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Qui Parle, Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 1989

Vol. 3 | No. 2 | Fall 1989


    Cultural Identity and the Promise of Literature

Hyphenated Identity: Nationalistic Discourse, History, and the Anxiety of Criticism in Salman Rushdie's Shame
Nasser Hussain

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

I may as well begin with an anecdote: on my last trip home to Pakistan, my parents, with a curious mixture of pride and shame, introduced me to their friends as a graduate student in history. One such friend asked me the question I had been dreading, "what history?" "British colonialism and Indian history, I suppose," was my mumbled reply. The friend, horrified that I was using my father's money to add to the body of knowledge of the "aggressors" across the border, retorted "and why not Pakistani history?" There were any number of reasons I could have offered. After all, I'm not even sure what Pakistani history is. Is it the narrative of the forty-two years that have elapsed since the Muslims demanded that the departing British rulers divide India into two states, one for the Muslims and the other for the Hindus? Or, since the nationalism that produced Pakistan distinguished itself on religious terms, is it the history of the Indian Muslims traced back through the centuries? Either way, I’m not very interested in the former and do not believe in the latter.

Read now at JSTOR


The Cut That Binds: Philip Roth and Jewish Marginality
Eric Zakim

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

For years, the American Jewish intellectual has survived––and even flourished––on the belief that marginal existence brings with it extraordinary critical powers. According to this belief, the typical Jewish intellectual stands between worlds––Jewish and gentile––on the margin of each, and from this position gains a vantage on both, a vantage unavailable to members of either community. Thirty-one years ago in Partisan Review, the historian Isaac Deutscher described this place––somehow marginal to both worlds––as the fundamental aspect of Jewish intellectualism. Though Deutscher's model emanates from European examples published in America after the destruction of European Jewry, the article speaks with an optimism that seems geared for a singularly American audience:

“Have [Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky, and Freud] anything in common with each other? . . . They had in themselves something of the quintessence of Jewish life and of the Jewish intellect. They were a priori exceptional in that as Jews they dwelt on the boundaries of various civilizations, religions, and national cultures. They were born and brought up on the borderlines of various epochs. Their minds matured where the most diverse cultural influences crossed and fertilized each other. They lived on the margins or in the nooks and crannies of their respective nations––they were each in society and yet not in it, of it, and yet not of it...

Read now at JSTOR


Beheaded Sun (Soleil Cou Coupé)
Jean-Luc Nancy

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

They call you Chicanos. That name abbreviates your name, Mejicanos, in the language that was yours, and has not always remained the language of each one of you. They have given you back your name, cut. In which language? What is the language of this word, your name? It is at the same time the idiom of a single name, and it is your way of cutting, of mixing languages: babel without confusion, the one you speak, and the one your poets write. They have cut both the name and the language, and given them back to you. (Who are "they"? The others, us, and you as well, you these other selves in yourselves). It was a very old name, older than that Castilian tongue into which it was first transcribed, copied, cut; it was an Indian name, and much older than the name "Indian," that baptized Mexicans by force. A mistake of the West imagining itself in the East, the name "Indian" cut a terrain and a history from themselves, cut several territories and several histories, cultures of the sun, suns of culture, of fire, of feathers, of obsidian and of gold. Iron cut into the gold.

Read now at JSTOR


Brides of Opportunity: Figurations of Women and Colonial Discourse in Lord Jim
Natalie Melas

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Colonial endeavor is strictly a male preserve. As many critics have pointed out, women enter into colonial discourse as figures for the exotic territory, or as virtuous guarantors of racial ideology. In a close reading of Lord Jim against the frame of Heart of Darkness, I propose to explore the production of such figures and their function in configurations of cultural identity. Explaining to his publisher why he interrupted his work on Lord Jim to compose Heart of Darkness, Conrad wrote, “[Lord Jim] has not been planned to stand alone. Heart of Darkness was meant in my mind as a foil.” Heart of Darkness clearly offers the figure of Kurtz, the paragon of Europe's civilizing intentions gone mad in the colonial wilderness, as a foil for Jim, the undistinguished outcast of the imperial service who redeems himself in an obscure colonial outpost. A less obvious, but equally provocative correspondence obtains between Kurtz's women and Jim's girl. Reading the girl as an enigmatic conflation of Kurtz's Intended and his savage mistress, I will propose that she ultimately calls into question any sense in which Jim can be said to redeem the civilizing intentions of the colonial project which Kurtz so gruesomely foiled.

Read now at JSTOR


The Poetics of Politics: Yeats and the Founding of the State
David Lloyd

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The reading and rereading of Yeats's later poetry and prose with a view to comprehending the political implications of his post-nationalist writing might well bring to mind a remark of Bertolt Brecht's on Shakespeare's Coriolanus. To an actor troubled by Shakespeare's representation of the plebeians, Brecht insists on simply noting this fact, "Because it gives rise to discomfort." Certainly Yeats continues to cause discomfort, at least to any critic unwilling to separate the aesthetic too readily from the political. The difficulty lies most evidently, of course, in the fact that we must acknowledge, when all quibble and interpretation "is done and said," the avowed authoritarianism if not downright fascist sympathies of his stated politics, while at the same time acknowledging the power of his writing to return and to haunt. I do not think that these last terms, borrowed from a Yeatsian lexicon, are too strong: it is as if the very obsessiveness of Yeats's own later poetry, living and reliving its relatively sparse themes and symbols, speaks to a situation, at once "psychic" and "political," which we have yet to work through.

Read now at JSTOR


Joyce's Irish, Beckett's French: Expatriation and the Politics of Cultural Identity
Tadeusz Pióro

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

“One of the proofs that our countries are still undeveloped is the lack of naturalness in our writers: another is the absence of humour, because humour only arises from the natural.”

––Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

Cortázar's dismay at the undue gravity of his fellow Latin Americans may help to illuminate the stylistic problems involved in the establishment of cultural identity by two Irish expatriates, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Cortázar's reference to a lack of development suggests the existence of a universal narrative of ethical development determining the relative positions of various national cultures: Argentine writers lag behind their French and English colleagues, such as Robert Graves or Simone de Beauvoir, to use Cortázar's examples. "Naturalness" is a sign of advanced development, implying that somehow English and French writers have been able to return to their originary, "natural" state, thanks to which they can publicly be humorous. Humor differs from the comic in that it is the result of a conscious effort, successful due to a sufficient degree of development which allows for an effacement, or concealment, of this effort and thus an appearance of urbane "naturalness," while the comic does not necessarily require such express intention.

Read now at JSTOR


Language, Identity, and the French Revolution: A View from the Periphery
Peter Sahlins

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

In 1627, Doctor Luis Baldo, honored burgess of Perpignan, addressed a printed pamphlet to Philip IV. Describing the loyalty of the inhabitants of Roussillon and Cerdanya, and in particular the courage of the Cerdans in their resistance to French incursions into Catalonia, Baldo underlined their loyalty and identity as Spaniards:

“The people are naturally more Spanish than those of the other provinces of Spain; and they have such a notorious antipathy and natural hatred of the French, their neighbors, that it cannot be described in writing. Their feelings are so extreme that a son, born in the counties, abhors with a natural hatred his father, born in France.”

In the spring of 1789, one hundred and thirty years after the annexation of the County of Roussillon and part of the Cerdanya by the French monarchy, the three dozen rural communities of the French Cerdagne expressed a developed animosity toward Spaniards while asserting their identity as subjects of and devoted loyalty to the French king. They complained of Spanish seigneurs who collected heavy dues, of Spanish proprietors who, exempted from paying personal taxes, bought up their lands, and even of Spanish cattle which took resources away from the "subjects of the French king."

Read now at JSTOR


Justifying the Page
Ann Gelder

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Mark Twain met the inventor James W. Paige in the Colt Arms Factory in 1880, and was enticed, mesmerized, and finally deeply disappointed by Paige's creation: a mechanical typesetter which had promised, at least to Twain, to revolutionize printing. James Cox describes the fascination that the machine held for Twain:

“He spoke of it as a cunning devil at one time; at another, he contended that it was next to man in intricacy and at the same time it surpassed him in perfection; at still another, he wrote that he loved to sit by the machine by the hour and merely contemplate it. Never was Twain more enamored of an object, unless it was Olivia Langdon; if she was the goddess he revered, it was the demon that possessed him and on whom he wasted his fortune and almost sacrificed his sanity. In his obsessed vision, the machine was both an intricate world and a mechanical brain whose infinitely interrelated parts he could half comprehend. . . . More than that, the machine was uniquely wedded to the printed word; it was, after all, a kind of automatic writer capable of working tirelessly with speed and precision.”

Read now at JSTOR


Stowe’s Authentic Ghost
Eva Cherniavsky

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

In a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Mary Beth Whitehead, the repentant surrogate mother in the Baby M case, cast her refusal to abide by the contract she had signed in the light of a higher principle of social coherence: "Mother and child––that is what America is built on." No more nor less could be said in her defense, the tone of this assertion implies. And the exasperated interviewer comments: "[Whitehead] twists most questions back to her basic tune: A mother is a mother is a mother." But Whitehead's claim is at once more complex and more compelling than the interviewer's flippant dismissal suggests. For, as Whitehead herself clearly intuits, a mother, unlike a rose, is not merely a function of her inscription, an object that language easily circumscribes, however little it can make it signify. On the contrary, motherhood operates here in excess of the mother's contractual obligations, of what the law might construe as her claim to her child. And it is precisely by virtue of this excess that motherhood is made to signify.

Read now at JSTOR


Franklin’s American Odyssey
Mitchell Breitwieser

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Increase Mather's writings on physical phenomena, as Robert Middlekauff contends, stress the violent, the disastrous, the unpredictable: they emphasize that nature is one of the languages in which an unknown god speaks his cryptic, only fitfully explicable messages. His son Cotton Mather's writings on nature, however, investigate discernibly regular phenomena, or seek to discover the regular operations of what had seemed to be unpredictable or only partially knowable. Cotton Mather knew very well that he was implicitly assuming a very different kind of divine discourse than his father had, a kind of speaking god he desired to be the case, one who could be understood, spoken with, and satisfied. As with his desire in general, Cotton Mather knew the intrinsic tendency of this desire, and he was careful to curtail or decrease it before it reached its goal: at those moments when his explications of the regular reached their full momentum, he interrupted them with accounts of the absolutely inexplicable and terrifying. He staged a curtailment of his desire by the pure force of Increase's god: rather than the clear and circular communication he longed for, there would be infinite, mandatory and ultimately inadequate propitiation, appeasement, sacrifice or expenditure on his side, and a ravenous recipient on the other.

Read now at JSTOR


   Book Reviews

On Jon R. Snyder, Writing the Scene of Speaking: Theories of Dialogue in the Late Italian Renaissance
Heather James

A review of Snyder, Jon R. Writing the Scene of Speaking: Theories of Dialogue in the Late Italian Renaissance. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989).

Read now at JSTOR


On Kathryn Gravdal, “Vilain and Courtois”: Transgressive Parody in French Literature of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
Carolyn Duffey

A review of Gravdal, Kathryn. “Vilain and Courtois”: Transgressive Parody in French Literature of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989).

Read now at JSTOR


Cover: Babuton Methei of Sylhet, Bangladesh, paints portraits of his clients in front of a background of their choice, in this case the Taj Mahal. Photograph © Tom Learmouth.

Volume 3.2 is available at JSTOR. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.