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At Tate Modern

Hal Foster: Robert Rauschenberg

1 December 2016
... without frames, and Rauschenberg often photographed them among everyday things. As the curator Walter Hopps commented, they also underscore ‘the fact of a new urban surface’. Nevertheless, the two series do share an essential operation in negation. After two White Paintings were exhibited in September 1953, Cage offered this litany: ‘No subject/No ...
21 January 2016
... Needham, Elliott), sociology (Mosca, Pareto, Weber, Simmel, Mann), anthropology (Mauss, Lévi-Strauss, Dumont, Malinowski, Evans-Pritchard) or literary studies (Bakhtin, de Man, Barthes). All these foundational figures are European. The grand American exception is Chomsky, who revolutionised the study of linguistics, and, perhaps to a lesser ...
19 April 2017
... than the one 1933 film; but it is true that even this Mabuse can look like a crazed counterpart of Walter Benjamin. When ‘the man behind the curtain’ in The Testament, the figure issuing instructions to the gang, is revealed to be a gramophone, the detective formulates his discovery in an interesting way. ‘You have been listening,’ he says to the now ...

Not in the Mood

Adam Shatz: Derrida’s Secrets

22 November 2012
Derrida: A Biography 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 629 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 0 7456 5615 1
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... In all three books, Derrida’s argument was that Western thought from Plato to Rousseau to Lévi-Strauss had been hopelessly entangled in the illusion that language might provide us with access to a reality beyond language, beyond metaphor: an unmediated experience of truth and being which he called ‘presence’. Even Heidegger, a radical critic of ...

The Colour of His Eyes

Michael Hofmann: Hugo von Hofmannsthal

12 March 2009
The Whole Difference: Selected Writings of Hugo von Hofmannsthal 
edited by J.D. McClatchy.
Princeton, 502 pp., £24.95, October 2008, 978 0 691 12909 9
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... swansong of passivity in the drawing-room; and, above all, the opera libretti he wrote for Richard Strauss: Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Arabella. These, I would say, constitute half a safety-net, half a ball and chain, meaning that Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929) won’t ever go away. All the same, when one ...

The Most Beautiful Icicle

Inigo Thomas: Apollo 11

15 August 2019
Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race 
by Roger D. Launius.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 300 23046 8
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The Moon: A History for the Future 
by Oliver Morton.
Economist Books, 334 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78816 254 8
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... various people to reflect on what the moonshots had meant to them. One of them was Claude Lévi-Strauss. ‘I never look at TV except when there’s a moonshot,’ he said, and then I am glued to my set, even though it’s boring, always the same and lasts a long time. Still, I can’t turn away. In this sad century, in this sad world where we live, with ...

Still Superior

Mark Greif: Sex and Susan Sontag

12 February 2009
Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-64 
by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 318 pp., £16.99, January 2009, 978 0 241 14431 2
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... closest she came to writing about a grand system-builder was a short early review of Claude Lévi-Strauss, and this was a mistake she might not have made had she known him then as the architect of French Structuralism rather than the eccentric bellettrist of Tristes Tropiques. There is no Kant, no Nietzsche, no Marx in Sontag – yet, suddenly, here is ...

How worried should we be?

Steven Shapin: How Not to Handle Nukes

23 January 2014
Command and Control 
by Eric Schlosser.
Penguin, 632 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84614 148 5
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... In the mid-1950s, when Murphy’s Law wasn’t yet widely known under that name, Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, reflecting on the political and administrative troubles afflicting him, suggested that ‘a new law of knowledge’ be recognised and called Strauss’s Law after him: ‘If anything bad can happen, it probably ...
1 September 1988
... large the paintings do look very much at home in these vaulted spaces. It could well be, as Michel Strauss suggested while we were standing in the biggest space, that Picasso’s art always tends to look at home in spaces akin to those of Medieval churches. Indeed, it seems to me that at the Tate many of the late paintings look as if they are Medieval ...
5 December 1991
Trial of Strength: Furtwängler and the Third Reich 
by Fred Prieberg, translated by Christopher Dolan.
Quartet, 394 pp., £30, October 1991, 0 7043 2790 2
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Menuhin: A Family Portrait 
by Tony Palmer.
Faber, 207 pp., £15.99, September 1991, 0 571 16582 6
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... those flames ... the idol of Nazi arsonists and murderers’) the charge is the same. As Bruno Walter put it in a letter to Furtwängler in 1949: ‘The presence and activity of a musician of your standing in Germany at that time lent those terrible criminals cultural and moral credibility, or at least helped them considerably in its acquisition.’ Three ...


Christopher Prendergast

5 June 1997
Projections 7 
edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue.
Faber, 308 pp., £11.99, April 1997, 0 571 19033 2
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. I: The Fifties. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge, 312 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 15105 8
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. II: The Sixties. New Wave, New Cinema, Re-evaluating Hollywood 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge, 363 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 15106 6
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. III: 1969-72. The Politics of Representation 
edited by Nick Browne.
Routledge, 352 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 02987 2
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... probably see this as regressive humanism, but, after all Barthes’s references to Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss et al, it is both refreshing and touching to encounter his mundane talk of people having rows and being in a mess and the corresponding view of the meaning and value of cinema and response to that. The best moments in Casino, after all, are the rows ...

Heart and Hoof

Marjorie Garber: Seabiscuit

4 October 2001
Seabiscuit: The Making of a Legend 
by Laura Hillenbrand.
Fourth Estate, 399 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 1 84115 091 6
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... the names given to horses – not ordinary horses . . . but racehorses,’ writes Claude Lévi-Strauss, opening an excursus on equine onomastics in The Savage Mind. The names of thoroughbreds are ‘rigorously individualised’ and ‘rarely, if ever, describe them’. What counts is the way they can be seen to derive from the horse’s pedigree. They form ...


Stephen Bann

2 October 1980
Narrative Discourse 
by Gérard Genette, translated by Jane Lewin.
Blackwell, 285 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 631 10981 1
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... nevertheless become inevitable in a period when thinkers like Bachelard, Merleau-Ponty and Lévi-Strauss had made their own diverse and challenging contributions to a possible science of literature. However, it was not as an overtly ‘scientific’ critic, as a builder of systems, that Genette presented himself in the first two collections of Figures (1966 ...

Lamb’s Tails

Christopher Driver

19 June 1986
All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present 
by Stephen Mennell.
Blackwell, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 631 13244 9
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Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the 14th Century including ‘The Forme of Cury’ 
edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.
Oxford, for the Early English Text Society, 224 pp., £6.50, April 1985, 0 19 722409 1
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The English Cookbook 
by Victor Gordon.
Cape, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1985, 0 224 02300 4
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... culinary traditions are handicapped by excess reverence, almost all French scholars – Lévi-Strauss for one – are handicapped by blank ignorance, often of what British diet is, and almost always of what it means to its consumers. Not that British scholarship has made things easy for the French, or anyone else. The classic history by Drummond and ...

Separation Anxiety

David Hollinger: God and Politics

24 January 2008
The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West 
by Mark Lilla.
Knopf, 334 pp., $26, September 2007, 978 1 4000 4367 5
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... meant the pushing aside of scripture, the historical particularities of which David Friedrich Strauss and countless others were just then demonstrating. Romantic conceptions of the self and wissenschaftliche approaches to the Bible combined to produce a liberal theology according to which the Bible was a cultural document rather than a series of ...

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