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Qui Parle, Volume 9, Number 1, Fall/Winter 1995

Vol. 9 | No. 1 | Fall/Winter 1995

    Special Issue: The Dissimulation of History

Sternphotographie: Benjamin, Blanqui, and the Mimesis of Stars
Eduardo Cadava

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

Images of the World

What is our world? What can our world be if it can only be revealed by technology in general and photography in particular? If technology is a mode of unveiling, in what ways may our world—a world that is always touched by technicity and therefore no longer simply a world - reveal the essence of technology? If modernity is another name for the globalization of the world, can our world be said to globalize the meaning of history? These are the questions that motivate Walter Benjamin's efforts to conceive history and modernity in terms of the language of photography. This recourse to photographic language appears not only in his 1931 essay, "A Short History of Photography," in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and in "Theses on the Philosophy of History"—essays we might more readily associate with his investigations into the relationship between history and technology—but also throughout his entire corpus. The questions he raises about the links between photography and history in fact touch on issues that belong to the entire trajectory of his writings: the historical and political consequences of technology, the relation between reproduction and mimesis, images and history, remembering and forgetting, allegory and mourning, visual and linguistic representation, and film and photography.

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On Relativism, Rights, and Differends, or, Ethics and the American Holocaust
William Egginton

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


In David Stannard's manifesto of remembrance, American Holocaust, the author makes an explicit connection between the Jewish Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s, and the destruction of the native populations in the Americas in the decades following Columbus' arrival in Hispaniola in 1492:

“Elie Wiesel was right, the road to Auschwitz was being paved in the earliest days of Christendom. But another conclusion now is equally evident: on the way to Auschwitz the road's pathway led straight through the heart of the Indies and of North and South America.”

He argues that

“[j]ust twenty-one years after Columbus's first landing in the Caribbean, the vastly populous island that the explorers had renamed Hispaniola was effectively desolate; nearly 8,000,000 people - those Columbus chose to call Indians - had been killed by violence, disease, and despair. It took a little longer, about the span of a single human generation, but what happened on Hispaniola was the equivalent of more than fifty Hiroshimas. And Hispaniola was only the beginning.”

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Images of Form vs. Images of Content in Contemporary Asian-American Poetry
Charlies Altieri

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

Recently I was invited to give a talk on "Images of Asians in Contemporary American Poetry." Being somewhat culture-bound, I was eager to explore the new materials that this topic demanded. But I was also leery of the topic. It took me quite a while to understand why. What is assumed by the idea that one can speak intelligently about images of Asians in American poetry? First that title treats poetry primarily as a mode of information—if not about the world then about how people construct images which are to be read for their relation to actual historical configurations. Second, even if one were to accept the imperative to analyze images as historical markers, one would still have to face the problem of where one locates the appropriate source of images. The invitation seemed to assume that the relevant images of Asians could be discovered simply by reading the contents of poems: how are Asians staged and what traits are attributed to them? But if one is speaking about poetry, it is at least as important to treat the conditions of making as themselves constitutive of the images we come to develop of how Asian identities are played out in contemporary writing.

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Perec, Marx, and Les Choses
Yuji Oniki

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

In an interview conducted shortly after the publication of his first novel, Les choses, une histoire des anndes soixante (Things: a Story of the Sixties), Georges Perec provides a cautionary warning to his readers: "People who think I have denounced consumer society have understood absolutely nothing about my book."' Given its widespread reputation as a critique of consumer culture, Perec's disclaimer for Les choses seems all the more puzzling when we consider its closing envoi:

“The means is as much part of the truth as the result. The quest for truth must itself be true; the true quest is the unfurling of a truth whose different parts combine in the result.“—Karl Marx

What are we to make of this citation from Marx? Are we to take Perec's abrupt reference to Marx as a mocking epitaph in light of the postwar consumerism that was to dominate France in the '60s, marking off Marx and his emblematic work Capital as mere relics, discarded "things" of the past? As the title so bluntly indicates, Les choses is not so much the story of a particular protagonist as it is a brief, typical account of how "things" affect the lives of young Parisians in the early sixties.

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The Other’s Other: Jealousy and Art in Proust
J. Hillis Miller

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

Intimate and unbreakable connections bind together a cluster of topics in both Marcel Proust's work and Jacques Derrida's: lies, performative language, death, testimony, diplomacy, secrets, love, jealousy, the other or others, and art in the sense of painting, music, and literature. Those who know Derrida's recent work will know how these topics in their interrelation have concerned him in recent seminars and publications. He has recently given in Paris and at Irvine a seminar on lying in Proust. In addition, an improvised Paris seminar of May 26, 1993, made available to me in a transcription from a tape, discussed Kant's opuscule entitled "Über ein vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen" [On a Presumed Right to Lie out of Love for Humanity]. Kant's little essay is a jealous attack on Benjamin Constant, German against French, true philosopher against philosophe. I want here to pay homage to Derrida's recent work by trying to think out for myself, in the light of it, the way these topics are related in Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. Proust and Derrida overlap but do not quite coincide. The slight lack of fit is instructive. Proust does not of course use the explicit terminology of  speech act theory, as Derrida and I do, since speech act theory did not yet exist as such in Proust's time.

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   Book Review

A Fine Distinction
Daniel Coffeen

A review of Fenves, Peter. Chatter”: Language and History in Kierkegaard. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).

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Volume 9.1 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.