Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 1992

Volume 18 Issue 2
    • 161Jacques Derrida
    • One could accuse me here of making a big deal and a whole history out of words and gestures that remain very clear. When Madame de Mainternon says that the King takes her time, it is because she is glad to give it to him and takes pleasure from it: the King takes nothing from her and gives her as much as he takes. And when she says, “I give the rest to Saint-Cyr, to whom I would like to give all,” she is confiding in her correspondent about a daily economy concerning the leisures and charities, the works and days of a “grande dame” somewhat overwhelmed by her obligations. None of the words she writes has the sense of the unthinkable and the impossible toward which my reading would have pulled them, in the direction of giving-taking, of time and the rest. She did not mean to say that, you will say.

      What if … yes she did [Et si].

      And if what she wrote meant to say that, then what would that suppose? How, where, on the basis of what and when can we read this letter fragment as I have done? How could we even hijack it as I have done, while still respecting its literality and its language? End of the epigraph.

      See also: Jacques Derrida, Biodegradables Seven Diary Fragments  ·  Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)

      Jacques Derrida is Directeur d’Études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and professor of French, University of California, Irvine. In the past year, he has published Le Problème de la genèse chez Husserl (1990), Mémoires d’aveugle, l’autoportrait et autres ruines (1990), L’Autre Cap (1991), and Circonfession in Jacques Derrida, with Geoffrey Bennington (1991). Peggy Kamuf is professor of French at the University of Southern California and Directeur de Programme, Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. She is the author of Signature Pieces: On the Institution of Authorship (1988) and most recently has edited A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds (1991).

    • 188Naomi Schor
    • Two widely shared but diametrically opposed views inform what theories we have on the everyday: one, which we might call the feminine or feminist, though it is not necessarily held by women or self-described feminists, links the everyday with the daily rituals of private life carried out within the domestic sphere traditionally presided over by women; the other, the masculine or masculinist, sites the everyday in the public spaces and spheres dominated especially, but not exclusively, in modern Western bourgeois societies by men. According to the one, the everyday is made up of the countless repetitive gestures and small practices that fall under the heading of what the existentialists called the contingent. According to the other, the everyday is made up of the chance encounters of the streets; its hero is not the housewife but the flâneur. In the word of Maurice Blanchot:

      The everyday is human. The earth, the sea, forest, light, night, do not represent everydayness, which belongs first of all to the dense presence of great urban centers. We need these admirable deserts that are the world’s cities for the experience of the everyday to begin to overtake us. The everyday is not at home in our dwelling-places, it is not in offices or churches, any more than in libraries or museums. It is in the street—if it is anywhere.1

      · 1. Maurice Blanchot, “Everyday Speech,” trans. Susan Hanson, in “Everyday Life,” ed. Alice Kaplan and Kristin Ross, special issue of Yale French Studies, no. 73 (1987): 17.

      See also: Naomi Schor, Pensive Texts and Thinking Statues: Balzac with Rodin  ·  Johannes Fabian, Presence and Representation: The Other and Anthropological Writing

      Naomi Schor is the William Hanes Wannamaker Professor Romance Studies at Duke University and coeditor of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. Her most recent book is Reading in Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine (1987). She is currently completing a book entitled George Sand and Idealism.

    • 245Kofi Agawn
    • Among the fields of music study, ethnomusicology has wrestled most self-consciously with matters of representation. Since its inception in the late nineteenth century as vergleischende Musikwissenschaft [comparative musicology] and throughout its turbulent history, ethnomusicology has been centrally and vitally concerned with at least three basic issues and their numerous ramifications. First is the problem of locating disciplinary boundaries: is ethnomusicology a subfield of musicology, does it belong under anthropology or ethnology, or is it an autonomous discipline?1 Second is the problem of translation: what factors influence the attempt to translate the reality of other musical cultures into audio and visual recordings, verbal accounts, and transcriptions in musical notation? Is there a viable “theory of translatability”?2 Third is a network of political and ideological matters: what sorts of ethical issues constrain the practical effort to understand another culture? What is the relation between empire and ethnomusicological representation? Can we—that is, is it a good thing to—study any music without taking note of the social, economic, political, and technological circumstances of its producers?

      · 1. A concise introduction to the field of ethnomusicology, its history, personalities, and method may be found in Barbara Krader, “Ethnomusicology,” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 20 vols. (London, 1980), 6:275-82. The most comprehensive recent discussion of key issues in ethnomusicological research is Bruno Nettl, The Study of Ethnomusicology: Twenty-nine Issues and Concepts (Urbana, Ill., 1983).

      · 2. See Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York, 1983), p. 43.

      See also: Ingrid Monson, Hearing, Seeing, and Perceptual Agency  ·  Edward W.  Said, Representing the Colonized: Anthropology's Interlocutors

      Kofi Agawu teaches at Cornell University and is the author of Playing with Signs: A Semiotic Interpretation of Classic Music (1991).

    • 267James E. Young
    • One of the contemporary results of Germany’s memorial conundrum is the rise of its “counter-monuments”: brazen, painfully self-conscious memorial spaces conceived to challenge the very premises of their being. On the former site of Hamburg’s greatest synagogue, at Bornplatz, Margrit Kahl has assembled an intricate mosaic tracing the complex lines of the synagogue’s roof construction: a palimpsest for a building and community that no longer exist. Norbert Radermacher bathes a guilty landscape in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood with the inscribed light of its past. Alfred Hrdlicka began (but never finished) a monument in Hamburg to counter—and thereby neutralize—an indestructible Nazi monument nearby. In a suburb of Hamburg, Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz have erected a black pillar against fascism and for peace designed to disappear altogether over time. The very heart of Berlin, former site of the gestapo headquarters, remains a great, gaping wound as politicians, artists, and various committees forever debate the most appropriate memorial for this site.4

      · 4. The long-burning debate surrounding projected memorials, to the Gestapo-Gelände in particular, continues to exemplify both the German memorial conundrum and the state’s painstaking attempts to articulate it. For an excellent documentation of the process, see Topographie des Terrors: Gestapo, SS und Reichssicherheitshauptamt auf dem “Prinz-Albrecht-Gelände,” ed. Reinhard Rürup (Berlin, 1987). For a shorter account, see James E. Young, “The Topography of German Memory,” The Journal of Art 1 (Mar. 1991): 30.

      See also:  James E. Young, The Holocaust as Vicarious Past: Art Spiegelman's "Maus" and the Afterimages of History  ·  W. J. T. Mitchell, Image, Space, Revolution: The Arts of Occupation  ·  Michael North, The Public as Sculpture: From Heavenly City to Mass Ornament

      James E. Young is assistant professor of English and Judaic studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation (1988) and The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning in Europe, Israel, and America (forthcoming), from which this essay is drawn. He is also the curator of “The Art of Memory,” an exhibition at the Jewish Museum of New York (forthcoming).

    • 300Pierre Vidal-Naquet
    • I will not dwell overlong on the “meaning” of this story. But let me make two essential points. Plato tells us this story as though it were true: it is “a tale which, though passing strange, is yet wholly true.” Those words were to be translated into every language in the world and used to justify the most realistic fantasies. That is quite understandable, for Plato’s story started something new. With a perversity that was to ensure him great success, Plato had laid the foundations for the historical novel, that is to say, the novel set in a particular place and a particular time. We are now quite accustomed to historical novels, and we also know that in every detective story there comes a moment when the detective declares that real life is not much like what happens in detective stories; it is far more complicated. But that was not the case in the fourth century B.C. Plat’s words were taken seriously, not by everyone, but by many, down through the centuries. And it is not too hard to see that some people continue to take them seriously today.

      As for the “meaning,” following others and together with others, I have tried elsewhere to show that essentially it is quite clear: the Athens and Atlantis of ancient lore represent the two faces of Plato’s own Athens. The former, the old primordial Athens, is what Plato would have liked the city of which he was a citizen to be; the latter is what Athens was in the age of Pericles and Cleon, an imperialistic power whose very existence constituted a threat to other Greek cities.

      See also: Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin, Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity

      Pierre Vidal-Naquet is director of the Centre Louis Gernet de Recherches Comparées sure les Sociétés Anciennes at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His most recent publications are the second volume of Les Juifs, la mémoire et le present (1991), La Grèce ancienne 1: Du mythe à la raison, with Jean-Pierre Vernant (1990), and La Démocratie grecque vue d’ailleurs (1990). Among his works to have appeared in English are Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece, with Jean-Pierre Vernant (1988), and The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World (1986). Janet Lloyd is a supervisor for a number of colleges in Cambridge University, where she gives classes in French language and literature. Among her more recent translations are Yves Mény’s Government and Politics in Western Europe: Britain, France, Italy, West Germany (1990) and Marie-Claire Bergère’s Golden Age of the Chinese Bourgeoisie, 1911-1937 (1989). In progress are translations of works on Shakespeare, Pericles’ Athens, and a historical geography of France.

    • 327Simon Schaffer
    • There seems to be an important historical connexion between changes in the concept of evidence and that of the person capable of giving evidence. Michel Foucault urged that during the classical age the relationship between evidence and the person was reversed: scholasticism derived statements’ authority from that of their authors, while scientists now hold that matters of fact are the most impersonal of statements.1 In a similar vein, Ian Hacking defines a kind of evidence which ‘consists in one thing pointing beyond itself’, and claims that until the early modern period ‘testimony and authority were primary, and things could count as evidence only insofar as they resembled the witness of observers and the authority of books’.2 This captures a rather familiar theme of the ideology of early modern natural philosophy. Nullius in verba was the Royal Society of London’s motto. Robert Boyle, doyen of the Society’s experimental philosophers, tried to build up the credit of laboratory objects at the expense of untrustworthy humans. He reckoned that ‘inanimate bodies … are not capable of prepossessions, or giving us partial informations’, while vulgar men may be influenced by predispositions, and so many other circumstances, that they may easily give occasion to mistakes’. So an inanimate body’s deeds could function as signs of some other state of affairs in a way that the stories of vulgar humans could not.3

      · 1. See Michel Foucault, L’Ordre du discours: Leçon inaugurale au Collêge de France prononcée le 2 décembre 1970 (Paris, 1971).

      · 2. Ian Hacking, The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas about Probability, Induction and Statistical Inference (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 34, 33.

      · 3. Quoted in Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump (Princeton, N.J., 1985), p. 218. See also Peter Dear, ‘Totius in verba:’ Rhetoric and Authority in the Early Royal Society’, Isis 76 (June 1985): 145-61.

      See also:  Simon Schaffer, Babbage's Intelligence: Calculating Engines and the Factory System

      Simon Schaffer lectures in history and philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is the coauthor (with Steven Shapin) of Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (1985) and coauthors (with David Gooding and Trevor Pinch) of The Uses of Experiment: Studies in the Natural Sciences (1989).

    • 363Donald Preziosi
    • Until fairly recently, most of the attention of art historians and others in these debates has been paid to differences among the partisans of various disciplinary methodologies, or to the differential benefits of one or another school of thought or theoretical perspective in other areas of the humanities and social sciences as these might arguably apply to questions of art historical practice.1 Yet there has also come about among art historians a renewed interest in the historical origins of the academic discipline itself, and in the relationships of its institutionalization in various countries to the professionalizing of other historical and critical disciplines in the latter part of the nineteenth century. These interests have led increasingly to wider discussion by art historians of the particular nature of disciplinary knowledge, the circumstances and protocols of academic practice, and the relations between the various branches of modern discourse on the visual arts: academic art history, art criticism, aesthetic philosophy, the art market, exhibitions, and musicology.2 What follows does not aim to summarize or characterize these developments but is more simply an attempt to delineate some of the principal characteristics of the discipline as an evidentiary institution in the light of the material conditions of academic practice that arose in the latter half of the nineteenth century in relation to the history of mueological display. In brief, this essay is concerned with the circumstances of art history’s foundations as a systematic and “scientific” practice, and its focus is limited to a single, albeit paradigmatic, American example.

      · 1. An extended discussion of these issues may be found in Donald Preziosi, Rethinking Art History: Meditations on a Coy Science (New Haven, Conn., 1989), pp. 80-121. See also The New Art History, ed. A. L. Rees and Frances Borzello (Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1988).

      2. One important sign off these discussions has been a series of “Views and Overviews” of the discipline appearing in The Art Bulletin in recent years, of which the most recent has been perhaps the most extensive and comprehensive: Mieke Bal and Norman Byrson, ”Semiotics and Art History,” The Art Bulletin 73 (June 1991): 174-208.

      See also: David Summers, “Form," Nineteenth-Century Metaphysics, and the Problem of Art Historical Description

      Donald Preziosi is professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, and, beginning in 1992, at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He is the author of Rethinking Art History: Meditations on a Coy Science (1989) and is currently completing a book on the history of museums entitled Framing Modernity.

    • 387Bill Brown
    • … [T]o trace the problematic of writing (however various) in the Norris canon is foremost to confirm Fried’s claims about its pervasiveness. Indeed, he now intimates that the problematic pervades the fiction of “other important writers of the 1890s and early 1900s,” work by Jack London, Harold Frederic, and Henry James (predictably, the “unresolved borderline case” [p. 199]). On the one hand, this pervasiveness muddies an already ambivalent use of the term impressionism (emptied of its traditional content, yet clung to as a heuristic means of grouping writers);10 on the other hand, it augments Fried’s sense that the thematization of writing attained particular moment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To my eye, nonetheless, the moment dissolves once its historical isolationism confronts “literary history.”

      · 10. Fried explicitly addresses this ambivalence, explaining that “I am unpersuaded by the many attempts that have been made to define that concept either in relation to French impressionist painting or in terms of a fidelity to or evocation of the ‘impressions’ of one or more characters (including the implied narrator), but I see no comparably useful designation for the global tendency that Crane, Norris, and Conrad all instantiate” (p. 197 n. 6). The term, as I see it however, serves precisely to exclude the global tendency as it is instantiated elsewhere. And yet, to the degree that “impressionism” can now designate a confrontation between the sight of writing and the impressionist emphasis on sight as traditionally understood, Fried, despite all disclaimers, revivifies that tradition (which has had scant attention in the last two decades).

      Bill Brown, assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago, is presently completing a book on the “economy of play” in the work of Stephen Crane.

    • 403Michael Fried
    • So there will be no mistake, I don’t deny, why would I wish to, that a thematic of racial difference is crucial to the overall plot of Almayer’s Folly. What I claim is that that thematic falls short of significantly determining or even, to use Brown’s word, appreciably “complicating” the problematic of erasure that surfaces in the closing chapters. It’s as though the rest of the novel is there chiefly to stage those chapters and their dramatization of erasure; something similar takes place in Powell’s narrative of spying into Captain Anthony’s cabin toward the end of Chance and even, to a lesser degree, in the climactic encounter between Winnie Verloc and her husband in chapter 11 of The Secret Agent. It’s worth noting, too, that the opening paragraphs of A Personal Record, Conrad’s autobiographical account of the beginnings and origins of his “writing life,” describe the circumstances under which “the tenth chapter of ‘Almayer’s Folly’ was begun.”8 This in itself suggests that Conrad has a special stake in the last three chapters of his first novel, and one of my aims in “Almayer’s Face” was to discover (think of the neutrino) what that stake may have been.9

      · 8. Joseph Conrad, A Personal Record (1912; Marlboro, Vt., 1988), pp. 72: my emphasis.

      · 9. Again, so there will be no mistake, I would distinguish Almayer’s Folly sharply in this respect from, for example, The Nigger of the “Narcissus,” in which effects of erasure are disseminated throughout the text and in which the title character’s blackness is crucial to their production.

      Michael Fried, J. R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, is currently at work on books on Manet and on literary “impressionism.” His most recent book is Courbet’s Realism (1990).