her most recent publication is Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture (1997).

    • 935Bill Brown
    • What fallacy do we risk when we pause to grant a text some extratextual dimension? What hazards do we chance (naiveté, banality, empiricism, humanism?) when we read a literary text to write a history of the referent? What fetishism do I commit? Or, more important, what fetishism am I trying to overcome? For only an unseemly investment in the object of reference, perhaps, can explain that object as the precipitate of other investments. Perhaps only an analytic overvaluation of the object allows literature to teach not just a history of things but also the history in them.

      See also:  Elizabeth Abel, Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation  ·  Miriam Bratu Hansen, Benjamin and Cinema: Not a One-Way Street

      Bill Brown is associate professor of English at the University of Chi-cago and a coeditor of Critical Inquiry. He has recently published The Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane, and the Economies of Play (1997) and Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Novels (1997). He is currently at work on The Secret Life of Things.

    • 965Paul Mattick
    • Andy Warhol himself once explained, in words close to Wilde's, "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it."1 This remark, whether taken as all too true or as coyly misleading, is itself generally judged in a superficial way. Wilde's aphorism may help us remember that it is a mode of shallowness to be unable or unwilling to explore the structure and content of appearances. From this point of view, much of the consideration critics, art theorists, and philosophers have given Warhol's work is superficial. Finding that work's surfaces insufficient, such thinkers either condemn it as evidence of cultural decline or seek to give it significance by setting it within a framework of theory that possesses depths invisible in the work itself.

      This essay examines accounts of Warhol's work, by a philosopher and three art historians, that seek significance for it in this way. I will argue that despite their differences and their many interesting features, they are all flawed in being critically shallow—I mean, shallow as criticism.

      · 1. Gretchen Berg, "Andy: My True Story," Los Angeles Free Press, 17 Mar. 1967, p. 3.

      See also: Caroline A. Jones, The Modernist Paradigm: The Artworld and Thomas Kuhn

      Paul Mattick is the author of Social Knowledge (1986) and editor of Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art (1993).

    • 988Slavoj Žižek
    • When one says Eurocentrism, every self-respecting postmodern leftist intellectual has as violent a reaction as Joseph Goebbels had to culture­­—to reach for a gun, hurling accusations of protofascist Eurocentrist cultural imperialism. However, is it possible to imagine a leftist appropriation of the European political legacy?

      Slavoj Žižek, a philosopher and Lacanian psychoanalyst, is senior researcher in the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and visiting professor at the New School for Social Research. He is editor of Cogito and the Unconscious (1998) and author of The Plague of Fantasies (1997) and The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters (1996).