Letters & "Debates"

Literature/Film Quarterly, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Letters & "Debates"


Two After-Images: On Rereading the Essays on Jewish Propaganda and Gentile America

Literature/Film Quarterly is to be congratulated both for being liberal enough to publish a controversial and suspect essay, and for being politically astute enough to have a contributing editor dispatch of it posthaste. Therefore, my first after-image is that of a pesky, loathsome fly swatted against the silver screen by a ponderous midrash the size of the New York Times. But one wonders if perhaps the little fly will leave an indelible stain on the face of cinema that can no more be erased from our senses than could Georgiana's fatal birthmark or Hester's American "A."

My second after-image is that of Cooper's Natty Bumppo/Hawkeye sitting atop Mount Vision and declaring, "I saw all that God had done or man could do, far as the eye could see; you know the Indians named me for my sight." Here I have serious reservations whether or not any hyphenated-Americans-Jewish-Americans, Afro-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, even "Gentile-Americans"--can really comprehend what Cooper/Hawkeye is both praising and warning us about: a revolutionary ocularity or hypervisuality that has nothing in common with Old-World or Middle-Eastern hyperverbal roots-what Perry Miller called our predicament of being radically "alone with America," and what D.H. Lawrence sensed as the "incomprehensible difference in being between us," between an aesthetics based on seeing and one based on saying. Until the above hyphenated-Americans can come to realize that when Jonathan Edwards avows, "'Tis light that must convert them, if ever they are converted," that he is not echoing some Old-World mysticism but substituting GE for Jesus, then no real debate is possible on the ideal nature of American literature and film. Of course, to accept the hypervisual ideal of Cooper's Hawkeye or Emerson's "transparent eyeball" would mean the eradication of the Jewish producer's or writer's deepest self-the history of God's chosen people, the gift of Canaan/Palestine, the exiles and sufferings. This historical and narrative identity must never be forgotten and must be interjected, overtly or covertly, whenever possible, i.e. as propaganda. But not Shema or "Hear O Israel" but "O Say can You See" is our American anthem. Our films must be visionary, not burdened by old aesthetics and narrative norms.

The image of the pesky fly swatted by the ponderous "reply" also reminded me of Hemingway's story, "Fifty Grand," where the boxer, Jack, is double-crossed and fouled by a blow below the belt: "I thought the eyes would come out of Jack's head; they stuck way out." No "reply" or blow to the American fly of compound eyes can ever intimidate him into renouncing his hypervisual American birthright for a mess of hyperverbal porridge.

William Meyer Jr.

To the Editor

Kudos on your decision to publish Mr. Meyer's article. I was sorry to see the editor's note at its end, however. As a student of Middle Eastern Studies (Arabic literature and comparative religion), I am always elated to find materials in print that reveal the reality of an Anglo-Judeo bias and its counterpart, anti-Arab sentiment in American society. …

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