Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 1993

Volume 19 Issue 2
    • 201Hélène Cixous
    • Two authors give me my keynote: Shakespeare reminding us, in Julius Caesar, that “Cowards die many times before their death”; and Akhmatova when she speaks of that “unknown clarity” we discover when “every6thing has been pillaged, betrayed, and sold.”

      When I was invited to give an Oxford Amnesty Lecture, my first thought was of the millions who are deprived of liberty, tortured, and forgotten. I said yes, immediately. Later I received various suggestions as to subject matter, based on questions one might describe as modern or postmodern. I was asked: does the individual self, such as it was defined in the eighteenth century by the ideology of human rights, still exist? The definition of this self was based on a notion of identity inherent in, inalienable from, the individual. Does it still exist? And if it does not, whose freedom are we at such pains to protect?

      Have the “self” and “liberty” changes? I asked myself.

      And I asked myself who these questions were for. For a “philosopher”? If they were meant for me, for “myself,” what have I to say about freedom and the self?

      See also: Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida as a Proteus Unbound

      Hélène Cixous is a critic, novelist, dramatist, and professor of literature at Paris VIII-Vincennes. Her numerous works include L’Exil ou l’art du remplacement (1969; awarded the Prix Médicis), Protrait du soleil (1983). Her collaborations with Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du Soleil include L’Histoire terrible mais inachevée de Norodom Sihanouk roi du Cambodge (1984) and Akhmatova (forthcoming). Her most recent published work is the novel L’Ange au secret (1991). Chris Miller is an independent translator and critic and a founding member of the Oxford Amnesty lecture series. His translations include Daniel Arasse, The Guillotine and the Terror (1989) and Jacques Lesourne, After Communism (1991).

    • 220Erich Michaud
    • “‘There cannot be two Chosen People. We are God’s People.’” Very early on, Hermann Rauschning pointed out the constant rivalry between Nazism and the Jewish people. “ ‘We must beat the Jew with his own,’” Hitlet would say to him, opposing the “dirty and degrading self-mortifications of a chimera called conscience and morality,” to his own “saving doctrine of the nothingness and insignificance of the individual human being, and of his continued existence in the visible immortality of the nation.”

      This rivalry, inscribed in the interpretation of the nature of the prophetic dream, asserts itself as much in the stone monument as in extermination. Nazism places its faith in the form and in the word of stone, in opposition to the Jewish people’s faith in the union of the living word with an unrepresentable and mute god. And while the invisible god is intelligible only at the horizon of what Emmanuel Levinas calls the “insurmountable diachrony of time. By means of a Gleichschaltung, a leveling, it visibly aligns bodies and their temporality as well. For this reason its desire to make its god visible is also a compulsion to make that god synchronous in the word of stone. It makes the monument a messiah for an impatient community, the heralded new man who came when summoned to liberate the community from time, who came to put an end to its waiting.

      See also: Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe andJean-Luc Nancy, The Nazi Myth

      Eric Michaud is Maître de conferences at the Institut d’histoire de l’art of the University of Strasbourg. He is the author of Théâtre au Bauhaus, 1919-1929 (1978), La Fin du salut par l’image (1992), and, related to the topic of National Socialism, “Nazisme et representation,” Critique (Dec. 1987). He is also the coauthor, with Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Jean-Luc Nancy, of Hypnoses (1984), and is currently writing a book entitled Un Art de l’éternité: Le National-socialisme et l’usage de l’art. Christopher Fox is a Ph.D. student in the French department at the Johns Hopkins University.

    • 234Phillip Brian Harper
    • What is most striking about the way the poems under consideration—which I have suggested distill the logic of the Black Arts project—address themselves to the black community is their insistent use of the second-person pronoun. This aspect of the poetry is notable not only because it is the verbal indicator of the Black Arts poets’ keen awareness of issues of audience and of their desire to appear to engage directly with their audience (both of which I have already alluded to), but because the you references also—and paradoxically, given the Black Aesthetic’s nation-building agenda—represent the implication of intraracial division within its Black Arts strategy. It is clear, of course, that the use of the second-person pronoun of indefinite number implies less inclusiveness than would, say, the use of the first-person plural, we. What remains to be explored is exactly on what this apparent exclusivity—this implicit social division—is founded, both grammatically and historically, in order for us to grasp more fully the significance of Black Arts poetics.

      See also: Anne McClintock, “Azikwelwa" (We Will Not Ride): Politics and Value in Black South African Poetry

      Phillip Brian Harper is assistant professor at Harvard University, where he teaches in the department of English and Afro-American studies. He is the author of Fiction and Fracture: The Social Text of Postmodernism (forthcoming). The present essay is from a volume in progress entitled The Same Difference: Social Division in African-American Culture.

    • 256Mary Poovey
    • When the British Association for the Advancement of Science was established in 1831, its founders were almost universally agreed that statistics did not belong in their organization because it was not a “science.” “Science,” as the BAAS institutionalized the concept, was knowledge that was theoretical before it was practical, value-free and objective, and, above all, impervious to political controversy. Astronomy, especially as it had been practiced since Sir Isaac Newton, epitomized this kind of knowledge.1 Statistics, in stark contrast to astronomy, lacked a theoretical foundation, was thought to be governed by the values of its practitioners, and, most decisively for the BAAS, was already embroiled in the political debate about the “condition of England.” When the BAAS bowed to pressure from Charles Babbage in 1833 and established a statistical section, the organization's president, Adam Sedgwick, did everything he could to ensure that the kind of statistics the BAAS admitted would be limited to counting and would be value-free. Sedgwick warned the statisticians that “if they went into provinces not belonging to them, and opened a door of communication with the dreary world of politics, that instant would the foul demon of discord find his way into their Eden of philosophy.”2

      · 1. Susan Faye Cannon discusses the authority of astronomy in Science in Culture: The Early Victorian Period (New York, 1978), p. 2. The relationship to truth that mathematics was understood to have is especially complex and interesting in this period, although this subject lies beyond the scope of my analysis. See Joan L. Richards, “The Art and Science of British Algebra: A Study in the Perception of Mathematical Truth,” Historica Mathematica 7 (1980): 343-65, and Mathematical Visions: The Pursuit of Geometry in Victorian England (Boston, 1988), esp. chap. 2.

      · 2. Quoted in Jack Morrell and Arnold Thackray, Gentlemen of Science: Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (New York, 1981), p. 292; see also pp. 246, 260-61, 266, 291-96. Here is the relevant excerpt from Sedgwick's address:

      By science, then, I understand the consideration of all objects, whether of pure or mixed nature, capable of being reduced to measurement and calculation. All things comprehended under the categories of space, time, and number belong to our investigations, and all phenomena capable of being brought under the semblance of law are legitimate objects of our inquiry. . . .

      Can then statistical inquiries be made compatible with our subjects, and taken into the bosom of our society? I think they unquestionably may, so far as they have to do with matters of fact, with mere abstractions, and with numerical results. Considered in this light they give what may be called the raw material for political economy and political philosophy; and by their help the lasting foundations of these sciences may be perhaps ultimately laid. [quoted in Victor L. Hilts, “Aliis exterendum, or, The Origins of the Statistical Society of London,” Isis 69 (Mar. 1978): 34]

      See also:  Mary Poovey, The Limits of the Universal Knowledge Project: British India and the East Indiamen  ·  Mary Poovey, The Model System of Contemporary Literary Criticism

      Mary Poovey is professor of English at the Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (1984) and Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (1988). She is currently at work on a study of statistical thinking in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    • 277Ruth Leys
    • [George Herbert] Mead characterizes his theory of the self as a theory of imitation or sympathy. Although in his work these ideas are given a distinctive development, there is an important sense in which they are also representative of a major trend in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American social thought. Thus his generation’s attempt to construct of theory of imitation is indebted to William James’s account of the social nature of the self.2 Its origins also go back to Adam Smith’s theory of sympathy, which in the 1890s underwent a considerable revival in the United States. Reversing the priority that throughout the nineteenth century had been accorded Smith’s economic ideas over his moral thought, social theorists reinterpreted his Wealth of Nations (1776) as dependent on his theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and found in the latter the basis for a new, more “psychological” explanation of the relation between self and society. Sympathy, described by Smith as the capacity to imaginatively identify with the sufferings of another person, became the principle by which a generation of sociologists sought to explain the relations between the individual and others.3

      · 2. See William James, “The Consciousness of Self,” The Principles of Psychology, vol. 8 of The Works of William James, ed. Fredrick H. Burkhardt, Fredson Bowers, and Ignas K. Skrupskelis (Cambridge, 1981), chap. 10.

      · 3. On the shift of attention to Smith’s moral theory, see for example Albion W. Small, Adam Smith and Modern Sociology: A Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences (Chicago, 1907) and Franklin H. Giddings, “Preface to the Third Edition,” The Principles of Sociology: An Analysis of the Phenomena of Association and of Social Organization (1896; New York, 1899), pp. x-xi; hereafter abbreviated PS.

      See also: Ruth Leys, The Turn to Affect: A Critique  ·  Jacques Derrida, The Linguistic Circle of Geneva

      Ruth Leys is associate professor in the Humanities Center of the Johns Hopkins University. She has recently published From Sympathy to Reflex: Marshall Hall and His Critics (1990) and, with Rand B. Evans, Defining American Psychology: The Correspondence between Adolf Meyer and E. B. Titchener (1991). She is currently writing a book on the history and sexual politics of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century discourses of trauma, dissociation, and multiple personality.

    • 308Christopher Newfield
    • If everyone gets the enemies they deserve, it doesn’t seem fair that pluralistic liberal humanists last year found themselves denounced as the threat to liberty known as political correctness (PC). Did we deserve this? Overall, we’ve been so cooperative. Having internalized a common American dislike for political conflict, humanists who teach many sides of various debates suddenly found themselves cast as coercive ideologues. Having only rarely drawn public policy implications from their fields, humanists suffered the charge that they replace education with indoctrination In part due to disbelief, their centrist rebuttals were reluctant and mild, largely invoking mainstream values (academic freedom, dialogue, diversity, tolerance) and tracing their opponents’ arguments to the kind of moral failure that the latter had first attributed to them.1 Some simply waited for the alarms to stop, for they seemed like the false alarms of the sort of people who might mistake AIDS education for the rejection of family.

      · 1. Teachers for a Democratic Culture, a valuable advocacy group, a valuable advocacy group, has characterized the Right’s ideological attacks as “harassment and misrepresentation,” as “hypocrisy,” “intolerance,” and “mischievous misrepresentation” (Teachers for a Democratic Culture, Statement of Principles, Evanston, Ill.).

      See also: Avery Gordon, Christopher Newfield, White Philosophy   ·  Lauren Berlant, ’68, Or Something

      Christopher Newfield is assistant professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is currently completing books on authoritarian individualism in nineteenth-century U.S. culture and on the corporate culture of post-1950s literary study.

    • 337Patricia Parker
    • In an entry in his travel journal dated September 1580, Montaigne recorded some “memorable stories” [“histories memorable”] encountered at Vitry-le-François. The first, after mention of a vigorous dowager who “still could do a quarter of a league on foot,” is that of a transvestite woman hanged for using “illicit devices to supply her defect in sex”:

      Seven or eight girls around Chaumont-en-Bassigni plotted together a few years ago to dress up as males and thus continue their life in the world. One of them came to this place under the name Mary, earning her living as a weaver, a well-disposed young man who made friends with everybody. At the said Vitry he became engaged to a woman who is still alive, but because of some disagreement that arose between them, their compact went no further. Later he went to the said Montier-en-Der, still earning his living at the said trade, and fell in love with a woman, whom he married and with whom he lived for four or five months, to her satisfaction, so they say [à ce qu’on dit]. But she was recognized by someone from the said Chaumont, the matter was brought before justice, and she was condemned to be hanged, which she said she would rather undergo than return to a girl’s status; and she was hanged for using illicit devices to supply her defect in sex [des inventions illicites à suppléer au defaut de son sexe].1

      Montaigne follows this story of a woman hanged for using “devices” to supplement her “defect” with a second one of the transformation from female to male of “Marie Germain.” This is the story of one Marie, “a girl up to the age of twenty-two,” who, while making “an effort at jumping” one day, experienced the sudden descent of “virile instruments” [“outils virils”] and was rebaptized as the male Germain. Though not witnessed directly by Montaigne (because the non-adult Germain was away at the time), the story is characterized in the text as “very certain” [très certain”], testified to “by the most eminent officials of the town.”

      · 1. The Complete Works of Montaigne: Essays, Travel Journal, Letters, trans. Donald M. Frame (Stanford, Calif., 1948), pp. 869-70; Ouvres completes, ed. Albert Thibaudet and Maurice Rat (Paris, 1962), pp. 1118-19; hereafter abbreviated O. Translations from the Essais, except where expressly noted, are from The Complete Essays of Montaigne, trans. Frame (Stanford, Calif., 1948); hereafter abbreviated CE.

      See also: Alan Sinfield, Lesbian and Gay Taxonomies

      Patricia Parker is professor of English and comparative literature at Stanford University. She is most recently author of Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, Property (1987) and coeditor, with Margo Hendricks, of Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period (forthcoming).

    • 365Susan Willis
    • That culture enjoys a dialectical relationship to the structures of capitalism is a critical concept that has been wholly overshadowed by the prevailing school of cultural studies in the United States today, which celebrates the making of cultural meanings, in and of itself, as a radical form of politics. In this intellectual climate, readers can glean a book like Subculture for the empowerment of seeing “style as a form of Refusal,” or culture itself as a vast terrain “in dispute” (S, p. 3) where dominant and subordinate groups clash on a far more equal footing than they do in the economic sector. What’s lost to the reader are the moments when [Dick] Hebdige cautions that “no amount of stylistic incantation can alter the oppressive mode in which the commodities used in subculture have been produced” (S, p. 130). Subcultural groups may appropriate, use, recycle, and redefine cultural commodities, but their practices don’t change capitalism as a mode of production. The spectacular designates the difference between cultural practice as a response to capitalism and political practice, which might have cultural dimensions but which aims at the transformation of capitalism.

      My aim here is to pose the question of subcultures today in the United States as a way of looking at some of the problems associated with the development of cultural theory in this country. While my comments are grounded in initial and by no means extensive observation of contemporary hardcore culture in the States (primarily in the Durham—Chapel Hill area of North Carolina), this will not be a definitive ethnography. Indeed, there is a need for concentrated ethnographic research not only on subcultures but on youth commodity culture in general. I suspect that in the case of hardcore culture such research would yield a great deal of regional variation, regardless of the homogenizing influence of the media and mass-market commodities, because much alternative music culture is locally produced in clubs by bands that do not travel extensively.

      See also: Carrie Jaurès Noland, Rimbaud and Patti Smith: Style as Social Deviance

      Susan Willis, associate professor at Duke University, teaches courses in cultural studies. She is the author of A Primer for Daily Life (1992).