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Qui Parle, Volume 6, Number 2, Spring/Summer 1993

Vol. 6 | No. 2 | Spring/Summer 1993


Guarantees of the Remarkable
Michael Witmore

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

In one of Nietzsche's early essays, "On Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense," we find described an astonishing possibility, or rather, a kind of astonishment that idealist philosophy has helped us forget:

        “But everything marvelous about the laws of nature, everything that quite astonishes us therein and seems to demand our explanation, everything that might lead us to distrust idealism: all this is completely and solely contained within the mathematical strictness and inviolability of our representations of time and space. But we produce these representations in and from ourselves with the same necessity with which the spider spins. If we are forced to comprehend all things only under these forms, then it ceases to be amazing that in all things we actually comprehend nothing but these forms.”

Much of the rhetorical force of this essay derives from its apparent ability to expose the vanity, even stupidity, that guides our attempts to extract thought from the realm of representation and place it in the entirely unmediated realm of the thing-in-itself. Such critiques are by now familiar to the twentieth-century reader, but what makes Nietzsche's polemic formulations particularly compelling––indeed, what is perhaps the force of polemic itself––is the distance he seems to have on these all too human mistakes.

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Hitchcock and the Death of (Mr.) Memory
Tom Cohen

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

This paper is about the way that memory is marked and effaced in Hitchcock's text to account for the absence of origin in his narratives. I am not speaking of how the recovery of memory is a goal, sometimes overtly, as in the plots surrounding amnesia in Spellbound or Marnie, but rather how memory itself seems marked as a machinal figure that conceals a catastrophe of sorts. Memory appears as the machinal enforcer of mimesis out of which the ideological closure of identification occurs, yet as a machine of repeated re-marking, it is also that which breaks up or destroys mimesis when figures, syllables, sounds, letters, and visual puns or objects emerge through repetition. The problem of memory becomes one means of addressing Hitchock's use of language and the various signifiying agents that are marked across his production. These generate a sort of hyperbolic writing covering the surface of the film text: markings or puns (at once aural, visual, nominal, and intertextual) which may be manifest in citations, numbers, body positions, objects. They traverse the production and establish scenes of reading between works. Such Hitchcockian writing seems largely untracked today in the criticism because it ceaselessly interrupts the pretense which the spectator desires––identification, the appearance of subjectivity, the wholeness of the body.

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Beyond Interpellation
Mladen Dolar

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

There is something quite extraordinary about the fate of Althusserian ideas (apart from his personal fate, which is extraordinary beyond measure). The first period of vogue and scandal in the sixties and seventies–– when the mere mention of Althusser's name was certain to raise heat and cause havoc––was followed, without much transition, by the current period of silence in which the wild debates of the first period seem to be forgotten and only raise a smile at the most. Themes and topics widely discussed two decades ago have passed into oblivion; interest now remains confined to the notoriety of his personal life (scandalous enough to produce even best-sellers). I think this theoretical amnesia is not simply due to his falling out of fashion––it is not that his ideas have simply been superseded or supplanted by better ones. Rather, it is perhaps more a case of forgetting in a psychoanalytic sense, a convenient forgetting of something disagreeable and uncomfortable. If Althusser always produced either zealous adepts or equally zealous adversaries, if he could never be dealt with in an academic way, this was due to an utter inability to situate him. He did not fit in the western Marxist tradition, nor in the soviet type of Marxism (despite attempts to squeeze him into both), and neither did he belong to any non-Marxist current. This is not to say that Althusser was right, but rather that he was on the track of something embarrassing (or even unheimlich, to use the Freudian word) with which everybody would be relieved to do away. Althusser's passage from notoriety to silence must be read as symptomatic, for notoriety and silence are, finally, two ways of evading crucial issues.

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Looking for (Race and Gender) Trouble in Monument Valley
Susan Courtney

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

The Man With the Gun on His Thigh

In the penultimate paragraph of his 1954 essay on the Hollywood Western, Robert Warshow uncovers the project of that genre as the fixing of phallic identity. While Warshow does not define the project precisely in those terms, his text seems to speak the "truth" of the matter quite explicitly, when it says "...the values we seek in the Western... are in the image of a single man who wears a gun on his thigh."' Though Warshow leaves this sleeping gun lie, so to speak, unexamined on the Westerner's thigh, he further discusses the centrality of the Western hero's image in ways which are quite suggestive to a reading of the construction of the hero's phallic identity.

Specifically, I would argue that Warshow's discussion of the Western hero suggests that what grants this heroic male subject his ideality is being seen as such. We find this early in the essay when Warshow argues that the Western hero does not fight in order to uphold a particular set of values or principles, but that

        “What he defends, at bottom, is the purity of his own image... he fights not for advantage and not for right, but to state what he is, and he must live in a world which permits that statement.” (94, emphasis mine)

Although this explanation of what is at stake in maintaining the "purity" of the Westerner's image seems bound up with a somewhat predictable notion of the "rugged individual," or "self-made man" of the West (thus the necessity of a landscape where he can "state what he is" without any constraints), elsewhere in his essay Warshow gives us much ammunition to argue that the hero's phallic image and the identity it supports are far less self-determined, and much more precarious than one might assume.

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   Review Essay

The Philosophical Laughter of Michel Foucault
Frederick M. Dolan

A review of Miller, James. The Passion of Michel Foucault. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993).

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    Book Reviews

On Marcia Pointon’s Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England
Alison Conway

A review of Pointon, Marcia. Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England. (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).

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On James Kincaid’s Child Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture
Catherine Robson

A review of Kincaid, James. Child Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. (London and New York: Routledge, 1993).

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Cover: Stills of The Searchers courtesy of the Museum of Modem Art/Film Stills Archive, N.Y., N.Y.

Volume 6.2 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.