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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Le Mépris’, 21 January 2016

Le Mépris 
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... is whether we understand or even notice the omission. With luck we do. ‘One can feel,’ Stanley Cavell says, ‘that there is always a camera left out of the picture: the one working now.’ Godard’s version of this idea concerns actors: ‘Of course, there is a scene missing. It’s the principal scene in every film, which is: “Why hire a ...

The spirit in which things are said

Arnold Davidson, 20 December 1984

Themes out of School: Causes and Effects 
by Stanley Cavell.
Scolar/North Point, 288 pp., £16.95, January 1985, 0 86547 146 0
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... Since the publication of Must we mean what we say? in 1969, it has been said that Stanley Cavell’s books are unreviewable, a remark that will no doubt again be applied to his latest work. This remark has been repeated too often, by too many distinguished and distinctive philosophers, to be simply false, but neither should it be taken as flatly true ...

Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter, 3 March 1988

The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 571 15013 6
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... poets, Whitman, Frost and Stevens; among critics and theorists, John Hollander, Harold Bloom, Stanley Cavell, George Kateb, Richard Rorty and Sacvan Bercovitch. Strong claims are made for the validity of the Emersonian position – it represents ‘what literature is most often trying to tell us about itself and how it wants to be read’ – and a ...

C’est mon métier

Jerry Fodor, 24 January 2013

Philosophy in an Age of Science 
by Hilary Putnam.
Harvard, 659 pp., £44.95, April 2012, 978 0 674 05013 6
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... Putnam’s book, and in the work of several of the philosophers Putnam approves of (in particular Stanley Cavell and John McDowell). But the trouble with that strategy is that nothing ontological follows from the fact of entanglement. Apollo was much entangled with the forms of life in ancient Athens; but if there isn’t any Apollo, then there ...

The Profusion Effect

Michael Wood: Salman Rushdie’s ‘Quichotte’, 12 September 2019

by Salman Rushdie.
Cape, 397 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 78733 191 4
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... One​ can feel that there is always a camera left out of the picture,’ Stanley Cavell writes in The World Viewed. He is writing of a literal movie camera, but he suggests a metaphorical reach for the claim too. The missing camera is ‘the one working now’, and its recurring absence makes Cavell feel there is ‘something unsaid ...


Michael Dobson, 18 November 1993

‘Hamlet’ versus ‘Lear’: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art 
by R.A. Foakes.
Cambridge, 262 pp., £30, March 1993, 0 521 34292 9
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Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels 
by Brian Vickers.
Yale, 508 pp., £35, April 1993, 0 300 05415 7
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Shakespeare, Poet and Citizen 
by Victor Kieran.
Verso, 261 pp., £18.95, March 1993, 0 86091 392 9
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... are an impressively varied range of flourishing Shakespeareans – from Stephen Greenblatt to Stanley Cavell, Lynda Boose to Robert Weimann – who are catalogued and castigated, chapter by chapter, under the usual demonised labels: as deconstructionists, New Historicists, psychoanalytic critics, feminists and Marxists (who share their section, less ...

On Ange Mlinko

Paul Franz, 5 July 2018

... to skin-of-the-teeth resolutions, belong to the genre of comedy, or more specifically to what Stanley Cavell has called the ‘comedy of remarriage’, a subgenre whose touchstones are the late romances of Shakespeare and the Hollywood screwball comedies of the 1930s. (Remarriage need not here be taken literally, though the poems hint at some ...

Rat Poison

David Bromwich, 17 October 1996

Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Beacon, 143 pp., $20, February 1996, 0 8070 4108 4
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... sharers of her aims: among literary critics, Wayne Booth; among philosophers, Bernard Williams and Stanley Cavell; among social scientists, Amartya Sen. Nussbaum explains her discovery of virtues eloquently, volubly, in the manner of a belated Victorian moralist. The reverse of a dry writer, she is fairly often deeply moved, and you come to know not only ...

Sexual Subjects

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 21 October 1982

The Sexual Fix 
by Stephen Heath.
Macmillan, 191 pp., £12.95, June 1982, 0 333 32750 0
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Questions of Cinema 
by Stephen Heath.
Macmillan, 257 pp., £12.50, August 1981, 0 333 26122 4
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‘Sight and Sound’: A 50th-Anniversary Selection 
edited by David Wilson.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.50, September 1982, 0 571 11943 3
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... none is at all worked out and none, of course, even pretends to be exhaustive. Other critics – Stanley Cavell, for example – have begun to disentangle the confusion by distinguishing genres and that must be a start, as it has been for verbal art. But for the present, the sight and sound of the movies, like the pages of Sight and Sound itself, defy a ...

Il n’y a pas de Beckett

Christopher Prendergast, 14 November 1996

Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett 
by James Knowlson.
Bloomsbury, 872 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 7475 2719 9
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Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist 
by Anthony Cronin.
HarperCollins, 645 pp., £25, October 1996, 9780246137692
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol I: Waiting for Godot 
edited by Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson.
Faber, 472 pp., £75, March 1994, 0 571 14543 4
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol II: Endgame 
edited by S.E. Gontarski.
Faber, 276 pp., £50, November 1992, 0 571 14544 2
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol III: Krapp’s Last Tape 
edited by James Knowlson.
Faber, 286 pp., £50, May 1992, 0 571 14563 9
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by Samuel Beckett, translated by Barbara Wright.
Faber, 170 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 9780571178261
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... to be a starter in this role, one would have to figure out what it means. For, as the philosopher Stanley Cavell observed, the meaning(s) will vary according to the stress-pattern the actor’s voice imposes on its principal terms; if, for example, on ‘cure’, this of itself would not preclude other worthwhile possibilities for our terrestial ...

Arctic Habits

Tony Tanner, 25 May 1995

Emerson: The Mind on Fire 
by Robert Richardson.
California, 668 pp., £27, June 1995, 0 520 08808 5
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... Richardson’s book is very much of its time. Since the enthusiastic re-evaluation of Emerson by Stanley Cavell, Harold Bloom and, most importantly, Richard Poirier, Emerson’s stock has probably never stood higher. He seems, temporarily, to have moved into a privileged place beyond criticism. But I wonder if that is good for him. In 1887 Henry James ...

What is a pikestaff?

Colin Burrow: Metaphor, 23 April 2015

by Denis Donoghue.
Harvard, 232 pp., £18.95, April 2014, 978 0 674 43066 2
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... Cambridge in the 1960s and who learned to argue with and against Paul de Man and Paul Ricoeur and Stanley Cavell during a long period as a professor at NYU. To describe this book as a product of that history is not to belittle it. From a wider historical perspective it’s what will make it valuable. Donoghue has common roots with the many Irish ...

How to Prepare for Debates

Hal Foster: Rasta for Dada, 22 October 2020

Last Loosening: A Handbook for the Con Artist and Those Aspiring to Become One 
by Walter Serner, translated by Mark Kanak.
Twisted Spoon Press, 189 pp., £15, July, 978 80 86264 45 5
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At the Blue Monkey: 33 Outlandish Stories 
by Walter Serner, translated by Erik Butler.
Wakefield, 192 pp., £13.99, December 2019, 978 1 939663 46 7
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... such a big jump? From the start the modernist arts were widely viewed as a con, and in our time Stanley Cavell has argued that the potential ‘fraudulence’ of any avant-garde is the necessary risk of our passionate ‘conviction’ in it. Of course, Dada invited outrage – its primary aim was to shock people out of aesthetic complacency – and to ...
... and forms of art in the traditional sense of ‘dominance’: but they have not yet achieved what Stanley Cavell calls the ‘modernist’ condition, in which the medium has to be reinvented with each new achievement. We may hear people leaving the movies saying, ‘That was weird’ (or ‘different’, or ‘original’), but we don’t hear them ...

One Night in Maidenhead

Jean McNicol, 30 October 1997

Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your John: The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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... marriage plot’. As she says, the play works against the common Hollywood model characterised by Stanley Cavell as the ‘comedy of remarriage’. There is the quarrelsome bickering associated with the form, but no reconciliation. After Ruth is killed in a car accident intended by Elvira, who tampered with the car, to kill Charles, the two women form an ...

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