Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 2002

Volume 28 Issue 2
    • 365Siah Armajani
    • In the early American log cabins, grain elevators, silos, farm houses, barns, and bridges, the structure, the framing, and the boarding were open. There were gaps in the process in order to reveal the construction. Superstructure did not mask the structure. The structure showed its independence. The materials were on their own and could not be overlooked. They were self-evident. The gap between structure and superstructure was maintained; transition was interrupted. It showed why and how things were put together. One part was not erased by the other. In construction one part did not mask the other. One part was always next to the other part as a chair was next to the wall or a table was by the window; one resided next to the other. One looked after the other. One belonged to the other and the two belonged to a totality.

      Siah Armajani is an architect living in Minneapolis.

    • 369Jacques Derrida and David Wills
    • Interpretive decisions (in all their metaphysical, ethical, juridical, and political consequences) thus depend on what is presupposed by the general singular of this word Animal. I was tempted, at a given moment, in order to indicate the direction of my thinking, not just to keep this word within quotation marks, as if it were a citation to be analyzed, but without further ado to change the word, indicating clearly thereby that it is indeed a matter of a word, only a word, the word animal [du mot "animal'], and to forge another word in the singular, at the same time close but radically foreign, a chimerical word that sounded as though it contravened the laws of the French language, I'animot.

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

      Jacques Derrida is director of studies at the École des Hautes Études, Paris, and visiting professor at University of California, Irvine, New York University, and the New School for Social Research. His The Work of Mourning, translated by Michael Naas and Pascale-Anne Brault was published this year and three books are forthcoming: Without Alibi, Who's Afraid of Philosophy? and Negotiations. David Wills is professor of French and English and chair of the department of languages, literatures, and cultures at the University of Albany (SUNY). He has published a number of books, including Prosthesis (1995). He is also the translator of Derrida's Gift of Death and Right of Inspection as well as the forthcoming La Contreallie. Current projects include a volume of essays on Derrida and a book on jazz.

    • 419Cathy Caruth
    • It is not by chance, I will suggest, that this literary story takes place as a scene of haunted memory. I will argue that in giving center stage to the return of the dead and to the singular encounter between the survivor and the law, Balzac's text grasps the core of a past and of a future legal haunting and identifies as central to historical development a question of death and of survival. This question will indeed return to haunt the twentieth century, not simply in the central role of Holocaust survivors in the postwar war crime trials, but, even more uncannily, in the current legal claims made by individual survivors for restitution of their past property, and, more fundamentally, for restitution of their property rights. Through its strange tale of a ghostly claim to property, Balzac's text thus prophetically tells, I would propose, what it means for the law to grapple with its own traumatic past.

      See also: James E. Young, The Holocaust as Vicarious Past: Art Spiegelman's "Maus" and the Afterimages of History

      Cathy Caruth is professor of comparative literature and English and director of comparative literature at Emory University. She is the author of Empirical Truths and Critical Fictions: Locke, Wordsworth, Kant, Freud (1991) and of Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (1996). She has coedited, with Deborah Esch, Critical Encounters: Reference and Responsibility in Deconstructive Writing (1995) and has edited Trauma: Explorations in Memory (1995).

    • 442Bill Brown
    • Hamlet: The king is a thing

      Guildenstern: A thing, my lord?

      Hamlet: Of nothing.

      —William Shakespeare, Hamlet

      Twain seemed to suffer from what one commentator called, in the pages of the Atlantic, a new national pathology: "The Tyranny of Things," the "passion for accumulation is upon us," the author proclaimed; "we make 'collections,' we fill our rooms, our walls, our tables, our desks, with things, things, things."

      See also: Bill Brown, How to Do Things with Things (A Toy Story)  ·  Bill Brown, Thing Theory

      Bill Brown is professor of English at the University of Chicago and a coeditor of Critical Inquiry. He is the author of The Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane, and the Economies of Play (1996) and A Sense of Things: Literary Objects in America (2002). He is the editor of Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Novels (1997) and Things, a special issue of Critical Inquiry (Autumn 2001).

    • 470John Guillory
    • The Sokal hoax shares with other controversies of our time the typical feature of erupting suddenly with the threat of dire consequence, only to disappear quickly and nearly completely from public consciousness. No longer perceived as a crisis of the day, the affair is more likely now to elicit weariness with this particular battlefield of the culture wars. I revisit the controversy with the purpose of grasping its continuing claim upon the present even as it recedes into the limbo of the recent past. This claim is nothing other than its significance in the history of criticism. If the Sokal affair belonged to a certain moment in the culture wars, it also has a place in the longer history of conflict between the sciences and the literary humanities or what goes conventionally by the name of the two cultures debate.

      See also: Jonathan Krammnick, Literary Studies and Science: A Reply to My Critics  ·  John Guillory, The Ideology of Canon-Formation: T. S. Eliot and Cleanth Brooks

      John Guillory is professor of English at New York University and the author of Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (1993). He is currently working on two projects, a sociology of literary study in the Anglo-American university and a book on the development of philosophical prose in Early Modern England.

    • 542Slavoj Žižek
    • What is tolerance today? The most popular TV show of the fall of 2000 in France, with a viewer rating two times higher than that of the notorious Big Brother reality soap, is C'est mon choix (It's my choice) on France 3, a talk-show whose guest is each time an ordinary (or, exceptionally, well-known) person who made a peculiar choice that determined his or her entire lifestyle. For example, one of them decided never to wear underwear, another constantly tried to find a more appropriate sexual partner for his father and mother. Extravagance is allowed, solicited even, but with the explicit exclusion of the choices that may disturb the public (say, a person whose choice is to be and act as a racist is a priori excluded).

      Can one imagine a better summary of what the freedom of choice effectively amounts to in our liberal societies?

      See also: Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Doing the Impossible: Slavoj Žižek and the End of Knowledge

      Slavoj Žižek, philosopher and psychoanalyst, is senior researcher at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut in Essen, Germany. His most recent publications are On Belief (2001), The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski and Post-Theory (2001), and Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? (2001).

    • 567W. J. T. Mitchell
    • The stately pace of the quarterly journal makes it almost impossible to reflect on current events in a timely fashion. By the time one's words appear in print, they will already have been overtaken by events. The horizon of recent history and imminent possibility, the context of choice and decision making will have changed in unforeseeable ways. What point, then, could there be in producing a timely utterance that will be outdated by the time it is heard? How can we know, as we write in this moment of "hot" historical time, what will have been the right thing to say?

      The answer, of course, is that we cannot know, and that this might be a reasonable basis for maintaining silence. A studied and studious silence might be the best strategy in a period of compulsive, noisy talking, a period when every commentator must have an opinion, and every opinion maker is scurrying about to find confirmation of their most cherished convictions. Certainly, the information overload that has jammed the circuits of the global media since the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York on 11 September 2001 makes it very difficult to get any clear, distinct, or compelling message through.

      See also: W. J. T. Mitchell, Poetic Justice: 9-11 to Now

      W. J. T. Mitchell is the editor of Critical Inquiry.

    • 573Geoffrey Galt Harpham
    • Is terror one or many? Does it constitute a global network whose center is nowhere and circumference nowhere, or is it concentrated in a few cave-dwelling fanatics? Does terror have policy objectives and specific grievances, a coherent worldview that contrasts, but also compares, with our own? Or does terrorism seek only terror, the specific concrete acts producing a general state of mind in a nihilistic frenzy of self-replication? Is terror political or eschatological, worldly or otherworldly? Are terrorists people possessed of a singular, horrid mania, or are they mere figureheads, tokens of a general and systemic derangement? Are we in the midst of terror or is terror in the midst of us? Who knows the answer to such questions-who knows, these days, what terror is?

      See also: Geoffrey Galt Harpham, So... What Is Enlightenment? An Inquisition into Modernity

      Geoffrey Gait Harpham teaches English at Tulane University. He is the author of Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (1998) and One of Us: The Mastery of Joseph Conrad (1996).

    • 580James W. Williams
    • Ernst Gombrich, a long-time member of Critical Inquiry's editorial board, died on 3 November 2001. Gombrich was one of the great pioneers of modern art history and made many valuable contributions to this journal during his long and distinguished career. We salute his achievements and mourn his passing.

      Homi K. Bhabha has regretfully resigned from the ranks of the journal's coeditors upon taking up his new position at Harvard University, but he will assume his new duties as a member of the editorial board.