Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 2003

Volume 29 Issue 2
    • 193Peter Goodrich
    • At the end of what she deemed to have been the worst of years, the English sovereign in her annual address to the nation resorted to Latin. The monarch, titular head of state and of the legal system, announced at the close of 1992 that it had been annus horribilis. In the face of tragic events and immediate threats, the impending divorce of her son and heir and the specter of taxation of the monarchy, the queen resorted paradoxically to a dead language, to a heavy signifier, to the weight of Latin. The force of the immediate and the pressure or stress of the political required the distance and gravitas of a language that few any longer either know or understand. It was the appropriate mode in which to signal both authority and grief.

      See also: Peter Goodrich, The New Casuistry ·  Sheldon Pollock, Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World

      Peter Goodrich is professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. His books include Legal Discourse: Studies in Rhetoric, Linguistics, and Legal Analysis (1989); Languages of Law: From Logics of Memory to Nomadic Masks (1990); Oedipus Lex: Psychoanalysis, History, Law (1995); and Law in the Courts of Love: Literature and Other Minor Jurisprudences (1996). He is currently at work on a book entitled Laws of Friendship.

    • 216Sharon Cameron
    • I first return, however, one last time to the suppositions behind Weil’s writing. Weil’s hostility to the category of the self had looked unassimilable to masochism and to any other punitive understanding. Yet willing life in unusual forms—forms of vitality purged of an I—becomes in these passages heuristically inseparable from willing death in unusual forms (May I “be insensible … like old people in the last stage of decrepitude”). Thus these positions are coupled, even though Weil’s writing and her life seem to defy such linkages and conclusions. In other words, the preservation of the self in Weil’s writing is not a necessary part of any commitment to self‐sacrifice; however the positions might exist simultaneously in the passages examined. Conversely, the commitment to life lived at the greatest intensity seems in Weil’s writing inseparable from fatality. Yet the compensation for Weil’s practices of attention—and, indeed, their intelligibility—lay in preserving the difference between being dead in the sense of being without a vantage and being dead as an actual phenomenon.

      See also: The Way of Life by Abandonment: Emerson's Impersonal  ·  Françoise Meltzer, The Hands of Simone Weil

      Sharon Cameron is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. Her books include The Corporeal Self: Allegories of the Body in Melville and Hawthorne (1981); Thinking in Henry James (1989); Choosing Not Choosing: Emily Dickinson’s Fascicles (1993); and Beautiful Work: A Meditation on Pain (2000). This essay is an excerpt from her book‐in‐progress on ideas of impersonality.

    • 253Emily Apter
    • In many ways, the rush to globalize the literary canon in recent years may be viewed as the “comp‐lit‐ization”of national literatures throughout the humanities. Comparative literature was in principle global from its inception, even if its institutional establishment in the postwar period assigned Europe the lion’s share of critical attention and shortchanged non‐Western literatures. As many have pointed out, the foundational figures of comparative literature—Leo Spitzer, Erich Auerbach—came as exiles and emigres from war‐torn Europe with a shared suspicion of nationalism. Goethe’s ideal of Weltliteratur, associated with a commitment to expansive cultural secularism, became a disciplinary premiss that has endured, resonating today in, say, Franco Moretti’s essay “Conjectures on World Literature,” in which he argues that antinationalism is really the only raison d’être for risky forays into “distant reading.” “The point,” he asserts, “is that there is no other justification for the study of world literature (and for the existence of departments of comparative literature) but this: to be a thorn in the side, a permanent intellectual challenge to national literatures—especially the local literature.

      See also: Aamir R. Mufti, Auerbach in Istanbul: Edward Said, Secular Criticism, and the Question of Minority Culture  ·  Aamir R. Mufti, Global Comparativism

      Emily Apter is a professor of French at New York University. She is the author of Continental Drift (1999), Feminizing the Fetish (1987), and coeditor with William Pietz of Fetishism as Cultural Discourse (1991). A book near completion is titled The Translation Zone: Language Wars and Literary Politics.

    • 282Amanda Anderson
    • A generalized psychology is typically brought in to account for relations toward belief and, as happens in both these cases, to explain the difficulty of converting people to the pragmatist worldview. But, at certain moments, more expansive characterologies make their appearance. By characterology I mean something other than those general observations about epistemic practices that appear in the psychological analyses. When pragmatists appeal to character, they sketch a more elaborate, individualized way of life, evoking settled dispositions, habits, and temperament. Although these character sketches are not generally contextualized temporally or spatially, remaining at some level atomic and individualist, they move toward a descriptive thickness that evokes the literary, and often they can be situated with regard to generic literary modes such as irony or comedy. These unusual descriptive moments, and the pragmatists’ relatively unexamined and untheorized relation to them, are what I would like to explore.

      See also: Amanda Anderson, Postwar Aesthetics: The Case of Trilling and Adorno

      Amanda Anderson is Caroline Donovan Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Distance (2001) and Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of Fallenness in Victorian Culture (1993). She has coedited, with Joseph Valente, Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siècle (2001).

    • 302Michael Mackenzie
    • Leni Riefenstahl’s films are controversial today because, while they are enormously powerful and groundbreaking accomplishments in the art of film, some of them were made more or less directly in the service of Nazi party propaganda. This is clearly true of her most notorious film, Triumph of the Will, a documentary of the 1934 National Socialist Party rally in Nuremberg, and only the most blinkered of Riefenstahl’s apologists are not skeptical of her insistence that this film should be understood strictly as art and not as propaganda. Her documentary film of the Olympics is another matter; it is less clearly propagandistic and was made to document games in which Germany’s athletes could not and did not always win.

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

      Michael Mackenzie is assistant professor of art history at DePauw University. He is currently working on a book on images of man as a machine in the art and visual culture of Germany between the wars.

    • 337Timothy Brennan
    • What is the predicament of cultural theory today? In posing this question, I do not wish to imply either that the moment of theory has passed or that the energies of various theoretical movements in the post‐World War II period have been totally sapped. I want to risk a more direct and therefore perhaps more contentious position: namely, that theory has become a code word for relatively predictable positions in the humanities and related social sciences, most of which turn on the ideas of social transformation, historical agency, the disposition of selfhood (however understood), and the heterogeneity of cultures—all posed in the context of a critique of Enlightenment thought. But to the extent that such ideas have become routine in their very disruptiveness (or the other way around), our most vaunted theoretical figures today may well resemble the generation of Futurists whose pretensions to revolutionary and avant‐garde originality Gramsci lampoons in the above epigraph.

      See also: Timothy Brennan, The Illusion of a Future: "Orientalism" as Traveling Theory  ·  Harry Harootunian, Theory’s Empire: Reflections on a Vocation for Critical Inquiry

      Timothy Brennan is professor of comparative literature, cultural studies, and English at the University of Minnesota, and director of the Humanities Institute. He is the author of At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (1997), Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation (1989), and has edited and introduced Alejo Carpentier’s Music in Cuba (2001). He has just completed a book titled Cultures of Belief.

    • 368Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
    • We are very pleased that Empire has generated such serious discussion and debate among so many readers in the United States and around the world. Timothy Brennan states in the final paragraph of his review essay that he wishes to approach the book as an opportunity for constructive dialogue and collective projects. This is certainly our desire, too. We have often said that the book invites and even demands critiques. It proposes such a large framework that it is bound to solicit different views at the highest and lowest levels of analysis. Moreover the book offers a strong argument with which the reader is invited to agree or disagree, in its entirety or in parts. It seems to us that the proposal, engagement, and critique of such arguments is the best way to advance our understanding of the issues at hand. Aside from the final paragraph, however, Brennan’s essay is written in a very aggressive and dismissive style that does not in fact create the conditions for a constructive engagement of ideas. Quite the opposite. What seems to us the most important issue to address here is how (and how not) to conduct theoretical debates so that they may be most productive.

      Michael Hardt is associate professor of literature at Duke University. Antonio Negri was professor of political science at the University of Padua. They are coauthors of Empire (2000) and Labor of Dionysus (1994). Hardt is also author of Gilles Deleuze (1993). Negri has published over twenty books, the most recent of which to appear in English is Insurgencies (1999).

    • 374Timothy Brennan
    • For my own part, I would have preferred a substantive response to my contentions: Is post‐Fordism tenable or a doxa launched by critics unwilling to do actual economic analysis? Is it adequate to speak about the state as though it were a hovering ghost or Platonic ideal, or are there not states (or aspects of them) that defend marginalized constituencies? To what extent does their thesis of “immaterial labor” echo business management clichés while ignoring the immaterial labor of cultural theorists under globalization? Is not contemporary capitalism more a hybrid of recidivist postures and emerging technologies than the nucleus of an inexorable (and exciting) development of the “general intellect”? How do Empire‘s authors account for the tone of religious immanence in their political theory, evident in their use of Christian terms (the multitudo fidelium, for instance), their paeans to St. Francis, and their neo‐Thomist structures of thinking?

      Timothy Brennan is professor of comparative literature, cultural studies, and English at the University of Minnesota, and director of the Humanities Institute. He is the author of At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (1997), Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation (1989), and has edited and introduced Alejo Carpentier’s Music in Cuba (2001). He has just completed a book titled Cultures of Belief.