Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 1994

Volume 20 Issue 2
    • 205Louis Althusser
    • I hope my readers will forgive me. I am writing this book principally for my friends, and for myself if that is possible. My reasons will soon become clear.

      A long time after the drama occurred, I learned that two of my close friends (doubtless not the only ones) had not wanted me to be declared unfit to plead, a decision based on the medico-legal opinions expressed by three experts at Sainte-Anne’s in the week following Hélène’s death.1 They would have preferred my case to come to court. Unfortunately, it was a pious wish on their part.

      I was in no fit state to take part in legal proceedings on account of my serious mental state (confusion and hallucinations). The examining magistrate who visited me could not get me to say a word. What is more, I no longer enjoyed my freedom or my civic rights since I was automatically committed and under supervision on the orders of the prefect of police. Deprived of all choice, I was in fact the victim of an official procedure I could not escape and to which I therefore had to submit.

      · 1. Althusser, having been convicted of murdering his wife, Hélène, was granted a “nonlieu,” literally “no grounds,” on the basis of the psychiatrists’ reports. In other words, he was declared unfit to plead.—Trans.

      See also: Jacques Derrida, a Certain Impossible Possibility of Saying the Event

      Louis Althusser spent most of his career at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he taught philosophy. The publication of this memoir is the first of a series of works to be published after his death in 1990. Richard Veasey, a lecturer in French 1965 to 1989 at the University of Sussex, is a freelance translator.

    • 227Jacques Derrida
    • Though I have decided not to return to what was debated close to thirty years ago, it would nevertheless be absurd, obsessional to the point of pathological, to say nothing of impossible, to give in to a sort of fetishistic denial and to think that I can protect myself from any contact with the place or meaning of this discussion. Although I intend to speak today of something else altogether, starting from a very recent rereading of The History of Madness in the Classical Age, I am not surprised, and you will probably not be either, to see the silhouette of certain questions reemerge: not their content, of course, to which I will in no way return, but their subtract type, the schema or specter of an analogous problematic. For example, if I speak not of Descartes but of Freud, if I thus avoid a figure who seems central to this book and who, because he is decisive as far as its center or centering of perspective is concerned, emerges right from the early pages on, right from the first border or approach,1 if I thus avoid this Cartesian reference in order to move toward another (psychoanalysis, Freudian or some other) that is evoked only on the edges of the book and is named only right near the end, or ends, on the other border, this will perhaps be once again in order to pose a question that will resemble the one that imposed itself upon me thirty years ago, namely, that of the very possibility of a history of madness. The question will be, in the end, just about the same, though it will be posed from another border, and it still imposes itself upon me as the first tribute owed such a book. If this book was possible, if it had from the beginning and retains today a certain monumental value, the presence and undeniable necessity of a monument, that is, of what imposes itself by recalling and cautioning, it must tell us, teach, or ask us something about its own possibility.

      · 1. See Michel Foucault, Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (paris, 1961), pp. 53-57; hereafter abbreviated F. Derrida refers here and throughout to the original edition of this work. The book was reprinted with different pagination in 1972 and included as an appendix “Mon corps, ce papier, ce feu,” Foucault’s response to Derrida’s “Cogito et histoire de la folie,” a lecture given in 1963 and reprinted in 1967 in Derrida, L’Écriture et la difference (Paris, 1967). A much abridged version of Histoire de la folie was published in 1964 and was translated into English by Richard Howard under the title Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (New York, 1965); hereafter abbreviated M….

      See also: Jacques Derrida, Given Time: The Time of the King

      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. His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry “Given Time: The Time of the King” (Winter 1992). Pascale-Anne Brault is assistant professor of French at DePaul University. She has written articles on contemporary French literature and drama and is currently working on a book on the revisioning of female identity in classical Greek literature. Michael Naas is assistant professor of philosophy at DePaul University. He has written articles on contemporary French thought and is the author of Turning: From Persuasion to Philosophy (1993). He is currently working on a book on the thought of Jacques Derrida. Brault and Naas have previously translated two books by Derrida: The Other Heading (1992) and Memoirs of the Blind (1993).

    • 267Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen
    • “Return to Freud.” What does this famous slogan, trumpeted in Vienna by Lacan in 1955, mean? Was Lacan really a Freudian? Was he faithful to Freud’s heritage? He seems to suggest precisely that in his lecture “The Freudian Thing” when, faced with Freud’s official heirs, he presented himself as the only one to truly possess the meaning of that doctrine: “The meaning of a return to Freud is a return to the meaning of Freud.”1 Nevertheless, everyone knows that this return was accomplished only after some rather lengthy detours through, Wallon, Hegel, Heidegger, Kojève, Saussure, and Lévi-Strauss (to mention only a few), and thus it is difficult to be content with this circular and quasi-tautological restitution of the “meaning of Freud.” Obviously Lacan did not say the same thing as Freud, and that is exactly what people have continually reproached him for.

      On the other hand, does this mean that Lacan was not Freudian; that, under cover of Freudianism, he constructed a completely original theory of desire? That would be a rather strict interpretation of faithfulness, the very one that Lacan’s contemporaries invoked to expel him from the psychoanalytic institutions. As Plato already remarked, Parricide is the inevitable form of faithfulness. Lacan was undoubtedly thinking of that when he faced off with his rivals. Sometimes you have to kill your father to preserve his heritage. Sometimes you have to throw away the doctrine to find its “meaning.” In the realm of thought, true faithfulness is not faithfulness to solutions but to problems. And from that point of view, Lacan was undoubtedly the most respectful of parricides.

      · 1. Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York, 1977), p. 177; hereafter abbreviated E.

      See also: William Veeder, The Negative Oedipus: Father, "Frankenstein", and the Shelleys

      Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, professor of French and comparative literature at the University of Washington, is the author of The Freudian Subject (1988), Lacan: The Absolute Master (1991), and The Emotional Tie: Psychoanalysis, Mimesis, and Affect (1992). He is currently working on a book on multiple personality. Douglas Brick is a graduate student in the Department of Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Washington. He has translated two books by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and, most recently, Michael Henry’s The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis.

    • 283Ingrid Monson
    • In this essay I explicitly address that issue by taking a relatively close look at a few examples of musical irony in jazz with a view toward illustrating the complex cultural web in which these fragmentary musical details are embedded. These examples include transformations of non-African-American popular songs (standards), quotation of tunes (or solos), and exaggerated, humorous references to well-known musical features of jazz and other African-American musical genres. If musicians are saying something—musically, culturally, socially, or politically—when they improvise, the ethnographer must consider in what ways this meaning is articulated, communicated, and perceived by musicians and their audiences. I view jazz improvisation as a mode of social action that musicians selectively employ in their process of communicating.

      In what follows I attempt to draw some broad continuities between the heterogeneity of musical expression in jazz improvisation and the heterogeneity of musical expression in jazz improvisation and the heterogeneity of cultural identity found in African-American musical communities. What Slobin calls superculture, interculture, and subculture are certainly at play in my analysis, yet I suggest that the notion of subculture as applied to African-American music has a problematic aspect because the predominant direction of influence in American popular music in the twentieth century has been from African-American to European-American. In the musical sphere, African-Americans invert the expected relationship between hegemonic superculture and subculture (without, however, changing these relationships in the economic sphere), something which is of extreme symbolic importance to African-American communities. It is my contention that a close reading of this process of inversion has a great deal to offer current ethnomusicological debates about cultural theory.

      See also: Ingrid Monson, Hearing, Seeing, and Perceptual Agency

      Ingrid Monson is an ethnomusicologist and assistant professor in the Department of Music at the University of Chicago. She is at work on a book entitled Saying Something: Musical and Human Interaction in Jazz Improvisation, in which she expands on many of the ideas presented there.

    • 314Benedict Anderson
    • I saw a place where English Cattle had been: that was a comfort to me, such as it was: quickly after that we came to an English Path, which so took with me, that I thought I could have freely lyen down and dyed. That day, a little after noon, we came to Squaukheag, where the Indians quickly spread themselves over the deserted English Fields.1

      Thus, as remembered subsequently, was the experience of the nineteen-year old, newly married Mary Rowlandson as her Narragansett abductors brought her with them through central Massachusetts—perhaps twenty miles north of today’s turnpike—in mid-February 1675. One observes the strange, thoroughly creole crosscurrents in her words. On the one hand, she feels no need to explain to her readers where Squaukheag is located, let alone how to pronounce this strikingly un-European toponym. Her familiarity is not surprising; Squakheag is, so to speak, that place down the road, since she had been born and spent all her young life in the no less un-European Massachusetts. On the other hand, she sees before her “English Cattle,” an “English Path,” and “deserted English Fields,” though she had never been within three thousand miles of England. These are not pluckings from the Cotswolds or the Downs—real places, as it were—but acts of imagination that would never have occurred to a young minister’s wife in seventeenth-century Gloucestershire or Surrey. They are, in a way, getting ready to be “English” exactly because they are in Massachusetts, not in England, and are so because they bear for Mary the traces of her “English” people’s agricultural labors. But we can also guess that up till the point of her abduction she had thought matter-of-factly about cattle as cattle and fields as fields. Her “nationalizing” moment comes when, in the power of the Narragansetts, she is torn out of the quotidian and—right in the very midst of her native Massachusetts—finds herself in fearful exile. She struggles along a path that becomes English at the exact juncture where she is sure she may not lie down and die upon it. When she is finally ransomed and returns to her community of origin, her “nationalist” frisson vanishes. For she has managed, more or less, to come home. But this home is Lancaster; it is not (yet) America.

      · 1. Mary Rowlandson, A Narrative of the Capacity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, 1682, in Narratives of the Indian Wars, 1675-99, ed. Charles H. Lincoln (1913; New York, 1952), p. 132. Squaukheag is today Squakeag, near Bear’s Plain, Northfield, Massachusetts.

      See also: Ruth Bernard Yeazell, Podsnappery, Sexuality, and the English Novel

      Benedict Anderson is the Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor of International Studies at Cornell University and a citizen of Eire. He is the author of Java in a Time of Revolution (1972), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983; revised and expanded edition 1991), In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era (1985), and Language and Power: Exploring Indonesian Political Cultures (1990). He is currently at work on a book about nationalisms in the Philippines.

    • 328Arif Dirlik
    • My goal in the discussion below is twofold: to review the term postcolonial, and the various intellectual and cultural positions associated with it, in the context of contemporary transformations in global relationships, and to examine the reconsiderations of problems of domination and hegemony as well as of received critical practices that these transformations require. Postcolonial is the most recent entrant to achieve prominent visibility in the ranks of those “post” marked words (seminal among them, postmodernism) that serve as signposts in(to) contemporary cultural criticism. Unlike other “post” marked words, postcolonial claims as its special provenance the terrain that in an earlier day used to go by the name of Third World. It is intended, therefore, to achieve an authentic globalization of cultural discourses by the extension globally of the intellectual concerns and orientations originating at the central sites of Euro-American cultural criticism and by the introduction into the latter of voices and subjectivities from the margins of earlier political and ideological colonialism that now demand a hearing at those very sites at the center. The goal, indeed, is no less than to abolish all distinctions between center and periphery as well as all other “binarisms” that are allegedly a legacy of colonial(ist) ways of thinking and to reveal societies globally in their complex heterogeneity and contingency. Although intellectuals who hail from one part of that terrain, India, have played a conspicuously prominent role in its formulation and dissemination, the appeals of postcoloniality seem to cut across national, regional, and even political boundaries, which on the surface at least seems to substantiate its claims to globalism.

      See also: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial?   ·  Masao Miyoshi, A Borderless World? From Colonialism to Transnationalism and the Decline of the Nation-State

      Arif Dirlik is professor of history at Duke University. He is the author of, among other works, Revolution and History: Origins of Marxist Historiography in China, 1919-37 (1978), The Origins of Chinese Communism (1989), and Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution (1991) and the editor of What Is in a Rim? Critical perspectives on the Pacific Region Idea (1993). His most recent book, Waking to Global Capitalism: Whither Socialism? is forthcoming in 1994.

    • 357GĂ©rard Genette
    • Thus, the poetic event, always instantaneous and free of structural relations, because it is always closer to the single vocable, can be for Belard, in Barthes’s phrase, an object of reading, of pleasure, of happy reverie, without first having been an object of writing in the strong sense, that is, of craft.5 The reading of poetry can even be reduced entirely to word reveries [reveries de mots]—in an obviously double sense: first, there are words that dream (see PS, p. 146); we only have to listen to these words dreaming in order to dream them in turn, “just as the child listens to the sea in a seashell” (PR, p. 49). And despite certain protests against the “unjust privileging of sonorities,” the natural inclination of this reverie really lies, as with Nodier, in mimophonic interpretation (AS, p. 283). For the person who knows how to “explore with his ear the hollow of the syllables that make up the sonorous edifice of a word,” clignoter [to flicker] is “an onomatopoeia for the flame of the candle,” in which the “malaise of the light” condenses into clashing and trembling syllables; piauler [to pule] is another, “in the minor mode, with tearful eyes”;6 vaste [vast] is the “ ‘power of the spoken word,’” a “respiratory vocable,” which teaches us to “breathe with the air resting on the horizon,” by virtue of that a which is “the vowel of boundlessness” (PS, pp. 196-97). In contrast, miasma [miasma] is “a sort of silent onomatopoeia of disgust”;7 rivière [river], grenouille [frog], gargouille [gargoyle], glaïeul [gladiolus] are “water words,” the “waggish” speech of liquid consonants (WD, p. 189): rivière “never stops flowing” (WD, p. 188); grenouille, “phonetically—in the true phonetics of the imagination—is already a water animal” (WD, p. 191); gargouille “was a sound before becoming an image, or at least it was a sound that suddenly found its image in stone,” fashioned, like itself, to “spew the guttural insults of water” (WD, p. 192); the poets are right—experience notwithstanding—to make glaïeul an aquatic flower, for “where song is concerned, realism is always wrong…. The gladiolus, then, is a special sigh of the river … the melancholy water in half-mourning … a soft sob forgotten” WD, p. 191). It is easy to discern in the latter gloss the unacknowledged role of indirect motivation (mourning, sob), but Bachelard’s commentary puts it down to “liquid speech,” to a (“the vowel of the water”); to “the liquid consonants” (r, l, gr, gl); to the “correspondence between word and reality”; and to the semantic expansiveness of onomatopoeia, which, according to Nodier’s precept, is capable of transposing and “delegating” all sensible qualities into verbal sonorities….

      · 5. See Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (New York, 1975), p. 37.

      · 6. Bachelard, La Flamme d’une chandelle, pp. 42, 45.

      · 7. Bachelard, La Terre et la reverie du repos (Paris, 1948), p. 68.

      See also: Gérard Genette, Structure and Functions of the Title in Literature

      Gérard Genette is Directeur d’Études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales where he teaches aesthetics and poetics. His principal works include Figures (1966), Figures II (1969), Figures III (1972), Introduction à l’architexte (1979; in English, 1992), and Seuils (1987). His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry is “Structure and Functions of the Title in Literature” (Summer 1988). Thaïs E. Morgan teaches critical theory and nineteenth-century studies for the English department and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program at Arizona State University. She has published on gender theory, semiotics, Victorian poetry, and pedagogy. Her translation of Gérard Genette’s Mimologiques (1976) is forthcoming.