"Vengeance on a dumb brute!" cried Starbuck, "that simply smote thee from blindest instinct!"
Can an animal be held accountable for its actions? No matter how counterintuitive, this question follows inevitably from the revelation that an orangutan is the agent behind the horrific deeds perpetrated in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."1 As Akira Mizuta Lippit suggests, "perhaps there has been no crime at the house on Rue Morgue, after all—only death."2 Accountability implies the capacity to reason, to comprehend right and wrong, to think causally in order to connect deeds to an authorial subject. It presupposes, in other words, a consciousness that humans have historically denied to animals. In his "Discourse on the Method," for instance, René Descartes characterized animals as automatons, machines that can sometimes imitate humans—as do parrots who learn to mimic human speech—but nevertheless lack the faculties of reason that elevate humans above all other organisms.3
Notwithstanding the Cartesian division between animal reaction and human response, the premodern legal practice of prosecuting and exterminating animals for their crimes presumed precisely this capacity for accountability. In The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals (1906), E. P. Evans catalogued a number of such cases from the ninth through the nineteenth centuries, including one in the early sixteenth century that involved an unspecified number of rats who destroyed the barley crop of a French province.4 When the defendants failed to appear in court, their attorney explained their absence by citing the "serious perils" that accompanied their journey, "owing to the unwearied vigilance of their mortal enemies, the cats" (19). For Evans, this practice reads not only as a symptom of anthropomorphism, but as characteristic of a legal system that "ignored the origin [of crimes] altogether. . . . The overt act alone was assumed to constitute the crime" (200). The law criminalized animals not so much because they were understood as culpable, but because the effects of their actions were harmful. Whereas premodern jurisprudence appeared to treat animals as humans, modern law often portrays humans as animals, "acting automatically or under an insane and irresistible impulse to evil" (193). Modern law thus evaluates human accountability by weighing "gradations of culpability" and calculating "delicate differences in the psychical texture and spiritual quality of deeds" (194).
This construction of the human criminal as animal is often traced to Cesare Lombroso's Criminal Man, first published in 1876, which lamented the traditional legal focus on the crime rather than the criminal.5 Lombroso developed a theory of criminality based on the supposedly atavistic characteristics of human criminals, and in the third edition of Criminal Man (1884) went so far as to assert that human criminality owes its origins to the criminal transgressions of animals and even plants. Carnivorous plants, for instance, "release the victim once dead and partially digested, thanks to an acid that is similar to our own pepsin" (167). Eschewing the presumption of free will, Lombroso contends that "crime, from its first manifestations in the lower species, is a product of any organism's physical constitution" (174). Ironically, Lombroso's emphasis on the criminal rather than the crime does not posit the criminal agent as the origin of his or her actions. Rather, human criminals recapitulate the animalistic impulses of their progenitors in a deterministic fashion.
Similarly to Lombroso, in the Genealogy of Morals Friedrich Nietzsche seeks to reverse a culturally imposed "sundering from" our "animal past."6 According to Nietzsche, "we modern men are the heirs of the conscience-vivisection and self-torture of millennia" (95). As Walter Kaufmann notes, the original German employs the term Tierquälerei, or "animal torture," which implies a violent mortification of the animality that resides within the human. Although Nietzsche does not subscribe to Lombroso's biological determinism, he does seek to problematize the construction of the human as a calculable, volitional, causal agent. Against the strict Cartesian division between human and animal, Nietzsche characterizes humans as precisely animals who have been bred "to make promises" (57, his italics). This ability to promise, however, presupposes the faculty of memory, "so that between the original 'I will,' 'I shall do this...
In david foster wallace's 1996 behemoth Infinite Jest, everyone is an addict. More precisely, everyone is a compulsive user: of crack, Demerol, booze, elite competitive tennis, M*A*S*H, household bleach. Recovering drug addict Don Gately emerges as one of the sprawling novel's heroes, in part because of his success in recovery. Readers want to let Wallace off the hook for the clichéd contradictions of working-class identity defining Gately—his sweet naïveté and brute, bearlike strength, his wide-ranging, deep insight and lack of formal education, his ability to get the uptown girl despite his downtown background—because he's so dang likeable. Gately's struggle to "work the program," to apply the rules of Alcoholics Anonymous to his own life meaningfully and effectively, drive much of the novel's emotional power. And despite the problems one may have with AA as a vehicle for healthy living, Gately's mode of fighting addiction is the only one in the novel that actually works. In Wallace's obsessive-compulsive, entertainment-addled, apocalyptically consumption-based society, everyone would do well to act like Don Gately.
In one example of Gately's recovery process, he follows AA's dictum to pray to a "higher power," even though he has no idea who, what, where, why, or how such a power might exist. Gately "simultaneously confesses and complains" to an AA meeting that he
takes one of AA's very rare specific suggestions and hits the knees in the A.M. and asks for Help and then hits the knees again at bedtime and says Thank You, whether he believes he's talking to Anything/-body or not, and he somehow gets through the day clean. This, after ten months of ear-smoking concentration and reflection, is still all he feels like he "understands" about the "God angle." . . . He feels about the ritualistic daily Please and Thank You prayers rather like a hitter that's on a hitting streak and doesn't change his jock or socks or pre-game routine for as long as he's on the streak. W/sobriety being the hitting streak and whatnot, he explains.1
Gately fights addiction by replacing his compulsive drug use with this kind of repetitive, performative, bodily ritual. He doesn't use talk therapy, he doesn't articulate how he feels, he cannot intellectualize how or why it works. In fact, when he tries to speculate what his higher power might be, he feels a "Nothing" so profoundly terrifying that it makes him want to puke (IJ 444). Though the narrative nods to childhood trauma, memories that his addictions buried and that he revisits in recovery, Gately's recovery is largely depicted as a compulsive, ritual, and physical investment in an entity outside of himself that may or may not exist. Despite his ambivalence about the nature of the powers controlling him, he creates a functional but empty signifier for them, using his own body as a similarly functional instrument of free-floating, originless well-being.
I call Gately's ritual "anti-interiority," and I find it in a number of major contemporary novels where biomedicine, individual power, and destructive social orders collide. Anti-interiority is a mode of identity founded in the material world of both objects and biological bodies and divested from an essentialist notion of inner emotional, psychological, and spiritual life. Anti-interiority is a subjectivity generated by the material world and yet works against oppressive political, economic, and social forces in that same world, not in the ideal realm of interiority, with its normative modes of agency and its metaphysical connotations. In fact, it replaces the referents associated with "interior" and "exterior" with a dynamic, generative materiality, itself composed of both object worlds and biomedical realities. In several cultural productions, of which Infinite Jest is a compelling example, I find anti-interiority in representations of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome, and compulsive consumption behaviors, along with other biomedically defined mental illnesses of bodily repetition and iteration, such as amnesia and dementia. This essay focuses on Infinite Jest to introduce more fully the concept, contexts, promises, and hazards of biomedical anti-interiority. I argue...
Harriet Beecher Stowe's notorious 1869 exposé, "The True Story of Lady Byron's Life," has quite plausibly been described as "the most sensational magazine article of the nineteenth century,"1 but as is often the case with sensations it has tended to be talked about much more than understood. Stowe's nominal project in the "True Story" was the defense of the poet Lord Byron's wife against criticism levied against her in the British and American press both before and after her death in 1860, and she continued advocating on her behalf the following year in a subsequent, stand-alone treatment titled Lady Byron Vindicated (1870). Her larger aim, however, was to strike a blow in the service of women's rights, with Stowe attempting in her Byron studies to refine her earlier thinking about the institution of slavery and to expand its definition in such a way that it could be applied to the condition of women in the United States and elsewhere. But her project's fate is a textbook illustration of the grievous consequences that can occur when an example used in the service of an argument overshadows the argument itself, as it was the inflammatory means by which Stowe made her point that received the most attention during her lifetime and afterwards.
First aired in America's Atlantic Monthly and England's MacMillan's, Stowe's polemic could not have been better designed to provoke controversy. The "True Story" proclaimed in a public forum the long-whispered rumor that Lord Byron had carried on an incestuous affair with his half sister and had fathered a daughter by her, and the reaction was swift, angry, and damaging for nearly everyone involved. Partisans of Lord Byron and defenders of his memory were predictably incensed, claiming that the story would permanently besmirch his reputation and that his wife had fed it to Stowe out of disloyalty and deceit. A large contingent of Stowe's audience was horrified that she would so exceed the boundaries of propriety and pollute mainstream publications with salacious subject matter, with fifteen thousand of the Atlantic's subscribers (about one third of the readership) canceling in protest and almost wrecking the magazine in what Oliver Wendell Holmes dubbed "the Byron whirlwind."2 And Stowe, who was of course no stranger to controversy, stood to lose a great deal. The Atlantic survived and the poet's work ended up suffering little in its popularity and critical esteem, but Stowe's career was not the same after 1870. Forrest Wilson, one of Stowe's early biographers, despaired in 1941 that after the Byron affair, "Never again would she stand alone as the supreme female figure in the American scene. . . . Today with the millions the most conspicuous and influential American woman of the 1850's and 1860's is but a name—the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin—she who deserved to be remembered for so much else."3 Stowe's later writing, of course, now has a more secure place in the academy than it did when Wilson wrote her literary obituary, but the sheer peculiarity of the imbroglio still lingers: why would the author of the nineteenth century's best-selling novel jeopardize her career in such spectacular fashion, airing an allegation that was all but certain to inflame the public and yet was unlikely to benefit anyone other than Lady Byron, a woman whom Stowe considered a friend but who had been dead for nearly a decade?
Until relatively recently, scholars who discussed Stowe's Byron texts mainly concerned themselves with the veracity of their allegations and the motivations that led Stowe to make them, with most concluding either that she made a fool of herself or that Lady Byron rather craftily took advantage of her. Biographies of the poet have varied a great deal over the years, but one constant has been the tendency to dismiss Stowe as a hack and to treat Lady Byron's collaboration with her as an expression of vanity and revenge: in 1925, John Drinkwater called Lady Byron Vindicated "one of the most nauseating essays in sanctimony that has ever been written"; in 1970, Leslie A...
Sigmund Freud's celebrated case study, "From the History of an Infantile Neurosis" (1918), more closely resembles a literary work than it does a meticulously composed scientific record, given that it provides seemingly infinite possibilities for reinterpretation.1 The study not only describes the process involved in the interpretation of dreams, but it also outlines the structure of remembering through deferred acts, along with repetition and transference. Indeed, the style of the writing itself is seemingly intended to call attention to the way in which science and literature are dynamically synthesized, and the manner in which the mode of remembering functions in the study's dialectic. As Jacques Derrida observes, "The theory of psychoanalysis, then, becomes a theory of the archive and not only a theory of memory."2 Significantly, in Freud's case study of the so-called "Wolf Man," memory—or more accurately, remembering or recollection—serves as the key element, given its role as the kernel of Freudian repression. Perhaps the numerous rereadings of this single empirical scientific study are due to its treatment of memory, which is, after all, the most mysterious structure of the human mind. Building upon the materiality of the so-called memory trace, the human mind perceives reality through a circular process of remembering. We refer to this material as the void; and in its absence, there can be no repetition, no cultural transference, and, for that matter, no cycle of recollections.
As a reader whose development was shaped by the Eastern philosophical tradition, my interpretation of the Wolf Man case study focuses on transference, which contends that materiality, or animal nature, is the source of (re)creation as well as of remembering. In order to illustrate the narrative transference caused by this material base, my argument will proceed in the following order. First, I compare Freudian remembering to the Bergsonian model of memory through a brief examination of Matter and Memory, which features a version of the mode of remembering.3 Next, along with Freud's letter 52 and several key essays from the metapsychology on remembering, I explore the mode of cultural turn, or transference, which is reflected by Derrida in his essay "Freud and the Scene of Writing." In the process, I examine how Derrida created a new paradigm of deconstruction, a seminal influence upon cultural studies, drawing upon Freud's mode of remembering—and I will consider what he repressed in the process of doing so.
Those who take issue with the positive transference of Freud's memory structure include dissenting figures like Frank Sulloway, who calls into question the politics of hiding materiality (or biology) in pure psychology, and Frederick Crews, who (along with Adolf Grünbaum) criticizes Freud's clinical method of recovering memory as untestable and "fundamentally flawed." To call attention to their misunderstandings, I refer to the HERA model that has been recently explored by neuroscientists, and that bears a striking—and for many, surprising—resemblance to Freud's apparatuses in the "mystic writing-pad." Accordingly, the crux of my argument examines Freud's embodiment of his concept of remembering, "From the History of an Infantile Neurosis," in regard to Chuang-tzu's "dream of a butterfly." Ultimately, the cause of transference is grounded less in the dream of wolves than in the memory of the butterfly. My argument is designed to show that the cause of deferred acts, revealing narration as an endless process, is the material base of remembering. Furthermore, the material aspect of the mnemic system signifies the potentiality of psychoanalysis to achieve a symbiotic relationship between humans and natural beings.
Bergson's approach to memory is not inherently incompatible with Freud's model of remembrance, given that both claim an intersection between mind and matter. A key element of Bergson's premise is situated in neuron theory, which contends that human perception is a powerful motor designed to adopt the pure memory that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. Cerebral movement, however, belongs to (unconscious) matter, not consciousness, although "conscious perception and cerebral movement are in strict correspondence" (MM 35). Therefore, we are unable to grasp how the...
This essay challenges the common conception that biomedicine operates by separating the mind from the body, and by attending to the biological rather than spiritual. In actual practice, there are practical and strategic concerns that bring the spiritual into play. This is because, at least in the case of chronic illnesses, clinicians cannot simply fix bodies; they must create partnerships with patients and family caregivers who also assume responsibilities in providing clinical care and making medical decisions about course of treatment. Drawing from a longitudinal ethnographic study of African American families who have children with serious chronic medical conditions, I examine how these families bring spiritual practices and spiritual ways of "reading the body" directly into the clinical encounter. Patients and family members creatively remake or reinterpret the oral and written words of clinicians and incorporate them within their own narratives of miraculous recoveries, the power of faith, and the centrality of meditative prayer. In doing so, they unite spiritual with physical healing in ways not dissimilar to the pre-modern practices Brian Stock describes. For these families, such meditative practices are often part of life-long journeys, connecting practices of healing to a general philosophy of life well understood by the ancients.
A philosophical exploration of the ideal of intellectual integrity drawing on Samuel Butler's semi-autobiographical Bildungsroaman, The Way of All Flesh; and relating this to C.S. Peirce's idea of the scientific attitude and Percy Bridgman's reflections on the conditions needed for this ideal to flourish.
Habitus is a key concept in the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and plays an organizing role in his classic study Distinction where tastes are divided between different class-based habitus. These divisions are set in the context of Bourdieu’s account of the French cultural field as being polarized between a bourgeois habitus defined by the Kantian ethos of disinterestedness and a working-class habitus governed by the choice of the necessary. This paper probes this account of the habitus and aesthetics and its political implications, in the light of the challenges to it that are presented by Bernard Lahire's sociology of individuals and Jacques Rancière's account of the politics of aesthetics. It is illustrated by drawing on the evidence regarding the social distribution of cultural tastes from a recent study of the relationships between cultural practices and cultural capital in the United Kingdom. The central argument of the paper is that, far from succeeding in using the techniques of empirical sociology to map out a space that is beyond aesthetics, Bourdieu’s account remains complicit with those tendencies in the history of western aesthetics that have functioned to exclude the working classes from full political participation.
New Literary History 29.4 (1998) 831-846
Intentionalism in aesthetics is, quite generally, the thesis that the artist's or artists' intentions have a decisive role in the creation of a work of art, and that knowledge of such intentions is a necessary component of at least some adequate interpretive and evaluative claims. In this paper I develop and defend this thesis. I begin with a discussion of some anti-intentionalist arguments. Surveying a range of intentionalist responses to them, I briefly introduce and criticize a fictionalist version of intentionalism before moving on to an approach I call moderate intentionalism. I consider a salient alternative known as hypothetical intentionalism and try to show why moderate intentionalism should be preferred to it.
Saying what, precisely, intentions are is no small problem, and disputes in aesthetics often hinge on rival assumptions about the nature and function of intentions in general. I shall assume, in what follows, that intentions are mental states having semantic contents, various psychological functions, and practical consequences -- but not always the targetted results. I shall not take up any of the more global challenges to intentionalist psychology, such as eliminative materialism or macro-sociological and historicist critiques. I assume, then, that agents sometimes intend to perform an action, such as writing a poem, and that they occasionally succeed in realizing such aims, thereby intentionally doing such things as writing poems.
In an extreme version, intentionalism holds that a work's meanings and its maker's intentions are logically equivalent. Such a thesis still has its defenders, yet it is hard to see how it can be reconciled with the fact that intentions are not always successfully realized. A theory of interpretation based on Humpty Dumpty's semantics does not seem promising. An extreme version of anti-intentionalism also has its advocates, who confront the intentionalist with the following dilemma: either the artist's intentions are successfully realized in the text or structure produced by the artist, in which case the interpreter need not refer to them; or, the artist's intentions are not successfully realized, in which case reference to them is insufficient to justify a related claim about the work's meanings. Any viable form of intentionalism must find a way out of this dilemma.
A premise of many anti-intentionalist arguments -- including the dilemma just mentioned -- is that if a work has determinate meanings and value, they must be immanent in the artistic text or structure. This sort of empiricism in aesthetics is vulnerable to some powerful criticisms. Not all of the artistically or aesthetically relevant features of a work of art are intrinsic properties of the text; some are relational and can only be known when the text or structure is cognized correctly in the context of its creation. In making this point, a number of philosophers, such as Arthur Danto, David Davies, Jerrold Levinson, and Gregory Currie, have evoked versions of Jorge Luis Borges's fictional example of Pierre Menard: tokens of the same text-type, created in different contexts, manifest different, artistically relevant relational features; to know which features are those of one work as opposed to another work, one must interpret the text in its context of creation.
Once attention has been drawn to the constitutive status of a work's relational properties, cogent responses to the anti-intentionalist dilemma can be formulated. The intentionalist can argue that some successfully realized intentions are not simply redundant with regard to the text's intrinsic features. An example is the intention that a certain meaning be unstated in the text yet implicitly expressed by the work. Even when the intentions are successfully realized, such relations are not immanent in the final artistic structure or text and cannot be simply read off from the latter. Intentionalists also contend that whenever our goal is to evaluate a work as a certain kind of achievement, the artist's intentions, including unsuccessfully executed ones, are always relevant, because part of what we want to do is take note of the manner and extent of the artist's realization of the relevant aims. Although it is not the case that success at realizing...
New Literary History 29.1 (1998) 85-99
My study Southern African Literatures has since its publication in May 1996 occasioned heated responses in South Africa. Briefly, arguments involve the matter of identity politics: whose language, culture, or story can be said to have authority in South Africa when the end of apartheid has raised challenging questions as to what it is to be a South African, what it is to live in a new South Africa, whether South Africa is a nation, and, if so, what is its mythos, what requires to be forgotten and what remembered as we scour the past in order to understand the present and seek a path forward into an unknown future? What is our story when storytelling in its most harrowing form occupies the attention of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with families and friends recollecting those who were bludgeoned to death by the forces of the racist state?
A single-authored literary history, Southern African Literatures covers work from the expression of stone-age Bushmen to that of writers such as Gordimer, Brink, Breytenbach, and Coetzee. In considering the questions of what constitutes a usable past, what value may be assigned to traditional, elite, and popular forms, generally how after apartheid one might understand the linguistic and cultural complexity of the southern African region, the study inherited a literary culture that had been constructed upon assumptions of linguistic-racial exclusivities. I use the term "assumptions" rather than "principles": although a few critics have consistently called for "integrative study," the practice -- a practice very short on theory -- has favored surveys, anthologies, and histories delineated according to the several languages and races of the region. There are in consequence separate studies of Afrikaans literature, South African English literature, Zulu literature, Xhosa literature, Sotho literature, a few on white writing, and a few on black writing. Southern African Literatures, in contrast, presents a single though multi-vocal narrative based on principles of comparison and translation. In crossing language and race barriers it asks questions such as: would Xhosa expression have developed the way it did had it not encountered a British settler presence on its ancient land? Conversely, would South African English literature have taken its particular course had it not encountered indigenous people around its early settlements? The aim--"after apartheid"--is to retain respect for the epistemological autonomy of the cultures between which interchange is taking place while seeking to make the insights of one culture accessible to the other. A reviewer in the United States has seen in the approach a valuable "multiculturalism" which -- we are told -- Americans espouse but seldom practice. If multiculturalism suggests synthesis, my real concern is iniquities of power, and the study deliberately adopts the tendentious view that "in dangerous times throughout the South African story, many people who in other circumstances would have been less than artists have had to become more than artists. Without the protection of ambiguity, irony or even the expensive package of the literary book, they have had to find words to speak out boldly against injustice" (SAL 428-29). Literary utterance emerges less as formalism, more as rhetoric; the artist less as the crafter of artifacts, more the citizen of public account. The emphasis seems appropriate to a conflictual history, in which the texts of politics have wanted to overwhelm the texts of art.
My intention, however, is not to dwell on Southern African Literatures--the book must make its own way in the world -- but to consider the issue of storytelling in literary history as an attempt to capture, reorder, and even reinvent a sense of the self in society. The issue clearly has pertinence to South Africa, where questions as to whose story is being told, or as to what constitutes a South African story, reflect the concerns about -- some might say crises of -- identity that have accompanied massive changes since the unbannings of the liberation movements in 1990 and the ongoing transition from an apartheid state to a constitutional democracy. The issue, I shall suggest, also has applicability to a world which since 1989 has seen dramatic rearrangements of relationships between West and East, and -- more directly to my...
New Literary History 29.4 (1998) 691-696
Thomas Pavel's essay offers so much that is profoundly interesting about Bakhtin, and provides such insight into values sitting deep in "existential liberals with an illusionist, low-realist bias" (that's the three of us), that one is tempted to start the forum over again with Pavel as the hub rather than as the response. Three counterqueries must suffice. First, can I agree with Pavel's statement that Bakhtin -- at least as he appears, inevitably reduced, in my chronicle The First Hundred Years--indeed values "outsideness" as the primary human virtue? Second, since so strong an outsiderly imperative is certain to create a paradox for any philosophy of creativity and also (as a related liability) to produce some pretty strange readings of literary works, in emphasizing this factor am I "divorcing Bakhtin's aesthetics and moral philosophy from his practical criticism"? Correctives to Bakhtin's famous "practical-critical" readings of Dostoevsky, Rabelais, the ancient epic, and lyric poetry have been stockpiling for years -- and Pavel adds his own here: a defense of the maligned Greek romance. Bakhtin, I do believe, would be distraught by such a divorce within his legacy. As he confided to a disciple late in life, from his early years he had aimed to create a "first philosophy" that integrated ethical, spiritual, and aesthetic values in a vision as systematic and ambitious as the one achieved by the great German academic philosophers.
Last, can a place be found in this roundtable discussion for Alexander Pushkin? Bernstein's and Morson's essays neatly fit together. Both focus on "temporal perception disorders," on licit and illicit uses of the shadows of time. In his commentary, Pavel makes bold to ground these two entries in a common source: the modern, secular, illusionist conviction (arguably at the base of Bakhtin's novelistic teleology as well) that assumes that creative adaptation to the world and maximal exploitation of its options is the most complete and desirable expression of human freedom. Pushkin (and many others mentioned by Pavel in his critique) would have been wary of this position. Glorious as Pushkin is as poet and critic, in my essay in his honor for this forum he is odd man out -- and this is probably the wrong sort of outsideness. I shall attempt, very briefly at the end, to bring him in.
To begin with Bakhtin's god-term "outsideness." Pavel defines the concept, not incorrectly, as "the human capacity to backstep from the grip of actual experiences: always present in the aesthetic dimension of art and literature, outsideness ultimately becomes the foundation of moral reflection." Taken in this form, it is an unexceptional doctrine. It implies aesthetic distance, disinterestedness, an aristocratic disengagement from whatever is the pain or scandal at hand, a heightened concern for epistemology (where must I locate myself, to know what I know?) and, of course, attention to those literary devices that grant writers access to another's consciousness. Pavel is certainly right that no comprehensive, successful poetics of an author like Dostoevsky could be limited to those matters alone. Like his friendly rival and nemesis Leo Tolstoy, and like Saul Morson in his brilliantly speculative, wide-ranging essay for this forum, Bakhtin as author and scholarly critic took from the great literature of the world what he needed in order to nourish his philosophy -- which, in its themes and nodes of value, remained remarkably stable throughout fifty highly unstable Soviet years. I would suggest, then, that Bakhtin's practical criticism, even at its most provocative, is not so much "divorced" from his philosophy as it is revealed to be (as any critical exercise always is) inadequate to the magnificent, multifaceted literary works to which it was applied. But the essays in this forum raise several issues that make Bakhtin's "outsideness," as applied to ethics and to literary art, more than just a backstep.
Bernstein contributes to the question (literally) at the level of life and death: the moral implications of metonymy and synecdoche when representing maximally tragic events of cosmic scope. If some particular thing (say, the life of one ordinary, integrated European Jew) is represented as innocently and...
First paragraph: The history of literature and art offers no shortage of works created to offend or shock an audience, but few have been as incendiary as gangsta rap. Apologists cannot deny the problematic content of this form of rap—the misogynistic posturing, themes of intense violence, freewheeling and gratuitous obscenity—and some detractors hold that even the attempt to analyze the genre bestows undeserved legitimacy on its practitioners. The transgressive and counter-hegemonic stance of gangsta rap has become so hreatening, in fact, that its origins as a complex poetic form with deep roots in a variety of literary and ritual traditions have, for the most part, been neglected or obscured. Indeed, it is difficult to think of any poetic form in the contemporary West in which politics, race and ideology have dictated so completely the terms of "acceptable" criticism. This is all the more remarkable for gangsta rap, insofar as so much foundational scholarship, some even decades old, already exists within fields such as folklore, psychology and anthropology which can articulate the nexus of literary and cultural forces that gave rise to it. As such approaches make clear, far from being an unprecedented art form that can only reflect the social pathologies idiosyncratic to American ghetto life, gangsta rap operates within a well-documented poetic tradition within African-American culture that ritualizes invective, satire, obscenity, and other verbal phenomena with transgressive aims.
Homo homini lupus, man is a wolf to man, remains one of the most well-known and often quoted dictums in the tradition of political theory. Political theorists take this phrase by Thomas Hobbes in the Epistle Dedicatory of De Cive to illustrate the brutish, anarchical and violent condition of man in the natural condition, prior to the establishment of a civil state. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I suggest that this brief passage directs our attention to lycanthropy: an acute melancholic syndrome which 17th century physiologists thought could turn humans into animals. I suggest that Hobbes’s political theory stands for a therapeutic intervention to curb the lycanthropic tendencies of his time. Hobbes’s shock therapy implies leaving animality behind, as non-political, and securing human politicality in an artificial commonwealth. However, Hobbes’s intervention will be insufficient, as the animality left behind, excluded from the realm of politics, will return reinstating the symptoms of lycanthropy.
In what follows I outline the tendencies of twentieth-century anthropological work on play and argue that anthropology, despite its ostensible neglect of the matter, nonetheless has much to offer the current aim of rethinking play. I begin by suggesting that, while the ingredients of a more useful conception of play as a disposition (as opposed to an activity) were always present, and even found expression on occasion, the field as a whole stressed only two viable possibilities: play as non-work, and play as representation. Departing from this pattern prepares us to recognize a better model for thinking about play, one that draws ultimately on the pragmatist philosophers' portrayal of the world as irreducibly contingent. On this view, play becomes an attitude characterized by a readiness to improvise in the face of an ever-changing world that admits of no transcendently ordered account.
New Literary History 29.4 (1998) 699-726
From 1985 to 1987, while engaged concurrently in ethnographic and visual artistic work, I discovered that my artistic production, involving both subject matter and style, were influenced by the ethnographic encounter. The subject matter was influenced by those images created by the ambivalent and asymmetrical quality of the relationships created in the ethnographic encounter. The style was the figurative painting of the nude. Although I had been trained as an abstract painter, I found myself making use of the figurative representation of the female nude as the center of my artistic production. The choice of style, in this case of the female nude, and the apparent inseparability of the experiences of ethnography and painting led me to ask questions about the relationship between the ethnographic encounter and visual and ethnographic representations. Specifically, why is the figurative painting of the nude under certain circumstances better suited for the representation of the ethnographic encounter? And what are the similarities between the production of paintings of female nudes and the production of ethnographies?
I will address these questions by first examining my ethnographic experience and the asymmetrical relationships created in the fieldwork situation. I will show the unbalanced structure of power in these relationships and the ambiguities of friendship created in the ethnographic research by presenting dream narratives as examples of ethnographic dialogues. I will then discuss my artistic production and its relationship with the ethnographic production through a discussion of my relationship with the model and the making of these paintings.
Throughout this paper I will argue that the painting of the model provides a natural site for the recreation of the asymmetrical relationships and ambiguities of the ethnographic encounter. This similitude of the artistic and ethnographic sites emerges to a great extent from the common philosophical tradition that both modern art and ethnography have shared in their development, a tradition that sought to provide a holistic and totalizing image in response to the fragmentation of modern life. As these disciplines developed during the formation of modernity in the Western world, modern art and ethnography have provided strategies to confront modernity that have been expressed in the representation of an Other created by the dominant culture.
The anthropological fieldwork situation creates ambivalent and conflicting relationships. It normally pairs individuals from different statuses of wealth, social class, and cultural prestige. Because of this, fieldwork relationships have been described as unequal. In many ways I represented for the Mapuche a social and cultural position that was viewed by them as being of a "higher status." I was an urban Chilean who lived in the United States, a place considered by many to be a rich and powerful country. Although I looked not very different from them because of my Japanese and Hispanic ancestry, I was considered of a higher status because of my possessions and situation. I had possession of objects that were almost unattainable for many of the people I met: a jeep, cameras, video and recording equipment, a computer, and so forth. In addition, I maintained a small residence in the main town, Temuco, which is surrounded by Mapuche reservations. I was affluent in their eyes and able to travel freely from their land to the cities and abroad. I had the material resources and the leisure simply to visit, ask questions, and observe for almost two years. Although I developed personal relationships with the Mapuche that are as strong as the ones I have in my daily life in the U.S., these relationships were constantly tested in terms of questions of motivation, status, and power.
Another important aspect in the creation of ambiguous and conflicting relationships in the field is the pairing of anthropologists who are usually undergoing some form of culture shock and of self-strangeness with those who are studied, who normally do not know or understand the kind of relationship formed with the researcher in the way the researcher does. The self-strangeness is created when the anthropologist is in a situation that is unfamiliar and does not support one's definition of oneself. A common response is a sense of emotional paralysis...
This paper tracks the proximate emergence of postructuralist theorizing to a series of receptions and transformations of the post-Kantian German university metaphysics elaborated by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. It approaches this metaphysics not as a body of doctrine but as a practice of attuning the self to a privileged way of acceding to truth. This permits the paper to focus on a series of contingently related historical contexts in which the spiritual self-transformation programmed by this practice is incorporated into an array of paraphilosophical disciplines - giving rise to poststructuralism - and used occasionally as an instrument of social and political mobilization. 2010 Project MUSE.
New Literary History 29.1 (1998) 39-45
I visited St. Louis lately, and on my way west, after changing cars at Terre Haute, Indiana, a mild, benevolent-looking gentleman of about forty-five, or maybe fifty, came in at one of the way-stations and sat down beside me. We talked together pleasantly on various subjects for an hour, perhaps, and I found him exceedingly intelligent and entertaining. When he learned that I was from Washington, he immediately began to ask questions about various public men, and about Congressional affairs; and I saw very shortly that I was conversing with a man who was perfectly familiar with the ins and outs of political life at the Capital, even to the ways and manners, and customs of procedure of Senators and Representatives in the Chambers of the National Legislature. Presently two men halted near us for a single moment, and one said to the other:
"Harris, if you'll do that for me, I'll never forget you, my boy."
My new comrade's eyes lighted pleasantly. The words had touched upon a happy memory, I thought. Then his face settled into thoughtfulness -- almost into gloom. He turned to me and said, "Let me tell you a story; let me give you a secret chapter of my life -- a chapter that has never been referred to by me since its events transpired. Listen patiently, and promise that you will not interrupt me."
I said I would not, and he related the following strange adventure, speaking sometimes with animation, sometimes with melancholy, but always with feeling and earnestness.
On the 19th December, 1853, I started from St. Louis in the evening train, bound for Chicago. There were only twenty-four passengers, all told. There were no ladies and no children. We were in excellent spirits, and pleasant acquaintanceships were soon formed. The journey bade fair to be a happy one, and no individual in the party, I think, had even the vaguest presentiment of the horrors we were soon to undergo.
At 11 p.m. it began to snow hard. Shortly after leaving the small village of Weldon, we entered upon that tremendous prairie solitude that stretches its leagues on leagues of houseless dreariness far away towards the Jubilee Settlements. The winds unobstructed by trees or hills, or even vagrant rocks, whistled fiercely across the level desert, driving the falling snow before it like spray from the crested waves of a stormy sea. The snow was deepening fast, and we knew, by the diminished speed of the train, that the engine was ploughing through it with steadily increasing difficulty. Indeed it almost came to a dead halt sometimes, in the midst of great drifts that piled themselves like colossal graves across the track. Conversation began to flag. Cheerfulness gave place to grave concern. The possibility of being imprisoned in the snow, on the bleak prairie, fifty miles from any house, presented itself to every mind, and extended its depressing influence over every spirit.
At two o'clock in the morning I was aroused out of an uneasy slumber by the ceasing of all motion about me. The appalling truth flashed upon me instantly -- we were captives in a snow-drift! "All hands to the rescue!" Every man sprang to obey. Out into the wild night, the pitchy darkness, the billowing snow, the driving storm, every soul leaped, with the consciousness that a moment lost now might bring destruction to us all. Shovels, hands, boards -- anything, everthing that could displace snow, was brought into instant requisition. It was a weird picture, that small company of frantic men fighting the banking snows, half in the blackest shadow and half in the angry light of the locomotive's reflector.
One short hour sufficed to prove the utter uselessness of our efforts. The storm barricaded the track with a dozen drifts while we dug one away. And worse than this, it was discovered that the last grand charge the engine had made upon the enemy had broken the fore-and-aft shaft of the driving-wheel! With a free track before us we should still have been helpless. We entered the...
New Literary History 29.4 (1998) 687-690
There is certainly little pleasure in distancing oneself from as lucid and generous an account of one's work as Thomas Pavel offers in his essay "Freedom, from Romance to the Novel: Three Anti-Utopian American Critics." Pavel's description of my aims in Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History seems to me exemplary in its succinct attentiveness, and his characterization of both Gary Saul Morson's and Caryl Emerson's writings illuminates precisely those areas that also resonate most meaningfully for me. And yet I have the uneasy sense of being an outsider in the critical movement Pavel portrays, my affiliations to it more tenuous and circumstantial than fundamental and substantive. Not only am I not a Slavist, but I doubt that Bakhtin has been nearly as central for me as he was (and continues to be?) for Emerson and Morson. They have a rightful claim to being considered American Bakhtinians; I am, at best, a latecomer and only an intermittent participant in that conversation. Many of the texts and traditions on which Bakhtin wrote are not those that most deeply concern me, but when I have tried to address similar themes, as I did in Bitter Carnival: Ressentiment and the Abject Hero, it was to draw upon those other traditions to offer an alternative account of the nature of dialogue, the carnivalesque, and the relationship between high art and contemporary mass culture than the one Bakhtin proposed. Ultimately, it is not so much the legacy of any single critical predecessor but rather a shared emphasis on anti-utopian, anti-apocalyptic thinking that connects Emerson, Morson, and me, and it is the challenge of articulating a prosaics of the quotidian that seems to me to engage all three of us most forcefully.
More fundamentally, perhaps, I am uncomfortable with the whole notion of distilling so heterogeneous a body of work as Emerson's, Morson's, and my own from the instigations of any "master theoretician," even one as polymath and suggestive as Bakhtin. It seems to me among the most curious tics of contemporary academic discourse that literary critics are routinely presumed to derive their real intellectual interest, methodologies, and choice of texts from the example of an earlier critic, rather than from the stimulus of the poets and novelists who first sparked their intellectual and imaginative curiosity, making the formal study of literature a compelling project to begin with. Today, one is often asked to declare one's theoretical allegiances and derivations as though testifying to the charismatic authority of a particular wonder rebbe or to the group identity shared by members of a political sect. But there is something inherently contradictory in applying such monologic criteria to any perspective, whether Emerson's, Morson's, or my own, that is skeptical of the interpretive power of a system to uncover an otherwise unfathomable truth, that doubts there exists a particular code, law, or pattern beneath the multiplicity of concrete, daily existence, and that stresses the significance of random, haphazard and unassimilable contingencies in human affairs. So, to the charged question of how to define my own critical stance, instead of offering a catalogue of authorities and movements, I prefer the deliberately prosaic response that my intention is principally "to keep the conversation going." It is true that the "conversation of mankind" was also Michael Oakeshott's favorite trope for human life, a notion he expressed in the wonderful fable that man acquired his present appearance through being "descended from a race of apes who sat in talk so long and so late that they wore out their tails." But although the Oakeshottian resonance is appealing, what matters is not the provenance of the phrase, but the way it speaks to certain key strands in the emerging critical countertradition that unites ethics and exegesis from an anti-utopian and anti-systematic perspective, a project in which, with very different emphases, Emerson, Morson, and I all participate.
In this regard, it is especially striking how the essays published in this issue by Emerson, Morson, and me never cite Bakhtin at all, or, indeed, exhibit any real overlapping in the constellation of writers and...
Presenting the argument that contemporary criticism has lost its moral authority (and blaming modernism for that loss), Goodheart focuses on contending spiritual views. In particular he analyzes the dialectic between the Protestant-inspired humanist tradition of Carlyle, Arnold, Ruskin, and Lawrence and the decay of Catholicism represented by Joyce, Eliot, and others. The author argues that literary modernism renders suspect all privileged positions, and thereby undermines the critical art. To support this theory, he analyzes the work of a number of nineteenth century and contemporary novelists, poets, and critics. Chapter titles are modernism and the critical spirit; English social criticism and the spirit of reformation; the reality of disillusion in T.S. Eliot; the organic society of F.R. Leavis; a postscript to the higher criticism: the case of Philip Rieff; the formalist avant-garde and the autonomy of aesthetic values; aristocrats and Jacobins: the happy few in "The Charterhouse of Parma"; Flaubert and the powerlessness of art; and the blasphemy of Joycean art. (FL)
The article uses Stanley Cavell's claim that tragedy be thought of in terms of avoiding recognition of the other as a way to discuss a genre - film noir - which is usually ignored by tragic theorists. A close reading of Billy Wilders classic film Double Indemnity serves to present a way to think tragedy not just as a narrowly defined dramatic genre, but as a mode or structure of feeling, with the femme fatale as a particularly resilient contemporary example of tragic sensibility. For in the world of film noir she elicits fantasies of omnipotence, supporthing the hero's desire to stave off knowledge of his own fallibility at all costs. At the same time she performs a tragic acceptance precisely by assuming responsibility for her fate, because she comes to discover freedom in her embrace of the inevitability of causation. This article thus claims the femme fatale is not merely a stereotype, symptom or catchphrase for dangerous femininity but rather the subject of her narrative, an authentic modern heroine.
If Pierre Bourdieu seldom questioned the conditions under which literary autonomy exists or is maintained, it is obviously because he conceptualized the social worlds he was studying after the model of the scientific or academic field, that is, based on the example of institutionalized, codified, and (in the economic sense) professionalized social worlds that have largely resolved the question of this type of autonomy. These institutionalized universes,2 through admissions policies based on degrees, (competitive) exams, and appointments, as well as in the regulation of different “career stages,” offer real professions to the major agents in the field (researchers or teacher-researchers in philosophy, physics, mathematics, sociology, et cetera), who, out of professional obligation, can and must fully devote themselves to their work. These fields, which provide their members with “full-time” jobs and thus constitute their primary universe of social membership, are quite different from other universes, such as the literary universe, to which people are, most frequently, linked only in a secondary fashion, objectively speaking, even if some consider their connection to this world to be their principal connection. How does the writer who leads a parallel life as a teacher, librarian, job trainer, lawyer, journalist, physician, psychologist, business manager, or farmer, who “exists” in literature only intermittently or part time, compare with the physician, philosopher, business manager, lawyer, or farmer who engages in activities in his or her respective social universes in a complete and continuous manner?
By adopting a structural or even structuralist method, we may consider works of literature independently of who their producers are and what they do (“inside the field” and “outside the field”), and independently of the concrete social conditions of their production. Structuralism applied to literary works thus results in the erasure of the writer by the work, echoing the views of Paul Valéry, as recalled by Gérard Genette: “Valéry dreamed of a history of Literature understood ‘not so much as a history of authors and the accidents of their careers, or that of their works, than as a History of the mind, insofar as it produces or consumes literature, and this history might even be written without the name of a single writer being mentioned.’”3
While it enables us to break with an internalist structuralism (focused solely on works as signifying structures), Bourdieu’s concept of field may be better suited to the study of the position and differentiated value of works and the publishing houses supporting them than it is to the producers of works and their conditions of production. Bourdieu is entirely right in considering works, both past and present, relationally, or in relation to one another, by considering the “literary field” as a universe of more or less autonomous reference that writers perceive as such. This means, concretely, that part of what determines the literary nature and specificity of a given work cannot be understood without taking into account the past and present state of the literary field and not just external factors such as the author’s social properties or the ideological context of the period. And, after all, just as certain theoreticians of social class have maintained that despite individual cases of upward or downward mobility (which account for the fact that part of the dominant class may come out of the dominated classes and, inversely, that the dominated classes may be partly made up of sons and daughters of the dominant class), the important thing is that the social existence of a class structure and class relations are not called into question by instances of mobility (individuals can move from one class to another without the classes themselves being threatened with disappearance), so, too, it is essential to bring to light the structures of opposition and power relations between the subfield of restricted production (the consecrated avant-garde and writers aspiring to it) and the subfield of large-scale production (with its oppositions between academic, mainstream, best-selling, and mass-market literatures) without asking who the producers of these works are and what they do.
But by disregarding writers as individuals, we nonetheless pass over many central facts that influence the workings of the literary universe. For example, it seems...
New Literary History 29.4 (1998) 785-809
The contemporary researcher is engaged in a losing struggle with the information explosion. The struggle is especially desper-ate in interdisciplinary research, where no one can master all the published literature in all the special fields. As interdisciplinary investigations become more and more necessary, they become more and more difficult. An easy way out of this difficulty is to interpret the problems of other disciplines in terms of one's own. This practice is typical of quite a few humanists and theorists of literature. While claiming to cultivate interdisciplinarity, they give philosophy, history, and even natural sciences a "literary" treatment; their complex and diverse problems are reduced to concepts current in contemporary literary writing, such as subject, discourse, narrative, metaphor, semantic indeterminacy, and ambiguity. The universal "literariness" of knowledge acquisition and representation is then hailed as an interdisciplinary confirmation of epistemological relativism and indeterminism, to which contemporary literati subscribe.
Interdisciplinarity dominated by the principles of literary writing, while posing as a definitive divorce from positivism, presupposes, in fact, the positivistic "territorial principle," that is, the division of cognitive activities into a hierarchy of specialized disciplines. Yet contemporary interdisciplinarity is part and parcel of new cognitive strategies transcending the traditional territorial division. While specialized fields continue their empirical research, most advances in theory are achieved in transdisciplinary frameworks, in "hyphenated" sciences (such as psycholinguistics or biochemistry) and in covering macrosciences (semiotics, cybernetics, ecological science). Interdisciplinarity is now primarily the positing and testing of higher-order theoretical and conceptual systems that illuminate problems cutting across traditional disciplines. One of such irradiating centers is the conceptual system of possible worlds.
1. Possible worlds. The reemergence of the concept of possible worlds from a long-lasting dormancy can be dated quite exactly: to the classic paper of Saul A. Kripke. Kripke proposed a "model structure" for modal logic and interpreted it semantically in terms of possible worlds. Without referring to the classical German philosopher, Kripke called upon the concept of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. His ignoring of Leibniz was partly justified: he was not formulating a grand argument for "theodicy," but an axiomatic foundation for modal logic. The Leibnizian roots of possible-worlds semantics have subsequently been revealed, and through the labors of a host of logicians -- Jaakko Hintikka, Dana Scott, Georg H. von Wright, David Lewis, David Kaplan, Robert Stalnaker, M. J. Cresswell, and others -- not only modal logic, but the whole system of logic has been reformulated on the assumption that "our actual world is surrounded by an infinity of other possible worlds." The universe of discourse is not restricted to the actual world, but spreads over uncountable possible, nonactualized worlds. As Thomas S. Kuhn explains, "a possible world is . . . a way our world might have been. . . . Thus, in our world the earth has only a single natural satellite (the moon), but there are other possible worlds, almost the same as ours, except that the earth has two or more satellites or has none at all. . . . There are also possible worlds less like ours: some in which there is no earth, others in which there are no planets, and still others in which not even the laws of nature are the same."
In logical semantics the possible-worlds model does not require ontological commitment. Pointing specifically to Hintikka's and Kripke's proposals, a Russian logician emphasized that they should be taken "simply as mathematical models of the corresponding logical calculi, without any philosophical interpretation." Outside formal logic, however, the notion cannot preserve ontological innocence. As Robert M. Adams has recognized, it follows the fundamental split in ontology, becoming either actualism or possibilism. For possibilism, the actual world "does not have a different status" within the set of possible worlds, while for actualism the actual world is "a standpoint outside the system of possible worlds from which judgments of actuality which are not world-relative may be made." The actualist position is inscribed in Kripke's original model structure where set G (the actual world) is singled out from the set of sets K (all possible worlds), and is accepted by Plantinga, Rescher, Stalnaker, Nolt, Cresswell. Even David Lewis's "indexical" theory which relativizes...
This article offers a reading of Hélène Cixous's Jours de l'an (First Days of the Year), the first of many texts by Cixous to feature the problematic of an unwritten book which would be at the origin of all her other books. In particular, it examines the relationship between the text as a whole and its final chapter, "An Ideal Story," in the light of Heidegger's notion of thinking as digression, arguing that for Cixous the search for truth takes a necessarily oblique, indirect form. After consideration of the detours the text takes via Clarice Lispector and Marina Tsvetaeva, it contends that the story Cixous ends up telling runs counter to the one it set out to tell, simultaneously taking its place and reaffirming the need to tell it yet again.
In this paper, I read across from universities to Latour and back again. The paper is in four parts. In the first part, I attend to the new strands of activity that have accreted to universities over the last twenty years or so and, at the same time, to the growth in variation in what is called “university.” The second part of the paper alights on the different and seemingly opposed values that can be found in the current much expanded spectrum of universities as a result and the clashes that these different strands of activity engender. The third part of the paper suggests how universities could be redesigned in the face of this greater diversity, not just as a means of compromise but as a new synthesis based around experimentation and adventure. Universities badly need redesigning because of the process of accretion of new strands of activity. That can either be done as a result of these new strands of activity being given free rein or through conscious intervention so as to produce a more considered and dutiful outcome, an intervention that includes means of bridge-making between each strand as a matter of course. Finally, there is a brief conclusion which raises the prospect of reinstating a certain kind of honor in the lives of universities.