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Qui Parle, Volume 4, Number 1, Fall 1990

Vol. 4 | No. 1 | Fall 1990


    Reading Seeing

How the Non-Duped Err
Slavoj Žižek

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

1. "The unconscious is outside"

"The Other must not know it all."

One of the key scenes in Hitchcock's Saboteur, the charity dance in the palace of the wealthy Nazi spy posing as a society lady, stages perfectly the way the big Other (the field of etiquette, of social rules and manners), in its very externality and superficiality, remains the place in which truth is determined and which as such "runs the game." The basic constituent of the scene is the tension between the idyllic surface (the politeness of the charity dance) and the concealed real action (the desperate attempt by the hero to snatch his girlfriend from the hands of the Nazi agents and to escape with her). We are in a great hall, where all action takes place in public, in full view of the hundreds of guests; both the hero and his adversaries have to observe the rules of etiquette appropriate to such an occasion: they must act as if they are just ordinary guests, they are expected to engage in banal conversation, to accept an invitation to dance, etc., and the actions each of them undertakes against the adversary have to accord with these surface rules of the social game (when a Nazi agent wants to lead off the hero's girlfriend, he simply asks her for a dance––which, according to etiquette, she cannot refuse––and then, with her in his embrace, slowly approaches the door; when the hero wants to run away, he joins an innocent couple just taking their leave––the Nazi agents cannot stop him by force because this would expose them in the eyes of the couple; etc.). 

Read now at JSTOR


Two Mirrors Facing: Freud, Blanchot, and the Logic of Invisibility
Karen Jacobs

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

1. Ideology and Oedipus

The tragedy of the Theban king, Oedipus, whose discovery that he has killed his father and married his mother forms the basis for Freud's understanding of unconscious desires in the Oedipal complex, could just as easily be read as a tale about the operations of ideology. I take ideology to be those unconscious or invisible beliefs and assumptions which at once structure representations and mask contradictions in the service of an illusory wholeness or coherence. Fredric Jameson comments on the relationship between ideology and cultural texts or artifacts: "[I]deology," he maintains, "is not something which informs or invests symbolic production; rather the aesthetic act is itself ideological, and the production of aesthetic or narrative form is to be seen as ideological in its own right, with the function of inventing imaginary or formal "solutions" to unresolvable social contradictions." The marker of ideology in the text, for Jameson, is the presence of "a purely formal resolution" of "real social contradictions, insurmountable in their own terms."

Read now at JSTOR


Change Encounters: Flâneur and Détraquée in Breton’s Nadja
Victor Burgin

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

About two-thirds of the way through his book Nadja, Breton describes meeting Nadja in a restaurant. The clumsy behaviour of a waiter prompts her to tell an anecdote about an exchange she had, earlier in the day, with a ticket collector in a Métro station. Clutching a new ten-franc piece in her hand, Nadja asks the man who punches her ticket: "Head or tails?" To which the man replies "Tails" and adds, indicating perhaps a vocation as a psychoanalyst: "You were wondering, Mademoiselle, if you would be seeing your friend just now." No-one would suppose that Nadja is going down the Métro for nothing, but, as the ticket-collector discerned, she is not necessarily aware of what she hopes to find there. There is more to our wanderings in the city than urban planners take account of.

Read now at JSTOR


Imagining Sadomasochism: Robert Mapplethorpe and the Masquerade of Photography
Richard Meyer

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

Part 1: Censored

In the spring of 1978, 80 Langton Street, an alternative art space in San Francisco, mounted an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography. The show consisted of 19 black and white photographs cataloguing a spectrum of gay, male, sadomasochistic practices including penis piercing, latex bondage, single and double fist-fucking, baby-drag (bonnets and milk bottles), water sports, and anal penetration with a bull-whip. An image of this last practice was the single self-portrait in the exhibition and was, not incidentally, selected as the gallery announcement for the show (figure 1).

Censored, the title of the Langton exhibition, referred to the curatorial circumstances surrounding and suppressing Mapplethorpe's work at the time: the photographer, after attempting without success to show his s/m work in New York, had secured an agreement from the Simon Lowinsky Gallery, a commercial space in downtown San Francisco, to exhibit that work along with his other nudes and still-lives. Just before the slated opening of the one-man show, however, the Lowinsky gallery "edited" out the most explicit of the s/m photographs, belatedly declaring them unfit for commercial exhibition. The 80 Langton Space then agreed to exhibit the suppressed work on the proviso that it would not be sold via the exhibition.

Read now at JSTOR


Reading the Archaeology of the Female Body
Rainer Mack

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

In 1866 Gustave Courbet painted The Origin of the World, an image of a woman on her back, her legs spread to reveal her vulva. The frame of the painting cuts her body at the thighs and neck; a white cloth wraps over her arms and the top of her torso, revealing one breast. Extremely foreshortened, headless and radically cropped, her body unfolds passively, like a landscape. Courbet's client, a Turkish diplomat by the name of Khalil Bey, hung the painting behind a green curtain. Later, Jacques Lacan had a sliding wooden panel fitted over it, complete with a secret trigger. The inability of the object, the woman, to resist the viewer's gaze was thus made complete. In her representation, the orchestration of her appropriability, her body could be revealed at the whim of the subject.

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Up Close, From Afar: The Subject's Distance from Representation
Jacqueline Lichtenstein

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

In his famous "Pensée" on diversity, Pascal wrote: "I have never judged anything in exactly the same way. I cannot judge my work while I am at it. I must do as painters do and stand back––but not too far. How far then? Guess." Inaugurated in Antiquity, by Plato, this question of proper distance underwent, in the course of the 17th century, a number of particularly important developments on account of its numerous implications for a society and a mode of thinking dominated by the notion of representation. At once the object of epistemological, philosophical and theological inquiry, the positioning of the subject with regard to representation (and I would emphasize the spatial dimension of the word "positioning," which I understand in terms of proximity and distance), was a question posed, even imposed, by demands of a political and social nature. In court society, where behavior was governed by the rules of scenographic space, and where one's conduct was subject to the double imperative of gaze and visibility, any mistake in the judgement of this distance could suffice to deprive one of a recognition which was at once social and ontological, and the benefits of which were not merely symbolic but very real, that is material. Exactly where should I be in order to receive the royal light, to be illuminated and enlightened by it, and to reflect it? At what distance should I place myself in order to see without showing myself off, to be seen without giving the impression that I desire to be looked at, to be noticed, without however being discovered?

Read now at JSTOR


   Book Reviews

On Slavoj Žižek
The Sublime Object of Ideology
Jonathan Elmer

A review of Žižek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. (London: Verso, 1989).

Read now at JSTOR


On Anton Kaes
From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film
Anne Nesbet

A review of Kaes, Anton. From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).

Read now at JSTOR


On Andrew Ross
No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture
Terry Mulcaire

A review of Ross, Andrew. No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture. (New York: Routledge, 1989).

Read now at JSTOR


On Robert Motherwell, ed. The Dada Painters and Poets and Maurice Nadeau, The History of Surrealism
Joan Hawkins

A review of:

Motherwell, Robert (ed). The Dada Painters and Poets. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989/1951). 

Nadeau, Maurice. The History of Surrealism. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989/1965).

Read now at JSTOR



Volume 4.1 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.