Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Spring 2000

Volume 26 Issue 3
    • 395Peter Schwenger
    • The point at which forgetting and mourning first converge is the moment when a subject constitutes itself as such-through an image. In so doing, the subject also constitutes that which is not subject; at "the threshold of the visible world" everything in that world now becomes object. Object of a subjectivity, the world can only be seen in the terms by which that subjectivity is constituted: "the image of his body is the principle of every unity he perceives in objects" (EF, p. 166). But that image of the body is, as Lacan describes it a moment later, a "wandering shadow," a shadow that cannot be secured. It is also dreamlike in that it is a "likeness that refers eternally to likeness." In applying Blanchot's words here the likeness I now have in mind is that of subject to object, object to subject, and the futile oscillation between them in search of a foundational priority.

      See also: Peter Schwenger, Writing the Unthinkable  ·  Peter Schwenger, The Masculine Mode

      Peter Schwenger is professor of English at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the author of Phallic Critiques (1984), Letter Bomb (1991), and Fantasm and Fiction: On Textual Envisioning (1999). Currently he is working on The Tears of Things, a study of the melancholy associated with objects.

    • 414Robert S. Nelson
    • For a bit more than a century, teaching and lecturing about art has relied on photographic slides, but what is commonplace today is about to be digitalized into oblivion. New computer technologies will make classrooms "smart" and more efficient and will greatly extend access to the visual for the audiences of well-equipped and well-endowed universities and museums. In the nineteenth century when photography moved beyond the domain of science, the consequences were similar. Processes evolved quickly and in so many directions that for some time it was not clear which systems would prevail. But the history of past technological revolutions—whether roll to codex, manuscript to printed book, or manual typewriter to computer keyboard—suggests that prior customs often continue, even as they cease to be understood.

      See also: Michael Camille, The "Très Riches Heures": An Illuminated Manuscript in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

      Robert S. Nelson teaches in the department of art history and the Committee on the History of Culture at the University of Chicago. He has edited Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance (forthcoming 2000). Currently he is working on a book tentatively titled Remembering Holy Wisdom: Hagia Sophia as Medieval Church and Modern Monument.

    • 435Eugene Y. Wang
    • Can a painting such as the one shown here say anything at all? In Western academic settings questions like this either appear to be worn-out commonplaces that induce yawns or are suspected to be quibbles, equivocation and play on the different senses of the word say. In a different institutional universe, however, these same questions may carry frightening implications. . . .

      It is easier to settle the political scores than the art historical accounts, and it is easier to exonerate the artist than the painting. There is a consensus now that the painter was a victim more sinned against than sinning, that he became an innocent pawn in a game of high-level power politics, and that the inquisition to which the painter and his painting were subjected made a travesty of art criticism. It is not clear, however, how innocent the painting was. Does the painting contain the message it was charged with?

      See also: Christian Sorace, China's Last Communist: Ai Weiwei

      Eugene Y. Wang is assistant professor of art history at Harvard University. He is the author of several articles on medieval Chinese art and modern Chinese visual culture and has translated Roland Barthes's Fragments d'un discours amoureux into Chinese.

    • 474Robert Morris
    • If the pierced and tattooed body has become the canvas, how should art confront a body already presented as art? What role is art to play in an arena where the self-conscious shaping of a lifestyle already frames an aesthetic space around the body? If today the values of entertainment and fashion mediate the merger of art and life, didn't these two always squeeze pretty close together in the heated environment framing an earlier more elite, autonomous art? If art and life have merged in unprecedented ways today the question arises as to what kind of art is present in the merging and what kind of life is being lived in the midst of a new aesthetic saturation? That the nineties appear light-years from the sixties prompts a glance back at a certain art that arose in that time, as well as its lingering legacy in ours. It was within the shadows of a grayer, utilitarian urban space that minimal art of the sixties was born. Where did it come from and what were its values?

      See also: Robert Morris, From a Chomskian Couch: The Imperialistic Unconscious  ·  Robert Morris, Professional Rules

      Robert Morris is an artist who occasionally writes. His collection of essays, Continuous Project, Altered Daily, appeared in 1994. His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry is "Cézanne's Mountains" (Spring 1998).

    • 488Caroline A. Jones
    • Fried cited Kuhn in "Shape and Form" in order to claim a radical "nonreductivism" he had not previously espoused and in order to avoid the dead end that notions of progress seemed suddenly to present for his preferred form of contemporary art. And yet the tension in Fried between a nonreductivist contextualism and an evolutionary progressivism preceded both his own work and Kuhn's. It is a tension that can be found in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions itself, and it haunts the very epistemology on which that book builds its central claims. Kuhn's important thesis that science need not be seen as cumulative to be science was easily lost in his book's overarching evolutionary narrative of "revolutions," each one better fitting the anomalies and puzzles thrown out by its predecessor theories.18 The question in both Kuhn and Fried is this: is the paradigm just any old functioning toolkit, or is the paradigm the only possible conceptual framework for its time, uniquely suited to its specific, present, advanced moment?

      18. I take on the distinction between "evolution from" and "evolution to" briefly below. Stephen Jay Gould's recent defense of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as not dependent on evolutionary metaphors, and Steven Weinberg's recent dismissal of Kuhn on similar grounds, demonstrate the currency of the debate. See Stephen Jay Gould, "Kuhn's Impact on the Practice of Science," paper delivered 20 Nov. 1997, Boston University Colloquium on the History and Philosophy of Science, and Steven J. Weinberg, "A Designer Universe?" New York Review of Books, 21 Oct. 1999, pp. 46-48.

      See also: Caroline A. Jones, Finishing School: John Cage and the Abstract Expressionist Ego  ·  Peter Galison, Aufbau/Bauhaus: Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism

      Caroline A. Jones is associate professor of contemporary art and criticism at Boston University. The author of The Machine in the Studio (1996), she is completing a project entitled Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg and American Art. Her previous publication in Critical Inquiry was "Finishing School: John Cage and the Abstract Expressionist Ego" (Summer 1993).

    • 529James Goodwin
    • Where revolutionary events were concerned, the imagination of Sergei Eisenstein (1898­­-1948) would often invoke images of execution and dismemberment at the center of a more general scene of horrifying and exalted violence. As a boy in Riga in the time of the tsar, Eisenstein recalled later in life, he had begun to recognize some of the bitter realities of Great Russian colonial domination. In reaction, Eisenstein escaped into universalist political fantasies stimulated by the books on the French Revolution and the Paris Commune that he found in his father's library. But through a union of extremes that became characteristic, impassioned democratic promise took shape in his imagination in the form of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror and the guillotine. At the time of the February Revolution in 1917, Eisenstein fancied becoming involved in the unprecedented events around him, but he wondered "what sort of a history was it, if there was no guillotine?!"1

      · 1. Sergei Eisenstein, Beyond the Stars: The Memoirs of Sergei Eisenstein, trans. William Powell, ed. Richard Taylor, vol. 4 of Selected Works (London, 1995), p. 62; hereafter abbreviated BS.

      See also: Slavoj Žižek, A Plea for Leninist Intolerance

      James Goodwin, professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, is the author of Eisenstein, Cinema, and History (1993), Autobiography: The Self Made Text (1993), and Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema (1994), and editor of Perspectives on Akira Kurosawa (1994). His current book project concerns interrelationships between photography and literature in American culture.

    • 558Timothy Brennan
    • When one sees Orientalism in its proper time and place, it becomes clear that its central construct is not discourse but institution. Said's point is the inescapable fact of dominance in the act of amassing information on an area whose coherence is predicated on an internal, or domestically defined, set of attitudes. The outlook is itself inseparable from the pursuit of policies of expansion, forcible inclusion, and appropriation—the themes he would take up even more explicitly in Culture and Imperialism. The Orientalist system of knowledge conceals preliminary assumptions of an unreflective sort by easing us into the sheer mass of intricate details and documentary "proof" placed in the service of the original concept. The finesse of scholarship is, as it were, made naked here;  its very formidability and grandeur bears an inversely proportional relationship to the more basic questions that prejudice makes elusive: why is one only an "Oriental" in the West, but never in the Orient itself? Why have the subjects never been given (as Said was to put it in a later essay) "permission to narrate"?

      See also: Timothy Brennan, The Empire’s New Clothes  ·  Timothy Brennan, Off the Gangsta Tip: A Rap Appreciation, or Forgetting about Los Angeles

      Timothy Brennan teaches in the department of cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation (1989) and At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (1997).

    • 584Vladimir Jankélévitch, Arnold I. Davidson and Nancy R. Knezevic
    • I say that Fauré and Debussy represent the two faces of humanity's eternal mystery: one that is a sharp (diésé) mystery, stagnant mystery of noonday, mystery of nothingness, of immobility, and of meridian despair; the other that is a flat (bémolisé) mystery, mystery of midnight, of hope, and of rushing water. Fauré's ascensional arabesque undergoes the decorporealizing attraction of heights, whereas the melisma turned downward obeys, with Debussy, the mortal fascination of matter and of depth. This is all the distance from a fate that has broken down to a fate resolved. A barcarole follows its course; Nell follows its course; Clair de lune, which claims to be a minuet, follows its course. Liquid impromptus, nocturnes gliding like rivers, waters not stagnant and stagnating like in Le Promenoir des deux amants, but fleeting and protean! Midnight, the hour of the greatest darkness, is also that of the most fervent hope.

      Vladimir Jankélévitch held the chair of moral philosophy at the Sor-bonne from 1951 until his death in 1985. His written work comprises more than twenty volumes, including Bergson (1931), Traités des vertus (1951), Le Pardon (1967), La Musique et l'ineffable (1961), Fauré et l'inexprimable (1974), and Debussy et le mystere de l'instant (1989). Arnold I. Davidson, executive editor of Critical Inquiry, is professor of philosophy and divinity and a member of the Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of Science at the University of Chicago. He has most recently edited Foucault and His Interlocutors and is the general editor of the English edition of Michel Foucault's courses at the Collège de France. His forthcoming book is The Emergence of Sexuality: Historical Epistemology and the Formation of Concepts. Nancy R. Knezevic is pursuing a Ph.D. in the department of romance languages and literatures at the University of Chicago.

    • 591Tania Modleski
    • It is a sign of the evisceration of political criticism within the academy that the so-called feminist discussion of sexual harassment policies and teacher-student sex that appears in the pages of Critical Inquiry starts out with a piece by Jane Gallop ("Resisting Reasonableness," Critical Inquiry 25 [Spring 1999]: 599-609), who never once brings up the issue of power, and is followed by a response written by a male professor, James Kincaid ("Pouvoir, Flicite, Jane, et Moi (Power, Bliss, Jane, and Me)," Critical Inquiry 25 [Spring 1999]: 610-16), my colleague at USC, who nevertheless takes her to task for being too indebted to a theory of power. It is stunning how little time is spent by any of the contributors discussing the most typical kinds of sexual harassment and teacher-student sex that go on in the academy and that have been contested over the years by feminists, with limited success. The norm involves a male superior and a female subordinate and often involves an abuse of—yes, I'll say it at the risk of setting off my colleague Jim Kincaid again—power.

      Tania Modleski is the Florence R. Scott Professor of English at the University of Southern California and the author of several books, including Feminism without Women: Culture and Criticism in a Postfeminist Age (1991) and, most recently, Old Wives' Tales and Other Women's Stories (1998).

    • 601Lisa Ruddick
    • In "Resisting Reasonableness," Jane Gallop develops an "exorbitant" theory of pedagogy, exploring the meanings of good teaching "via a relatively rare and marginal case," namely, the situation in which a woman student actively consents to sex or an intensive flirtation with a teacher who is a woman and a feminist (Jane Gallop, "Resisting Reasonableness," Critical Inquiry 25 [Spring 1999]: 608). Gallop's position, an elaboration of the arguments originally made in her book Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment, is that this erotic configuration intensifies the conditions for good pedagogy by humanizing the teacher-student relationship and opening avenues for the student's experience of her own sexual and intellectual power. I have just spent a sobering week reading some of the standard current psychoanalytic texts on boundary violations in professional relationships; while this reading has had the wished-for effect of refining my sense of what's wrong with Gallop's argument, it has had the further effect of making her position now look worse to me than it did before, not at all quirky or challenging but dispiritingly consistent with the everyday profile of the professional who abuses a power differential and knowingly or unknowingly hurts the person entrusted to his or her care.

      Lisa Ruddick is associate professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Reading Gertrude Stein: Body, Text, Gnosis (1990). She is currently working on a book on intuition and brutality in academic life.

    • 610Terry Caesar
    • Let me put this more strenuously. It's simply outrageous to read of "the dissertator-supervisor relation" characterized so breezily and from such a lofty position that the relation becomes almost piquant. In order to argue for a fuller pedagogical comprehension whereby each person in the relation can theoretically fuck the other, Gallop must dismiss a more routine understanding whereby in actual practice one gets fucked by the other—every day, hundreds of times, all across the country and around the world.

      Terry Caesar is senior professor of American literature at Mukogawa Women's University, Japan, and professor of English at Clarion University. He is the author of two books on academic life—Conspiring with Forms (1992) and Writing in Disguise (1998)—as well as a study of American travel writing, Forgiving the Boundaries (1995).

    • 615James R. Kincaid
    • What puzzles me is why both Caesar and Modleski write as if Gallop and the rest of us pose some real threat to power thinking, as if we were the visible edge of a huge hidden wave of reckless hedonists ready to swamp the academy. Modleski in particular employs a doomsday rhetoric most often associated with Allan Bloom and others on the way-right: "It is a sign of the evisceration of. . . " "Have things come to such a pass?" C'mon. The Universalist Power Church could hardly be more secure. Why is it worried about a few academic splinter groups—relativists, free-thinkers, deconstructionists, Wiccans, and lizard lovers? I think it is because power is so enamored of itself and produces such a heady self-righteousness that it is nearly irresistible. Were I able to do the power game, I'm sure I'd be subject to its allurements, too. But I'm not, so I'm not.

      James R. Kincaid is Aerol Arnold Professor of English at the University of Southern California and author, most recently, of Child-Loving (1992), Annoying the Victorians (1995), and Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting (1998).

    • 619Ann Pellegrini
    • Modleski wants to know about the "material consequences of actual laws on actual people"? Well, this application of justice might send queers and feminists alike (and these categories are not mutually exclusive) heading for cover. Moreover, as Halley argues, legal common sense like this opens the door for "sex harassment enforcement [to] become sexuality harassment." To bring this concern to a Foucauldian point: In the name of fighting the power, sex harassment policies may become a ruse of power.

      Ann Pellegrini is an associate professor of women's studies at Barnard College. She is the author of Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race (1997) and coeditor of the forthcoming Queer Theory and the Jewish Question. She is currently completing a jointly written project, with Janet Jakobsen, on religion and sexual regulation in contemporary American life.