"Matters"! This is an odd word when used as a verb. Of course we know what it means. The verbal form of "matter" means "count for something," "have import," "have effects in the real world," "be worth taking seriously." Using the word as a noun, however, someone might speak of "literature matters," meaning the whole realm that involves literature. The Newsletter of the Maine Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club is called Wilderness Matters, punning on the word as a noun (...) and as a verb. We might say, analogously, "Literature Matters," as my title does. In medieval Europe learned people spoke of "the matter of Rome," "the matter of Arthur," "the matter of Greece," meaning the whole set of stories that lay behind .. (shrink)
1. A Profession of Faith -- 2. Who or What Decides, for Derrida : A Catastrophic Theory of Decision -- 3. Derrida's Destinerrance -- 4. The Late Derrida -- 5. Derrida's Remains -- 6. Derrida Enisled -- 7. Derrida's Special Theory of Performativity --8. "Don't Count Me In" : Derrida's Refraining -- 9. Derrida's Ethics of Irresponsibilization ; or, How to Get Irresponsible, in Two Easy Lessons -- 10. Derrida's Politics of Autoimmunity -- 11. Touching Derrida's Touching Nancy -- 12. (...) Absolute Mourning : It Is Jacques You Mourn For -- Notes -- Index. (shrink)
At one point in "Rationality and Imagination in Cultural History" M.H. Abrams cites Wayne Booth's assertion that the "deconstructionist" reading of a given work "is plainly and simply parasitical" on "the obvious or univocal reading."1 The latter is Abrams' phrase, the former Booth's. My citation of a citation is an example of a kind of chain which it will be part of my intention here to interrogate. What happens when a critical essay extracts a "passage" and "cites" it? Is this (...) different from a citation, echo, or allusion within a poem? Is a citation an alien parasite within the body of its host, the main text, or is it the other way around, the interpretative text the parasite which surrounds and strangles the citation which is its host? The host feeds the parasite and makes its life possible, but at the same time is killed by it, as "criticism" is often said to kill "literature." Or can host and parasite live happily together, in the domicile of the same text, feeding each other or sharing the food? · 1. Critical Inquiry 2, no. 3 : 457-58. The first phrase is quoted from Wayne Booth, "M.H. Abrams: Historian as Critic, Critic as Pluralist," ibid., p. 441. J. Hillis Miller's contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Ariadne's Thread: Repetition and the Narrative Line" and "Theory and Practice: Response to Vincent Leitch". (shrink)
The story of Ariadne has, as is the way with myths, its slightly asymmetrical echoes along both the narrative lines which converge in her marriage to Dionysus. Daedalus it was who told Ariadne how to save Theseus with the thread. Imprisoned by Minos in his own labyrinth, he escapes by flight, survives the fall of Icarus, and reaches Sicily safely. Daedalus is then discovered by Minos when he solves the puzzle posed publicly by Minos, with the offer of a reward (...) to the solver: How to run a thread through all the chambers and intricate windings of a complex seashell? Daedalus pierces the center of the shell, ties a thread to an ant, puts the ant in the pierced hole, and wins the prize when the ant emerges at the mouth of the shell. Thread and labyrinth, thread intricately crinkled to and fro as the retracing of the labyrinth which defeats the labyrinth but makes another intricate web at the same time—pattern is here superimposed on pattern, like the two homologous stories themselves. J. Hillis Miller is Gray Professor of Rhetoric and chairman of the department of English at Yale. He is the author of Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels, The Disappearance of God, Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire, Fiction and Repetition, and a study of narrative terminology, called Ariadne's Thread, of which his essay in this issue of Critical Inquiry is a part. His contributions to Critical Inquiry are "The Critic as Host" and "Theory and Practice: Response to Vincent Leitch". (shrink)
A woman's right to say no to a proposal of marriage, in defiance of her family and friends, was an essential feature of Victorian middle- and upper-class ideology, as it is represented in novels of the time. This right was based on the assumptions that falling in love is to some degree fortuitous, but that it is a permanent ontological change of selfhood. A good woman is justified in saying no even to an advantageous marriage proposal if she does not (...) love her suitor. Anthony Trollope's novels offer varied dramatizations of these assumptions, while Henry James's novels recount their incipient breakdown. (shrink)
This chapter addresses the question: Who or what decides? How, for Derrida, does a bona fide decision take place? Decision is analyzed in many places in Derrida's work, particularly in the late work. The chapter focuses “micrologically” on what seems to be Derrida's fullest and most elaborate expression of what he means by “decision.” This is an intricate sequence in “Force of Law”. It begins with an apparently peripheral subquestion. Can a decision be a catastrophe? If so, in what sense?
Leitch speaks of his procedure with my work as employing an "abrupt asyndetic format" and as being "a metonymic montage in which themes and citations are playfully and copiously combined." One form of this playfulness is the panoply of figures he uses to describe me and my criticism. The need to use figures for this is interesting, as is their incoherence, though the figures can be shown to fall into a rough antithetical pattern. At one moment the deconstructive critic is (...) a fairy godmother able to turn the pumpkin of the Western tradition into a phantasmal coach. He is a magician or wizard who shows that things are not what they have seemed with the great texts of our tradition or who turns them into something other than what they have seemed solidly to be, pragmatic pumpkins, unequivocally there. At the next moment the deconstructer is a disco dancer, moving sideways in the "lateral dance of interpretation" . The more or less benign fairy godmother and dancer then turns into a "nihilistic magician - who dances demonically upon the broken and scattered fragments of the Western tradition." He becomes a ferocious shaman, "Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may come/Into the desolation of reality" . He is "a bull-deconstructer loose in the china shop of Western tradition" . In the next moment the bull metamorphoses into a lamb, as Leitch realizes the conservative aspects of deconstruction, the way it claims to be rescuing and preserving aspects of our culture which have always been there, both in literary and philosophical works and in the techniques of interpreting them. The same point is made more sharply and critically by William E. Cain in another recent essay on my work . In the final paragraph of his essay, Leitch has fun inventing permutations of an image of sand in the salad from one of my essays. Will deconstruction sandblast the whole shebang, or will the alien grain of sand turn into a pearl of price? J. Hillis Miller is Frederick W. Hilles Professor of English at Yale. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry are "Ariadne's Thread: Repetition and the Narrative Line" and "The Critic as Host". (shrink)
fusion theory challenges efforts to see theory as inhibiting by presenting an approach that is innovative, eclectic, and subtle in order to draw out competing and constellating ideas and opinions. This collected volume of essays examines fusion theory and demonstrates how the theory can be applied to the reading of various works of Indian English novelists.