Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Summer 2013

Volume 39 Issue 4
    • 647Gary Tomlinson
    • Start at the end: Humans today make music. Think beyond all the usual qualifications to this statement: that only certain humans make music; that extensive training is involved; that many societies distinguish musical specialists from nonmusicians; that in modern societies most listen to music rather than make it; and so forth. These qualifications, whatever their local merit, are moot in the face of the overarching truth that making music, from a cognitive and psychological vantage, is the province of all those who perceive and experience what is made. We are, almost all of us, musicians—everyone who can entrain (not necessarily dance) to a beat, who can recognize a repeated tune (not necessarily sing it), who can distinguish one instrument or one singing voice from another. I will often use an antique word, recently revived, to name this broader musical experience. Humans are musicking creatures.

      Gary Tomlinson is John Hay Whitney Professor of Music and Humanities at Yale University and director of the Whitney Humanities Center there. His most recent book is The Singing of the New World: Indigenous Voice in the Era of European Contact. The present essay introduces themes developed in his forthcoming 1,000,000 Years of Music.

      See also: Jonathan Kramnick, Against Literary Darwinism · Ingrid Monson, Hearing, Seeing and Perceptual Agency · Siegmund Levarie, Noise · Gary Tomlinson, Music and the Claims of Text: Monteverdi, Rinuccini, and Marino

    • 676Nick Salvato
    • Over the past decade or so, I have often thought that, because of the co-constitution of my deep knowledge of her corpus and my extensive attachment to large parts of it, Tori Amos would make a terrific object for my own critical inquiry. And I have just as often thought, and for precisely the same reasons, that Amos would make a terrible object for the kind of critical inquiry in which I typically engage. In describing my attachment to Amos's music as embarrassing and thus terrible for a project such as the very one on which I have now embarked, I should hasten to add that no obsolescently (if not obsoletely) disdainful reluctance to engage mass culture critically—and no equally disdainful move, in critically engaging it, to dismiss it as mere kitsch—has driven my reticence about Amos.

      Nick Salvato is associate professor in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. His first book, Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance (2010), is part of the series Yale Studies in English. He guest edited a special issue, “Gossip,” for Modern Drama, where he is the book review editor. This article is adapted from his current book project, Obstruction, which investigates the value to intellectual work of putatively impedimental experiential phenomena like embarrassment, laziness, slowness, cynicism, and digressiveness.

      See also: Richard Shusterman, Rap Remix: Pragmatism, Postmodernism, and Other Issues in the House · Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Contingencies of Value · John Limon, “The Shame of Abu Ghraib”

    • 703Timothy Hampton
    • “Demonstrators found our house and paraded up and down in front of it chanting and shouting, demanding for me to come out and lead them somewhere—stop shirking my duties as the conscience of a generation. … The neighbors hated us. To them it must have seemed like I was something out of a carnival show.”1 So writes Bob Dylan in his memoirs about his life in the late 1960s. Having given up performing after a motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan was in semiretirement, trying to raise a family. Yet, at the same time, in the larger public imagination, he was expected and assumed to be everywhere, including the famous Woodstock festival, which was associated with him because of his earlier residence in the village of Woodstock. Indeed, the more Dylan was absent in the late 1960s the more he was present. His existence in the popular imagination was precisely that of a specter.

      1. Bob Dylan, Chronicles (New York, 2004), p. 118.

      Timothy Hampton is professor of comparative literature and chair of the French department at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent book is Fictions of Embassy: Literature and Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe (2010). He is currently working on two projects: a study of multilingualism in the Renaissance and a history of cheerfulness from Shakespeare to Facebook.

      See also: Carrie Jaurès Noland, Rimbaud and Patti Smith: Style as Social Deviance · Barrett Watte, The Turn to Language and the 1960s

    • 732Wai Chee Dimock
    • How to theorize the extended and continually changing relations among genres? As a taxonomy, a teleology, or something looser, rangier? Would it make sense to begin, not with formal properties, but with a phenomenal register more or less ad hoc, more or less episodic, namely, the impromptu meetings occasioned by citations and cross-references, and the proliferating threads of association that result? Since such a register cannot be formalized or rise to the requisite height of generalization, what low-level theorizing might it support? And what literary history emerges on this modest platform?

      Wai Chee Dimock is William Lampson Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University. Her recent books include Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time and a coedited volume, Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature.

      See also: Wai Chee Dimock, I Low Epic · Jacques Derrida and Avital Ronell, The Law of Genre

    • 754Stefani Engelstein
    • A growing majority of Americans now support legalizing same-sex marriage, a position that has recently won significant victories in courts and voting booths, as well as endorsements from politicians, both Democratic and, in smaller numbers, Republican. Opposition remains vigorous and durable, however, and divergent views on same-sex marriage have joined those on abortion rights as indicators of a deep fault line in American culture. A closer analysis of both sides of the debate, however, reveals a common legacy that has escaped notice and that continues to constrain both liberal and conservative politics. While proponents of legalizing same-sex marriage rely primarily on the language and precedents of civil rights and constitutionality, conservative opponents of same-sex marriage most frequently draw on the rhetoric of sexual complementarity. Complementarity—the idea that men and women have distinct but reciprocally attuned bodies, attributes, and dispositions, so that they together, as a heterosexual couple, create a single, functional unit—first arose during the Enlightenment in tandem with the modern conception of two biological sexes. Complementarity was originally understood to be manifested both physically, in sexual union, and morally, in the newly validated affect of love, thus conforming to the dual nature of the human. The two sides of the same-sex marriage debate therefore offer seemingly incommensurable arguments, relying on divergent understandings of the essential building blocks of society: the individual on the one hand and the family on the other.

      Stefani Engelstein is the director of the Life Sciences and Society Program and associate professor of German at the University of Missouri. She is the author of Anxious Anatomy: The Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse (2008) and coeditor, with Carl Niekerk, of Contemplating Violence: Critical Studies in Modern German Culture (2011). She is currently completing a book entitled Sibling Logic: Genealogy, Incest, and Collective Identities as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin.

      See also: Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, Sex in Public · Anca Parvulescu, European Kinship: Eastern European Women Go to Market · David Nirenberg, The Politics of Love and Its Enemies

    • 777Inga Pollmann
    • In 1934, German biologist Jakob von Uexküll published his second book intended for general audiences. A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: Picture Book of Invisible Worlds promised its readers “worlds [that] are not only unknown; they are also invisible.”3 At the same time, it invited its reader to change drastically her or his very way of seeing and step into a new world:

      We begin such a stroll on a sunny day before a flowering meadow in which insects buzz and butterflies flutter, and we make a bubble around each of the animals living in the meadow. The bubble represents each animal's environment [Umwelt] and contains all the features accessible to the subject. As soon as we enter into one such bubble, the previous surroundings of the subject are completely reconfigured. Many qualities of the colorful meadow vanish completely, others lose their coherence with one another, and new connections are created. A new world arises in each bubble. [FW, p. 43]

      Uexküll's romantic, pastoral image of the leisurely stroll through a summer meadow may initially suggest a familiar scene to the casual reader—an outdoor enthusiast or occasional birdwatcher, perhaps, convinced of the benefits of fresh air, constitutionals, physical exercise, and a general sense of the beautiful and at times sublime nature surrounding her. The second half of the sentence, though, transforms this image and its corresponding mood into a fantastic scenario by means of fanciful soap bubbles “we make” around each creature. Yet even this step—from the pastoral to the fantastic—is simply a precondition for an even more radical transformation of perception, one that promises the reader the possibility of stepping into a completely alien and unfamiliar world, much in the way that Lewis Carroll's Alice entered Wonderland—or, for that matter, the way that the city stroller entered the movie theater.

      3. Jakob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, in “A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans,” with “A Theory of Meaning,” trans. Joseph D. O'Neil (Minneapolis, 2010), p. 41; hereafter abbreviated as FW.

      Inga Pollmann is assistant professor of German in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

      See also: Dudley Andrew, The Core and the Flow of Film Studies · Miriam Bratu Hansen, Benjamin and Cinema: Not a One-Way Street · Hannah Landecker, Cellular Features: Microcinematography and Film Theory

    • 817Colin Koopman and Tomas Matza
    • Is there a single area of intellectual inquiry in the humanities and social sciences where the work of Michel Foucault is not taken seriously? Discipline, biopolitics, governmentality, power/knowledge, subjectivation, genealogy, archaeology, problematization—these are just a few of the many Foucaultisms that have been adopted in fields such as philosophy, sociology, cultural anthropology, political science, history, literary studies, area studies, and much else besides. Just a short list of the forms of Foucault's influence would necessarily include certain of his philosophical commitments, methodological strategies, discursive resources, and materials for reflection.

      Colin Koopman is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon. His publications include Genealogy as Critique: Foucault and the Problems of Modernity (2013) and Pragmatism as Transition: Historicity and Hope in James, Dewey, and Rorty (2009). His current pursuits are centered around a project on methodology and normativity in postmetaphysical philosophy, as well as research on the political history of information with special attention to informational inflections of liberalism. Tomas Matza is an ACLS-Mellon New Faculty Fellow at Duke University's Department of Cultural Anthropology, and Slavic and Eurasian Studies. His current projects include a book, tentatively entitled Subjects of Freedom: Psychologists, Power, and Personhood in Postsocialist Russia and a coedited volume (with Kevin Lewis O'Neill) entitled Politically Unwilling. His new research interests are oriented around climate change, the anthropocene, and the social and political life of carbon commodity chains.

      See also: Michel Foucault, The Subject and Power · Teresa de Lauretis, The Stubborn Drive · Jean and John Comaroff, Criminal Obsessions, after Foucault: Postcoloniality, Policing, and the Metaphysics of Disorder

    • 841Lisa Wedeen
    • As demonstrations gained momentum and the regime responded by attempting to crush dissent, the public prominence of market-oriented preoccupations with lifestyle and luxury gave way to anxieties of conspiracy and disorder—at least among the country's staunch supporters of the regime. For others dreaming of an end to the regime or worrying more about crop failure or lax morals than what to wear to the party, the military's return to the streets nevertheless laid bare what is often identified as a key feature of autocracy—its reliance on coercive power to squelch unrest. Recent aesthetic displacement onto such concerns as fashion choices could no longer distract from the inequality generated by market openings and the endless deferral of political reforms. Nor could glamor and glitz obscure the regime's preference for handling protest by promising redress while acting to destroy all perceived threats to its survival. And, yet, even as Syrians were joining the protests in locales throughout the country—in Syria's two major cities, Aleppo (Syria's key commercial hub) and Damascus—the population failed to mobilize in significant numbers. The question is why not? And why did this reluctance to participate actively in the uprising seem to be changing in the spring of 2012—before events countrywide took an overwhelmingly violent turn, thereby making large-scale peaceful demonstrations unlikely anywhere?4

      4. To be clear, I am not arguing that populations in these cities will not end up demonstrating widespread support for the toppling of the regime, but they have not done so publicly yet, and the circumstances of outright war at present make large peaceful demonstrations unlikely in the near future.

      Lisa Wedeen is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and the College and the codirector of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. Her publications include Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria (1999) and Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power and Performance in Yemen (2008). She is currently working on a book about ideological interpellation, neoliberal autocracy, and generational change in present-day Syria.

      See also: Lauren Berlant, Slow Death (Sovereignty, Obesity, Lateral Agency) · Nasser Rabbat, The Arab Revolution Takes Back the Public Space · Malika Zeghal, On the Politics of Sainthood: Resistance and Mimicry in Postcolonial Morocco

    • 874Miriam Ross
    • While the new wave of scholarship on stereoscopy is to be welcomed and is increasing in strength, the field often suffers from a lack of rigorous historical investigation. There are numerous 3-D myths in circulation, particularly on internet sites and in journalistic accounts. Although they attest to the popularity of stereoscopy in the public imagination, they often make erroneous claims that alter and shift our understanding of stereoscopy's development and reception. Unfortunately, Elsaesser's essay contributes to the substantiation of some of these myths. While the errors are minor and do not detract from the many noteworthy points made in Elsaesser's arguments, they are worth correcting as they have significant implications for the way in which we understand stereoscopy's history.

      Miriam Ross is lecturer in film at Victoria University of Wellington and administrator of

      See also: Thomas Elsaesser, The “Return” of 3-D: On Some of the Logics and Genealogies of the Image in the Twenty-First Century

    • 884James W. Williams
    • We are delighted to announce that Frances Ferguson, the Ann L. and Lawrence B. Buttenwieser Professor in the Department of English at the University of Chicago, will be joining the editorial group of Critical Inquiry effective immediately. She is the author of Solitude and the Sublime and Pornography, the Theory.

      Joel Snyder has accepted what we like to think of as a promotion to the exalted status of consulting editor, where he joins Dipesh Chakrabarty and Arnold Davidson as valued advisors to the journal. Joel has been a mainstay of the journal since 1981 and has authored numerous classic articles on photography and optical technologies, including “Picturing Vision,” “Las Meninas and the Mirror of the Prince,” and (with Neil Walsh Allen) “Photography, Vision, and Representation.”