- Cartography: Conflicting Registers, Difficult Resolutions
The essays in this issue deal with a broad range of authors and themes: from Aristophanes to Sarah Orne Jewett, from the relationship between truth and opinion to the future of academic publishing. Yet all of the essays discover or volatilize contrasting, even oppositional perspectives coexisting within texts and arguments. At times these conflicts present challenges to coherent readings of texts; at times they open up new possibilities for reading; at times they are more hypothetical, envisioned as potential sources for the enrichment of scholarly debate.
Continuing our explorations into new corners of the Frankfurt School, we begin with the first English appearance of a major essay by Theodor W. Adorno on the ancient question of the difference between truth and opinion. While stressing the difficulty of making such a distinction—bound up as it is with fervent, if often invisible, committments to authority—Adorno makes a telling contrast between thought that remains preoccupied with its own internal stability (opinion) and thought that dedicates itself to its object (truth), thereby producing a strong argument against a subject-centered relativism. His translator Henry W. Pickford follows with an informed and cogent discussion of Adorno’s notion of “critical models,” along the way powerfully revising the prevailing notion of Adorno as a politically disengaged aesthete and elitist.
The effects of ideology are further elaborated in Mary Loeffelholz’s thoughtful recuperation of Lucretia Maria Davidson’s life and poetry; the article explores the interaction between independent creative impulse and socially imposed cultural discipline, a kind of “domestication of vision,” which characterizes Davidson’s work. In her provocative discussion of Uncle Tom’s Cabin within a culture of sentiment, Marianne Noble shifts the focus to the text’s reception, teasing out the sometimes disturbing ambivalences complicating or fracturing what might first appear to be the “sympathetic” responses of Stowe’s nineteenth-century American audience to Uncle Tom’s whipping. In her response to Noble (the first of several that will appear in the journal), Elizabeth Barnes points to the difficulty of recovering the particular texture of response of an audience located in the past.
P. Gabrielle Foreman’s politically informed discussion of Frances E.W. Harper’s Iola Leroy links text, reader and historical context, with revealing results. [End Page 225] By pointing to codes, illegible to most of us today, which Harper implanted into her novel with an eye to their resonances within the activist communities of the time, Foreman provides us with a revisionary reading of a much-discussed (and often disparaged) novel. Enriched by a broad knowledge of Sarah Orne Jewett’s literary and non-literary works, Sandra Zagarell’s study of Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs shows how a maternally-based feminism can sit side by side, though not entirely comfortably, with a racialist doctrine of Anglo-Norman heroic progressivism. Similarly, Paul Peppis’ essay on Ford Madox Ford and Gertrude Stein focuses on dissonant contiguities between progressive and reactionary perspectives: in particular, how an author can abandon the theoretical framework of biological racism while preserving much of its seductive rhetoric (Ford), or can, through language and style, imply a de-essentializing notion of the human self while employing racist typologies (Stein).
Moving from issues of ideology to those of representational mode, Ralph Rosen identifies the point at which an ancient play (Aristophanes’ Clouds) changed from a performance into an authorized text and compares this early moment of textualization to the movement of jazz from improvised performance to recordings, raising critical questions about the history of authorship and the history of the “work” as something identifiable and ownable. His essay connects suggestively with David Allen Black’s proposal for a “synoptic” theory of meaning, one that takes into account the relatedness of different versions (a performance vs. a written play, for example) without positing a fixed logical core to which all versions can be reduced.
The issue concludes with our Positions panel of papers from meetings of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, all of which meditate on the joys, pains and perils of academic publishing. Although varied, all of these papers (and especially those of Allen, Bové and Joeres) are concerned...