Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 1975

Volume 2 Issue 2
    • 199Northrop Frye
    • This article grew out of a profound disinclination to make the kind of comment that I was invited to make on Angus Fletcher's article in a previous issue [June 1975]. I felt that such a writer as Mr. Fletcher, who clearly understands me, and, more important, himself, ought to be allowed the last word on both subjects. Besides that, I have a rooted dislike of the "position paper" genre. In all arts, adhering to a school and issuing group manifestoes and statements of common aims is a sign of youthfulness, and to some degree of immaturity; as a painter or writer or other creative person grows older and acquires more authority, he tends to withdraw from all such organizations and become simply himself. Others in the same field become friends or colleagues rather than allies. I see no reason why that should not be the normal tendency in criticism and scholarship also. About twenty years ago I was asked, in a hotel lobby during an MLA conference, "What is your position relative to Kenneth Burke?" I forgot what I mumbled, but my real answer was, first, that I hadn't the least idea and, second, that anyone who could really answer such a question would have to be a third person, neither Burke nor Frye.

      See also: Angus Fletcher, Northrop Frye: The Critical Passion

      Northrop Frye's contribution to contemporary thought has been discussed by prominent critics in Northup Frye in Modern Criticism: Selected Papers from the English Institute (1966). The most comprehensive bibliography of his publications and of commentaries on them has been compiled by Robert D. Denham in Northup Frye: An Enumerative Bibliography (1974). Angus Fletcher's interpretation of Professor Frye's works, "The Critical Passion," appeared in the June 1975 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 217Harold Rosenberg
    • The aesthetic is present everywhere—in the street, in department stores, movie houses, mountainsides, as in the art gallery, the cathedral, the sacred grove. By universalizing the concept of the aesthetic, modern art has destroyed the barrier that once marked off Beauty and the Sublime as separate realms of being. In the eyes of modern art and modernist aesthetics, anything can legitimately appeal to taste. President Eisenhower, complaining about modern art, said that he had been brought up to believe that art was intended to carry one away from the dangers and unpleasantness of everyday life but that the new paintings (Abstract Expressionist) reminded him of traffic accidents. A recent statement by Francis Bacon, the celebrated British painter, also mentions traffic accidents. Bacon agrees with Ike that this type of event is not excluded by modern art. But Bacon finds traffic accidents to be a source of beauty. "If you see somebody lying on the pavement with the blood streaming from him," he explains in the catalogue of his exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in spring 1975, "that is in itself—the color of the blood against the pavement—very invigorating . . . exhilarating. . . . In all the motor accidents I've seen, people strewn across the road, the first thing you think of is the strange beauty."

      See also: Dore Ashton, On Harold Rosenberg

      Harold Rosenberg is a professor, poet and art critic for the New Yorker. Among his influential works are The Tradition of the New, The Anxious Object, Artworks and Packages, Act and Actor, The De-Definition of Art, Discovering the Present, and Art on the Edge.

    • 233Harold Bloom
    • The strong word and stance issue only from a strict will, a will that dares the error of reading all of reality as a text, and all prior texts as openings for its own totalizing and unique interpretations. Strong poets present themselves as looking for truth in the world, searching in reality and in tradition, but such a stance, as Nietzsche said, remains under the mastery of desire, of instinctual drives. So, in effect, the strong poet wants pleasure and not truth; he wants what Nietzsche named as "the belief in truth and the pleasurable effects of this belief." No strong poet can admit that Nietzsche was accurate in this insight, and no critic need fear that any strong poet will accept and so be hurt by demystification. The concern of this book, as of my earlier studies in poetic misprision, is only with strong poets, which in this series of chapters is exemplified by the major sequence of High Romantic British and American poets: Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, Emerson, Whitman, and Stevens, but also throughout by two of the strongest poets in the European Romantic tradition: Nietzsche and Freud. By "poet" I therefore do not mean only verse-writer, as the instance of Emerson also should make clear.


      Harold Bloom is DeVane Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. This article is the first chapter of his new book, Poetry and Repression, to be published by the Yale University Press. The book completes a tetralogy, of which the earlier volumes are The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, and Kabbalah and Criticism.


      See also: Jerome J. Gann, Formalism, Savagery, and Care; or, The Function of Criticism Once Again • David D. Cooper, The Poet as Elaborator: Analytical Psychology as a Critical Paradigm

    • 253Bruce Morrissette
    • This essay does not aim to investigate film-novel relationships per se, although the fact that the two genres now share certain generative procedures may be further evidence that fiction in print and on film lie to a great extent in a unified field not only of diegesis but also of structure.


      A diachronic or historical approach to the theory of fictional generators would show that, with the shifts which have occurred on present-day aesthetic thought, much of what once was considered to be a static analysis of retrospective rules or established forms could now be regarded as the disguised beginning of generative theory. Aristotle's seemingly static doctrines of dramatic structure, involving such notions as peripeteia, discovery, or unity of action, to the extent that dramatists had consciously or unconsciously followed such doctrines, obviously served the production of their works, as well as their later analysis. In fact, any sort of artistic intentionality constitutes a kind of "generator," as does the deliberate adherence to outward forms as rhyme schemes, stanzas, cantos, or chapters. As we shall see, it is not always easy to distinguish between generative formulas and self-imposed forms or limits, such as the sonnet with its fourteen lines, its quatrains, and its tercets. Although the most advanced practitioners of generative theory, like Jean Ricardou, seem to view their work as a radical break with the past and the discovery of an entirely new domain of fiction, literary history would provide innumerable examples of precedents, from antiquity through the Grands Rhétoriqueurs, the Gongorists and Baroque poets, and many subsequent groups of writers down to and including the pre-modern and modern periods.

      See also: Alain Robbe-Grillet and Bruce Morrissette, Order and Disorder in Film and Fiction

      Bruce Morrissette has published widely on French fiction of the classical period, Rimbaud and the Symbolist movement, the Nouveau Roman and Robbe-Grillet, and on contemporary film. He is the Sunny Distinguished Service Professor and Chairman of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago. He translated Alain Robbe-Grillet's "ARTISTS ON ART: Order and Disorder in Film and Fiction" for the Autumn 1977 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 263Berel Lang
    • It is a continuing irony that in an age of philosophical self-consciousness philosophers have been largely indifferent to questions about their own means of expression. It is as though they have tacitly established a distinction between form and matter, and had also asserted an order of priority between them: the "matter" was what they would deal with—the form of its expression being an accidental feature of the acts of conception and communication. To be sure, there is a method, or at least a dogma, behind this inclination. If one assumed that philosophical discourse cloaks the outline of a natural propositional logic, then the mode of discourse would indeed be arbitrarily related to its substance; at most, the medium of discourse would reflect an aesthetic decision—where "aesthetic" is meant to suggest a matter of taste, and "taste" in turn, a noncognitive ground. However one first put the utterance, it could be translated into a proposition of standard form which was either true or false.

      See also: Berel Lang, Looking for the Styleme

      Berel Lang, professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, has written Art and Inquiry and numerous scholarly articles, edited the forthcoming Philosophical Style: An Anthology about the Writing and Reading of Philosophy, and coedited Marxism and Art: Writings in Aesthetics and Criticism. He has contributed "Style as Instrument, Style as Person" (Summer 1978) to Critical Inquiry. The present article stems from his current work on philosophical and literary style.

    • 281Arthur Heiserman
    • It seems that a Greek romance named Chaereas and Callirhoe—if it was in fact written about A.D. 50—might be the oldest extant romantic novel.1 Chaucer's Troilus, Chretien's Erec, Apuleius' Metamorphoses, and for all l know Homer's Odyssey have already blushed under this dubious accolade; and I do not mean to celebrate an old Greek book by thrusting an English genre-label upon it. But nothing quite like Callirhoe survives from an earlier period of western literature; and following our inclination to comprehend such a phenomenon by fitting it into familiar categories we would call it a Greek romance because it is written in Greek, a novel because it is an extensive prose fiction of ordinary moral life that conforms to a recognizable canon of realism, and a romance because its admirable protagonists suffer the most serious threats to their lives and values but survive them all. Its author, a certain Chariton of Aphrodisia, a small city in the province of Caria in Asia Minor, places his book about Callirhoe in the Hellenistic genre of the erotikon pathematon—a story of erotic suffering. This is an accurate label and perhaps a bold one, as erotic pathemata were thought to be more suitable for epic or elegiac verse than for prose. In any case, I am not here concerned to argue that Callirhoe is the precursor of such entities as the novel, nor to speculate about its cultural origins, nor to point out its obvious likenesses to later narratives. I do want to discuss the habits of narrative art Chariton exploits in his book, and to explore a few of the ways he makes erotic suffering pleasurable for his readers—us, and the leisured, literate members (perhaps mostly ladies) of the bourgeois households that had for centuries flourished in the great Hellenic cities of the eastern Mediterranean basin.


      ·  1. I accept the date accepted by Ben E. Perry, The Ancient Romances (Berkeley, Calif., 1967), p. 350. The standard edition is W.E. Blake's (Oxford Classical Texts [Oxford, 1938]), whose translation (Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe [Ann Arbor, Mich., 1939]) I use throughout. Chariton's work did not see print until 1750, so it did not enjoy the vogue enjoyed by other Greek romances (Heliodorus' Aethiopika, Longus' Daphnis and Chloe, etc.) in the Renaissance.

      See also: Sheldon Sacks and Wayne C. Booth, Arthur Heiserman 1929-1975

      Arthur Heiserman is the author of several articles, short stories, and Skelton and Satire. 'Aphrodisian Chastity" will appear as a chapter in his forthcoming book, Romance in Antiquity: Essays and Discussions about the Beginnings of Prose Fiction in the West.

    • 297Giulio Carlo Argan
    • Is it possible to compose a history of images? It is obvious that history can be composed only from that which is intrinsically historical; history has an order of its own because it interprets and clarifies an order which already exists in the facts. But is there an order in the birth, multiplication, combination, dissolution and re-synthesis of images? Mannerism had discredited or demystified form with its pretense of reproducing an order which does not exist in reality. But is the world of existence, like the world of images, chaos or cosmos?


      Erwin Panofsky's1 great merit consists in having understood that, in spite of its confused appearance, the world of images is an ordered world and that it is possible to do the history of art as the history of images. In order to do this, he had to begin, as indeed he did, with the demonstration that classical art, in spite of the deep-rooted theoretical certitude, is also an art of the image; its forms are nothing if not images to which one tries to attribute the consistency of concepts, with the sole result of the demonstrating that even concepts are images and that the intellect is still another sector or segment of the image.


      ·  1. See, e.g., Erwin Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Art: Papers in and on Art History (Garden City, N.Y., 1957; Harmondsworth, 1970); Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (New York, 1939, 1962, 1967); Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic (New York, 1969); Idea: Ein Beitrag zur Begriffsgeshicte der älteren Kunsttheorie (Leipzig and Berlin, 1924) [Idea: a concept in art theory, trans. Joseph J. S. Peake (Columbia, S.C., 1968)].

      See also: Jaś Elsner, The Genesis of Iconology

      Giulio Carlo Argan, who has seriously influenced the course of art history and criticism in postwar Italy, is professor of modern (post-medieval) art at the University of Rome. He has written on Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Borromini, Brunelleschi, and Gropius and three volumes of critical essays on modern art. His Skira volume on Baroque art, Europe of the Capitals, is his only major work published in English. "Ideology and Iconology" originally appeared in Italian in the journal Storia dell'arte, which he edits, and in Psicon. Rebecca West, translator of this article and assistant professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago, presently is collaborating on a translation of Dario Fo's theater. She has translated "Narrative Structures and Literary History" by Cesare Segre, for the Winter 1976 issue of Critical Inquiry.

    • 307Robert L. Carringer
    • It is widely thought that what finally characterizes American literary narratives is a preoccupation with Americanness. If the "great theme" of European fiction has been "man's life in society," Walter Allen writes in The Modern Novel, "the great theme of American fiction has been the exploration of what it means to be an American." The best American film narratives also seem to bear out this proposition, especially those of the great American naturals like Griffith and Ford and Hawks, and most especially Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), regarded by many as the greatest American film. Welles' film belongs to that category of narratives which take a prominent figure from contemporary American life (here William Randolph Hearst) and use him to stand for what are conceived to be representative traits of the collective American character. Understandably, then, there are many general resemblances in the film to other well-known stories of American entrepreneurs, magnates, and tycoons. Long before the flourishing of tycoon biographies in the American sound film, well before F. Scott Fitzgerald or Sinclair Lewis or Theodore Dreiser, before even Henry James, certain conventions and associations had become well established in stories of this type. The up-and-coming young American was shrewd and practical, an image of compulsive energy, a man with his eye always on the future. His Americanness also consisted of such traits as enterprise, indomitable idealism, a certain naturalness and openness to experience, and a relentless will to succeed. His geographical origin could be made to carry moral force, and he or another character who equated American commercial noblesse oblige with universal morality could be a useful thematic touchstone.

      See also: Robert L. Carringer, The Scripts of "Citizen Kane"

      Robert L. Carringer is an assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He teaches and writes on film, American literature, and interdisciplinary approaches to literature. This study is the first in a series of essays in progress on American films and American narrative tradition. He has also contributed "The Scripts of Citizen Kane" (Winter 1978) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 327Wayne C. Booth
    • Mad about it they still were, in 1926, when Hemingway's splendid spoofing appeared in The Sun Also Rises. But it was not everybody who had been responsible. It was mainly Anatole France, abetted by his almost unanimously enthusiastic critics. And of all his works, the one that must have seemed to fit the formula best was Thaïs, already a quarter of a century old when Jake Barnes learned of irony and pity.


      It is not a bad formula for the effect of Thaïs, as formulas go. It is at least as useful—and at least as misleading—as "pity and fear" for tragedy. There is, however, a surprising difference. If I tell you the story of any classical tragedy, even in very brief form, you will know at once why someone might talk about that story using the terms "pity" and "fear." But if I tell you of the priest who lost his soul converting the prostitute, you will not be able to predict any determinate reaction—except perhaps that the story will have for everyone a slight bit of ironic wonder at the grand reversal. In other words, a teller will be able to turn such material almost any direction he chooses, making it into a tragedy, a comedy, a farce, a celebration of God's wonder and mystery—or a tale playing with pity and irony.

      See also: Wright Morris and Wayne C. Booth, The Writing of Organic Fiction: A Conversation

      Wayne C. Booth's most recent books are A Rhetoric of Irony and Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent. He is now completing a book on critical warfare and critical pluralism (a revision of his Christian Gauss seminars at Princeton University, 1974). A version of one chapter from that book, "M.H. Abrams: Historian as Critic, Critic as Pluralist," will appear in the Spring issue of Critical Inquiry. Other contributions to Critical Inquiry include "Kenneth Burke's Way of Knowing" (September 1974), "'Preserving the Exemplar': Or, How Not to Dig our Own Graves" (Spring 1977), "Notes and Exchanges" (Autumn 1977), "Metaphor as Rhetoric: The Problem of Evaluation" (Autumn 1978), "Ten Literal ‘Theses’" (Autumn 1978), with Wright Morris: "The Writing of Organic Fiction: A Conversation" (Winter 1976), and with Robert E. Streeter, W. J. T. Mitchell: "Sheldon Sacks 1930-1979" (Spring 1979).

    • 345T. H. Adamowski
    • To compare a novel to a work of philosophy is, admittedly, a risky exercise in analogy. When the novelist is Lawrence and the philosophical text is the ponderous and dialectical Being and Nothingness, such a comparison may seem willfully perverse and peculiarly open, insofar as it deals with Lawrence's great theme of sexuality, to his anathema of "sex in the head." Furthermore, modern criticism, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, has tended to be wary of critical approaches that lean on notions that are not derived from literature itself - a tendency that is being reinforced these days by the structuralist insistence on the "literariness" of the Text. Now, despite its metaphorical statement as a form of dramatic "gesture," Sartre's book is very definitely not a work of literature.

      See also: Leonard B. Meyer, Concerning the Sciences, the Arts: And the Humanities

      T.H. Adamowski, associate professor of English at Erindale College, the University of Toronto, has written articles on English, American, and French literature. This essay is part of a larger study on progress on Lawrence's "sexual poetics."

    • 369Martin Price
    • Rawdon Wilson's "On Character" raised a great many questions, and I should like to deal with lesser matters before going on to those of more consequence. He has found in my work the Fallacy of Novelistic Presumption. To commit this unnatural act is to assume "that the novel (whatever it is) possesses a history that is independent of other modes of fiction and that it may be discussed independently of the history of literature." Let me say at the outset that I am not trying to frame a restrictive definition of the novel. Novels are whatever most critics agree to call novels, and if I speak of "the novel" I can only hope that the phrase will be taken as convenient shorthand rather than an attempt to define an essence. And of course the novel has a history of its own, just as the state of Connecticut has a history even as it remains one of the fifty states, just as literature has a history although it is only one of the arts or institutions of our culture. Mr. Wilson wants a theory of characters that "will necessarily account for - go to the heart of - all instances of character, symbolic, allegorical, naturalistic, whether in the novel, in epic, in romance, in drama, or in lyric." To that I can only reply with E.M. Forster's sentence: "We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing."
      In this essay Martin Price, Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of English at Yale University, responds to Rawdon Wilson's "On Character" (Autumn 1975) which raised objections to Price's "People of the Book: Character in Forster's A Passage to India" (March 1975).

    • 380 Lawrence W. Hyman
    • I agree with much of what is said in this article; and I also will quote Roland Barthes, but for a different purpose. But I believe that it is a mistake to judge contextualism by its theory rather than its practice. If we look carefully at what is actually done in contextualist criticism, we will find that the "contradictions in its basic premises" which trouble Wasiolek have also allowed it to overcome the limitations that a strict construction of "autonomy" would impose. We will also find that what really distinguished contextualism, what the concept of autonomy leads to in practice, is not an impoverishment but a deepening and enrichment of the literary experience and, third, that the theoretical developments in other critical schools have vindicated at least one cardinal principle of contextualism, namely, that the meaning of a literary work is inherently ambivalent or indeterminate. By following the lead (and I will explain how this indeterminacy differs from "plurisignification"), we can, I believe, provide a better theoretical base for contextualism, although I am not sure that it would be or should be one that "includes the world rather than excludes it," as Wasiolek demands it (p.627).
      Lawrence W. Hyman professor of English at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, is the author of a book on Milton's poetry,The Quarrel Within, and articles on critical theory. He responds in this essay to Edward Wasiolek's "Wanted: A New Contextualism" (Critical Inquiry, March 1975). Hyman has also contributed "CRITICAL RESPONSE: Harpsichord Exercises and My Lai Massacre" (Summer 1980) to Critical Inquiry.

    • 386Edward Wasiolek
    • The issue is not whether we should or should not reduce the facts of literature to those of some other order or to make it causally dependent on such things as history, religion, or philosophy. These are the phantoms of forty years. Nor is the issue whether a contextualist can be flexible enough to do other kinds of criticism. Empson was a poor contextualist and an atrocious Freudian; and if the man was the same, the activites were not. One can do both in turns and doing both tells us nothing about the flexibility of contextualism. Empson was indefatiable in multiplying ambiguities and notoriously indifferent to contexts, a fact that is drawing some attention and admiration today from some structuralists. Nor is the issue whether or not contextualism has been vindicated by other schools of criticism because it held that poetic language was ambivalent. The  evidence that is brought forth from psychoanalysis to support this point undermines it. If Freudianism holds that poetic language is ambivalent - and it does - then it does not vindicate the contribution of contextualism, since it antedates contextualism by many years. And as a matter of fact, poetic ambivalence has been held by many critics and aestheticians - Croce is an example - long before New Criticism and contextualism. Nor is the issue, finally, wheher or not literature defamiliarizes usual or habituated language. I suppose it does, but this does not tell us very much. The term was used by the Russian Formalists to describe the process by which new literary forms come into being as they separate themselves from "conventionalized" or "canonized" forms. The Russian ostranenie could be translated as "deconventionalizing," just as well as the more usual "making strange," and the less usual "defamiliarization" that Mr. Hyman has taken from Lemon and Reis. The Formalists quickly abandoned the term because it was too vague and general to account for the increasingly complex process that was involved in the interchange of literary forms. The term was not used to describe the relationship of literary language to nonliterary language, as Mr. Hyman uses it. This is a New Critical reflex, which tends always to see the literary context as something opposed to something outside itself. But Mr. Hyman's misuse is also the right use because his misunderstanding and misapplication of the term takes us to the real issue, one that he has been unwilling or unable to face despite all the grace and complaisance of his argument.