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The Administration of Aesthetics

The Administration of Aesthetics: Censorship, Political Criticism, and the Public Sphere

Edited by Richard Burt
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    The Administration of Aesthetics
    Book Description:

    “Radically historicizes and redefines what ‘censorship’ is: not simply a repressive regime enacted by anti-pleasure high culturalists, but a complex, paradoxical, always-changing, and inevitable scene of contestation over the aesthetic, political, and ethical value of certain targeted expressions and discourses. For anyone interested in issues of culture and power, this anthology is a fabulous pedagogical act.” --Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago Contributors: Richard Burt, Stuart Culver, Donald Hedrick, Christian Jouhaud, Michael G. Levine, Timothy Murray, Aamir Mufti, David Norbrook, Dennis Porter, Brook Thomas, Jirina Smejkalová-Strickland, Jeffrey Wallen, and Rob Wilson.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8557-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: The “New” Censorship
    (pp. xi-xxx)
    Richard Burt

    Many intellectuals have been disturbed by what some have termed the “new” censorship of aesthetics in the 1980s and early 1990s, a phenomenon that has been widely interpreted as the fulfillment of the radically conservative Reagan/Bush agenda.¹ Cultural critics have viewed the intense, prolonged assault on high and low modes of aesthetic production, circulation, and consumption beginning in the 1980s in the context of the prosecution elsewhere of a rightwing agenda. Attacks on publicly funded exhibitions of artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, on MTV videos, on rap music by 2-Live Crew and Ice-T, and on television advertisements as...

  5. Part I. Criticism, Censorship, and the Early Modern Public Sphere

    • Areopagitica, Censorship, and the Early Modern Public Sphere
      (pp. 3-33)
      David Norbrook

      Milton’sAreopagiticais buried under the weight of its own celebrity: it has turned into a quarry of fine and somewhat empty phrases, legitimizing the belief that in modern liberal societies a near-universal freedom of speech has been attained. Recently, however, there has been a sharp reaction. The liberal cult ofAreopagiticais criticized as mystifyingly idealist, positing a complete autonomy of the discursive subject in abstraction from material constraints on discourse. Recent work onAreopagiticahas been strongly influenced by Michel Foucault’s insistence that universal moral principles are always effects of power. Foucault takes a sharply revisionist line on...

    • Power and Literature: The Terms of the Exchange 1624–42
      (pp. 34-82)
      Christian Jouhaud

      This essay is about the relations between power and literature in France in the years of Richelieu’s ministry (1624-42). Against soothing visions of literature—maintained sometimes by literary history itself—which tend to sanctify literary talent in claiming that good writers always have a vocation for liberty and that only the mediocre ones place their pens at the service of power, I would like to show, on the contrary, how the new values of literary purism, from which the profession of writer(ecrivain)began to define itself, were produced in the context of dependence on political power. This notion of...

    • Flower Power: Shakespearean Deep Bawdy and the Botanical Perverse
      (pp. 83-105)
      Donald Hedrick

      Given contemporary pressures to return humanistic studies to their traditional content and practices—pressures often brought to bear without acknowledging exactly what the earlier content and practices were—it may be time to comply by returning Shakespeare studies to a formerly perennial topic, lamentably absent today: namely, Shakespeare’s deep knowledge of plant lore, gardening, and flowers. It would be instructive should we discover that the topic is not yet exhausted.

      By introducing what might be termed a “police perspective” into consideration of Shakespeare’s flower imagery, I may further the politicization of the pastoral conducted by Annabel Patterson, James Turner, and...

    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Policing the Aesthetic from the Left
      (pp. 106-122)
      Dennis Porter

      If one major task of the present volume is to question our current understanding of the concept and practice of censorship by means of a series of discrete historical probes, then an exploration of Jean- Jacques Rousseau's contribution to the debate is a crucial one. Twentieth- century history is still too gruesomely familiar for anyone to believe that there is a simple narrative of progressive elimination in which, from roughly the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on, conservative and reactionary forces affirmed the need for censorship and democratic and revolutionary movements opposed it. As Michel Foucault might well have said, censorship...

  6. Part II. Censorship and Modernity

    • Ulysses on Trial: Some Supplementary Reading
      (pp. 125-148)
      Brook Thomas

      A text ofUlyssesis on trial again, but the nature of the trial is quite different from the one that allowedUlyssesto enter the United States legally. In fact, one reason that the present text is on trial is that it is not the same as the one tried, or at least presumably tried, in 1933.

      In the 1933 trial everyone involved assumed that they were prosecuting or defending the text ofUlyssescorresponding to the one published in Paris in 1922 by Shakespeare and Company. The courts were asked to decide whether that text was morally corrupting....

    • Whistler v. Ruskin: The Courts, the Public, and Modern Art
      (pp. 149-167)
      Stuart Culver

      At almost the same time Theodor Adorno was reaching this conclusion in hisAesthetic Theory, the Congress of the United States was establishing the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which could be described as a contributor to the administered culture Adorno distrusted. In an effort to secure the place of art in the nation’s public sphere and believing that the arts required public funding because the values they represented were at once too crucial and too tenuous to be trusted to the vagaries of the marketplace, Congress proposed to help finance projects that a panel of experts deemed worthy....

    • Freud and the Scene of Censorship
      (pp. 168-192)
      Michael G. Levine

      In a letter to his friend Wilhelm Fliess announcing the completion ofThe Interpretation of Dreams,Freud compares his own style to that of the dreamer described in his pioneering work:

      The dream material itself is, I believe, unassailable. What I dislike about it is the style, which was quite incapable [unfähig] of noble, simple expression and lapsed into facetious [witzelnde] circumlocutions straining after metaphors. I know that, but the part of me that knows it and knows how to evaluate it is unfortunately the part that does not produce.

      It is certainly true that the dreamer is too witty,...

  7. Part III. The New Censorship and Postmodernity

    • Censoring Canons: Transitions and Prospects of Literary Institutions in Czechoslovakia
      (pp. 195-215)
      Jiřina Šmejkalová-Strickland

      I find myself in a liminal position: between two worlds, two cultures, and two historical periods. I wrote my dissertation in Czechoslovakia before the revolution of 1989 and defended it afterward There I dealt with Czech literary institutions, with the system of centrally controlled publishing houses and distribution networks, and with the habits and preferences of readers. I then came to the United States to study current Western cultural theories, nurturing the idea that what I would discover here would lead me to ask new questions about my world—a world I thought I already knew, a world that, in...

    • “Degenerate ‘Art’ ”: Public Aesthetics and the Simulation of Censorship in Postliberal Los Angeles and Berlin
      (pp. 216-259)
      Richard Burt

      Just before the release of Madonna’s backstage/performance movieTruth or Darein May 1991, theLos Angeles Timesran an interview with the superstar that began at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) exhibition entitled “Degenerate Art”: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany.¹ The LACMA exhibition documented and reconstructed the 1937 exhibition of some 625 modernist paintings the Nazis called “degenerate ‘art,’ ” which they auctioned off, burned, or kept in storage after the exhibition. The agenda of the LACMA exhibition, reiterated in the guidebook, catalog, related events guide, and first room of the exhibition, was...

    • The Contrast Hurts: Censoring the Ladies Liberty in Performance
      (pp. 260-288)
      Timothy Murray

      Two corollary binary oppositions have dominated artistic responses to debates over National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding and creative liberty: freedom versus censorship; individual expression versus governmental prohibition. There is little doubt that such binaries reflect the American habit of relying on the discourse of constitutional liberty to make the case for artistic license. Some of America’s most politicized artists have adopted this universalist strategy in response to repressive charges made against them. Many activist art producers have relied on claims of freedom of expression rather than analyzing the attack on the critical imperatives of their work—even when...

    • Cyborg America: Policing the Social Sublime in Robocop and Robocop 2
      (pp. 289-306)
      Rob Wilson

      While the culture of postmodernity confounds even its most cornmodified admirers as a global tangle of haphazard concerns and genuinely heteroglossic directions, figures of cyborgian sublimity ranging fromRobocoptoThe TerminatorandLawnmower Manare proliferating at century’s end like sublime masochists from the political unconscious. Such figures of cybernetic power and recuperated local agency serve, I will contend, as technoeuphoric spectacles producing and socializing, if not policing, the aesthetics of the future. Emerging as sublime technobody from out of our postindustrial future, such cybernetic organisms can be said to prefigure softer collusions of human flesh with high technology,...

    • Reading the Rushdie Affair: “Islam,” Cultural Politics, Form
      (pp. 307-339)
      Aamir Mufti

      Gayatri Spivak has argued that, in the case of The Satanic Verses, “the praxis and politics of life” intercept the aesthetic object to such a degree that a “mere reading” of the novel has become impossible.¹ In this essay, I will examine the novel’s “interception by” (and its intervention in) certain political contexts within the post-1979 Islamic world. The essay is not meant to provide an even partial "reading" of the text in traditional critical terms. Instead, it will focus on “the Rushdie affair” as a complex cultural (and political)eventwithin the Islamic world, treating it as a constellation...

    • Conclusion: Political Correctness: The Revenge of the Liberals
      (pp. 340-370)
      Jeffrey Wallen

      Universities are in the news again. Perhaps more than at any time since the Vietnam War, what is occurring on college campuses is a topic for local and national news coverage. Conflict, as was the case twenty years ago, is the central focus. The conflicts now, however, are not between the students and the federal government, or, for the most part, between the students and the university administration. Nor is a matter of national public policy—such as whether or not the United States should be engaged in fighting a war on the other side of the globe—at the...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 371-374)
  9. Index
    (pp. 375-381)