Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Winter 2008

Volume 34 Issue 2
    • 233Jacques Rancière
    • At first sight there is something wrong with my title. When you announce that you will give the reason why a person was killed, you take for granted that he or she was killed, that his or her death was a murder. In this case however there exists strong textual evidence against the alleged fact. Even those who have never read Madame Bovary know at least one thing: nobody killed Emma, she committed suicide. Those who have read it know that, after absorbing the poison, she took care to write, “No one is guilty.…” Therefore the right question apparently reads as follows: Why did Emma Bovary commit suicide?

      See also: Jacques Rancière, The Aesthetic Dimension: Aesthetics, Politics, Knowledge  ·  Jacques Rancière, The Order of the City

      Jacques Rancière is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris—VIII (St. Denis).

    • 249Tzvetan Todorov
    • Insofar as the first aspect is concerned, I see my attitude to begin with as resulting from a choice of priorities and an economy of means. I oppose adversaries in my books, but they are movements of ideas and types of conduct rather than individuals. In The Conquest of America or in On Human Diversity, I analyze and, at the same time, I fight against racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, nationalism, and a few other perversions in our relationships to “others.” In Facing the Extreme and in Hope and Memory, I do the same with regard to totalitarian ideology. In comparison with these fundamental debates, quarrels with my contemporaries seem somewhat trivial to me. I’m not trying to systematically ignore opinions held by others, but I’d rather generalize them because I think that other people may share them too. The important thing is to confront the argument, not the person. Encountering different interpretations has often been a source of stimulation in my work, but my feeling is that priority must be given in the final result to the whole rather than to particular cases, which are unlimited by definition.

      See also: Tzvetan Todorov, The Last Barthes  ·  Tzvetan Todorov, "Race," Writing, and Culture

      Tzvetan Todorov is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. A native of Bulgaria living in France for over four decades, he is among the most influential literary and cultural theorists writing today. Among his many books available in English translation are The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1973), The Poetics of Prose (1977), Theories of the Symbol (1982), The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other (1984), Genres in Discourse (1990), On Human Diversity (1993), Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps (1996), A Passion for Democracy: Benjamin Constant (1999), The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria’s Jews Survived the Holocaust: A Collection of Texts with Commentary (2001), Frail Happiness: An Essay on Rousseau (2001), Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism (2002), and The New World Disorder: Reflections of a European (2005). His most recent book is Les Aventuriers de l’absolu (2006).

    • 274Diarmuid Costello
    • The upshot of this continuity, if I am right, will be to open up an unorthodox perspective on the early criticism. Fried’s early work is often, and to my mind unthinkingly, dismissed as dogmatic or narrowly restrictive; I want to suggest instead that the conception of an artistic medium deployed in Fried’s early criticism and Stanley Cavell’s early philosophy of art is actually so accommodating as to undercut the idea that artistic media put any substantive constraints on artistic practice that may be specified in advance. Hence, if it is true that Fried’s current work on photography can be justified from within the theoretical framework of his art criticism from the 1960s, my own view is that this brings out a fault line internal to ‘Art and Objecthood’ itself, residing in an hitherto unremarked tension between the terms theatre and theatricality on which that essay’s critique of minimalism turns. Insofar as Fried defines theatre as ‘what lies between the arts’ and understands as theatrical any art that presents itself as ‘incomplete’ without an experiencing subject (and does so by virtue of actively soliciting the beholder it requires for its completion), I want to suggest that these terms have no necessary internal relation, despite the fact that at the time Fried brought them together there was no doubt a notable historical overlap between them.

      See also: Michael Fried,  Barthes’s Punctum  · Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision, and Representation

      Diarmuid Costello is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick and codirector, with Margaret Iversen, of a three‐year AHRC‐funded research project titled ‘Aesthetics after Photography’. He is coeditor, with Jonathan Vickery, of Art: Key Contemporary Thinkers (2007) and, with Dominic Willsdon, of The Life and Death of Images: Ethics and Aesthetics (2008). He is completing a monograph, Aesthetics after Modernism.

    • 313Jeffrey Knapp

      By “secularization” I mean the process not just of displacing religion but of transforming it to secular use. In The Jazz Singer, entertainment appropriates the emotion and mystique of religion just as African‐American identity is appropriated by the Jew. The film’s intense focus on Judaism, or rather on an invidious characterization of Judaism, actually facilitates this secularization. By presenting its sole representative of formal religion, Judaism, as tribal and primitive, The Jazz Singer depicts religion generally as tribal and primitive.

      See also: Michael Rogin, Blackface, White Noise: The Jewish Jazz Singer Finds His Voice

      Jeffrey Knapp is professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently completing a companion volume to his previous book, Shakespeare’s Tribe, entitled Shakespeare Only.

    • 336Miriam Bratu Hansen
    • The heterogeneity of sources and intertexts that resonate in Benjamin’s aura goes a long way toward accounting for both the elusiveness and ambivalence that surround the concept in his work. More importantly, this heterogeneity testifies to Benjamin’s revisionary ability—and intellectual courage—to appropriate and transform theoretical impulses from philosophically and politically incompatible, if not antagonistic, camps. I’ve traced some of these impulses to show aura’s complex role for his efforts to reimagine the possibility of experience in mass‐mediated modernity; I hope to have also elucidated the stakes of his experimental mode of theorizing—a mode of theorizing that I consider still, and in more than one sense, “open to the future.”

      See also: Miriam Bratu Hansen, "Schindler's List" Is Not "Shoah": The Second Commandment, Popular Modernism, and Public Memory  ·  Miriam Bratu Hansen, Benjamin and Cinema: Not a One‐Way Street

      Miriam Bratu Hansen is Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she teaches in the Department of English and the Committee on Cinema and Media Studies. Her publications include a book on Ezra Pound’s early poetics (1979) and Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (1991). She is currently completing a study entitled The Other Frankfurt School: Kracauer, Benjamin, and Adorno on Cinema, Mass Culture, and Modernity. Her next project is a book on the notion of cinema as vernacular modernism.

    • 376Ricardo Alarcón
    • Intellectuals on both sides of the Rio Grande shoulder great responsibility and are duty‐bound to make this new age one of peace and friendship among our peoples. With the cold war behind us, we now face new possibilities to establish new relations, which will only be possible when all hegemonic designs are abandoned. Mills has finally returned. Let us take heed of his words: “What I have been trying to say to intellectuals, preachers, scientists—as well as more generally to publics—can be put into one sentence: Drop the liberal rhetoric and the conservative default, they are now parts of one and the same official line; transcend that line.”

      See also: Marc Blanchard, From Cuba with Saints  ·  Ambrosio Fornet, Cuba: Nation, Diaspora, Literature

      Ricardo Alarcón is president of the National Assembly of People’s Power of the Republic of Cuba. This is the text of a lecture delivered at the Workshop “Dialogos Políticos,” the Twenty‐seventh International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, 2007, Montréal, Canada, 7 September 2007.