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W.J.T. Mitchell

W.J.T. Mitchell is a editor of Critical Inquiry and a professor of English at the University of Chicago. His book Landscape and power will be published this autumn.

In the Wilderness

W.J.T. Mitchell, 8 April 1993

The Foundation of Empire is Art and Science. Remove them or Degrade them and the Empire is no more. Empire follows Art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose.

Culture Wars

W.J.T. Mitchell, 23 April 1992

I am old enough to remember a time when going to the movies meant going to see the newsreels too. Perhaps that is why the juxtaposition of CNN and JFK makes so much sense to me. I’ve never been able to get over the idea that the news is just another kind of movie, and vice versa. But Cable News Network and JFK belong together in a historical proximity as well, as the framing media events of a very strange year in American cultural history. 1991 began, for American spectators, with the most heavily publicised war in American history, and ended with a cinematic re-enactment of the Kennedy assassination, the most highly publicised event in what JFK represents as a secret war for control of America’s national destiny. Between CNN’s Operation Desert Storm and JFK’s Operation Mongoose fall the media shadows of what are now called America’s ‘culture wars’. These are the ongoing battles for the ideological soul of America played out in the convergence of television news and melodrama. Pitched battles of the sexes and races were staged with unprecedented intensity in such media ‘events’ as the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, and the David Duke campaign. Conspiracy theories detailed the infiltration of American higher education by ‘politically correct’ militants, and lamented the takeover of the art world by feminists, homosexuals and ethnic minorities. In short, for Americans who watch television news, 1991 was a year of war and publicity – not just the publicising or representing of war, but the waging of war by means of publicity and representation. Oliver Stone’s JFK is the perfect cinematic coda to such a year.’

1. We live in a golden age of criticism. The dominant mode of literary expression in the late 20th century is not poetry, fiction, drama, film, but criticism and theory. By ‘dominant’ I do not mean ‘most popular’ or ‘widely respected’ or ‘authoritative’, but ‘advanced’, ‘emergent’.

Dinosaur Icons

Wendy Doniger, 18 February 1999

One of the best of the many puns in this book is the gloss of ‘dinosaurus’ as ‘Dinos’R’ Us’, a take-off on the ‘Toys’R’Us’ logo that...

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Ravishing Atrocities

Patrick Maynard, 7 January 1988

I said, I once heard a story which I believe, that Leontius the son of Aglaion, on his way up from the Piraeus under the outer side of the northern wall, becoming aware of dead bodies that lay...

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Untheory

Alexander Nehamas, 22 May 1986

The ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry which Plato described, and in which he took part, is still being fought. Poetry today has become, more generally, ‘rhetoric’,...

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