Anonymous on Sat Apr 21 00:07:21 2001

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    "It is as if Benjamin were afraid of myth's being eradicated    without 
any             intervening liberation....Far from being a guarantee of 
liberation,             deritualization [the destruction of myth] menaces us 
with a specific loss        of experience.  (Habermas2 143)

Doctorow's Jetztzeit is not Daniel's; or more precisely, the storybook 
fulfillment of Daniel's consciousness would entail a cartoonish degradation 
of Doctorow's.  To retain the meaning of his own aporias Doctorow must 
preserve Daniel's.
    Like the unacceptable happy ending  Doctorow avoids in Daniel's encounter 
with Mindish, other happy endings are obstructed as well.  Sternlicht's 
revolution, in which he claims to be able to fulfill his Jetztzeit through 
the proliferation of images, does not serve to liberate Daniel.  Daniel's 
alienation from Sternlicht is grounded in the fact that it all rings false 
somehow.  Daniel sees that "The radical is given the occasion for one last 
discovery--the connection between society and his death" (Doctorow 140).  To 
accept the role of radicalism in Sternlicht's model is to become a mere part 
of a narrative of resistance (electrical pun intended) just as his the 
Isaacsons did.  Accompanying this personal reduction is the highly 
significant image of the reduction of culture:  "EVERYTHING THAT CAME BEFORE 
IS ALL THE SAME!" (Doctorow 136).  Daniel's own image-making (and 
self-making) lacks the certainty that "this is it, I'm the revolution, this 
is the end of it all."  Sternlicht's attempt to simply "put on the put on" 
(Doctorow 140), while correct in principle, cannot be fulfilled, but would 
rather fall into the category of "a false elimination of art...[which] along 
with the dominative organization of the work of art...liquidates its truth at 
the same time" (Habermas2 141).
    The last such thwarted transcendence and fictional victory is written on 
the last pages of the novel.  The student tells Daniel "Close the book, man, 
what's the matter with you?  Don't you know you're liberated?" (Doctorow 
302).  Even Daniel's attempt to write a history-blasting text of his own life 
and to diarize his dissertation amounts only to a rather dismal recognition 
that he has only completed a shadow of what he had hoped.  The emergence from 
the historical continuum occurs only fragment by fragment, both personally 
and aesthetic-historically.  As the biblical quotation reads, "Go thy way 
Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" 
(Doctorow 303).  The following passage from "Theses on the Philosophy of 
History" has particular relevance given Doctorow's overt association of the 
Isaacsons with secularized interpretations of messianic Judaism:
    We know that the Jews were prohibited from investigating the 
future...This   does not imply, however, that for the Jews the future turned 
into    homogeneous, empty time.  For every second of time was the strait 
gate    through which the Messiah might enter.  (Benjamin 264)

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