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The Paul de Man Notebooks

The Paul de Man Notebooks

Edited by Martin McQuillan
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Paul de Man Notebooks
    Book Description:

    This anthology collects texts and papers from the Paul de Man archive, including essays on art, translations, critical fragments, research plans, interviews, and reports on the state of comparative literature. The volume engages with Paul de Man's institutional life, gathering together pedagogical and critical material to investigate his profound influence on the American academy and theory today. It also contains a number of substantial, previously unpublished and untranslated texts by de Man from the span of his writing career. As a new collection of primary sources this volume further stimulates the growing reappraisal of de Man's work.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7017-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. viii-ix)
    Martin McQuillan
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Introduction. ‘The Unimaginable Touch of Time’: The Public and Private in the Notebooks of Paul de Man
    (pp. 1-20)
    Martin McQuillan

    The Paul de Man papers are held in the Critical Theory Archive, on the fifth floor of the Langdon Library, in the Department of Special Collections and Archives at the University of California Irvine (UCI). The papers cover a wide range of material, including texts from de Man’s time as a graduate student at Harvard in the late 1950s, manuscripts of his published writing, manuscripts of essays that have since his death formed the content for published books edited by others, correspondence, and files related to his many years as a professor and teacher of comparative literature. Included in these...

  6. PART I: Texts

    • Introduction
      (pp. 23-24)
      Martin McQuillan

      These texts are a sample of previously uncollected writings by de Man. Some were published during his lifetime in prominent journals; others are little more than drafts or fragments towards future work and should be considered as such. These later texts are presented as indicative of the material contained within the UCI archive and do not stand for de Man’s public output. However, in each case the texts add something new to our understanding of the de Man corpus. The two essays on art, The Drawings of Paul Valéry from 1948 (the archive translation by Richard Howard of de Man’s...

    • 1 The Drawings of Paul Valéry (1948)
      (pp. 25-37)

      In the game he plays against the World and against himself, Valéry has always had but one adversary: Chance. From Chance he must win what he sees, what he thinks, what he is in the moment.

      To open one’s eyes, to focus them on some object, is “to throw the dice.” Each throw offers another side of things, each glance determines a possible aspect of Appearance. What is seen is only a special case. How could a mind entirely oriented toward the exercise of itself, a mind which aspires to the universal – how could such a mind submit to such...

    • 2 Jacques Villon (1952)
      (pp. 38-41)

      One brilliant sunny afternoon last spring I stepped through the gate which leads deep into the small garden where Jacques Villon’s studio is housed. It is one of these suburbs which despite their nearness to Paris appear with their bird’s nests, enclosures, and vegetable patches as if they were in the countryside, and the worn-out plastered houses give one the impression of a rustic village. Cut ivy filled the alleyway. There must have been a debate between the head gardener and the artist over how best to bind down the crazy grapevine that stretched itself over the wall’s edge.


    • 3 Graduate Essay on Keats (1954)
      (pp. 42-47)

      It is hard to make up one’s mind about John Keats: is he, or is he not, a “difficult” poet? Should one approach him in the broad and tolerant frame of mind with which one listens to a certain kind of romantic music: ignoring some local imperfections or vagueness for the sake of the overall mood? Or should we focus on the minute, interrogate every word, blameourselveswhen we do not understand, assume that the final gracefulness is the result of a highly deliberate subtlety? Should he be read slowly, with constant repetitions, or should one be carried away...

    • 4 Postdoctoral Essay on Symbolism (c. 1960)
      (pp. 48-61)

      All has been said, it seems, about symbolism. No period of literature has been explored more thoroughly; none to which the techniques of contemporary historical and critical research have been more conscientiously applied. The conditions for this exploration were highly favorable. We have all the texts at our disposal, not only in their final version, but in preliminary stages and with variations as well. The biographies of the main figures – Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé – are known in all details; there is hardly a letter ever written by them that has not been recorded. The complete editions stand as examples of scrupulous...

    • 5 Introduction to Madame Bovary (1965)
      (pp. 62-68)

      Ever since its publication in 1857,Madame Bovaryhas been one of the most discussed books in the history of world literature. Despite the distinction and importance of his other novels, Flaubert had to reconcile himself to the fact that he became known, once and forever, as the author ofMadame Bovary. The popularity of the novel has increased rather than diminished with time. Numberless translations exist in various languages; the word “bovarysme” has become part of the French language; the myth surrounding the figure of Emma Bovary is so powerful that, as in the case of Don Quixote, or...

    • 6 Introduction to The Portable Rousseau (1973)
      (pp. 69-76)

      The notion of textual allegory, as it derives from theSocial Contract,provides the generalizing principle which makes it possible to consider theotropical or ethical allegories as particularized versions of this generative model and thus to break down the significance of such thematic distinctions. It also implies that the terminology of generality, particularity, and generative power has a degree of referential undecidability which should exclude any simplified metaphorical use of these terms, while anticipating the failure to achieve such vigilance, or such immunity to rhetorical seduction. If, for example, we consider the introduction of a theological dimension into the political...

    • 7 On Reading Rousseau (1977)
      (pp. 77-102)

      Rousseau is one of the group of writers who are always being systematically misread. I spoke above [sic– this refers to a longer version of the text] of the blindness of critics with regard to their own insights, of the discrepancy, hidden to them, between their stated method and their perceptions. In the history as well as in the historiography of literature, this blindness can take on the form of a recurrently aberrant pattern of interpretation with regard to a particular writer. The pattern extends from highly specialized commentators to the vagueidées reçuesby means of which this writer...

    • 8 Translator’s Introduction to “Rousseau and English Romanticism” (1978)
      (pp. 103-106)
      Patience Moll

      De Man presentedRousseau et le romantisme anglaisat the University of Geneva on June 5, 1978, as the last in a series of eight guest lectures commemorating the bicentennial of the deaths of Rousseau and Voltaire.¹ The lecture is a shorter variant of what appeared as “Shelley Disfigured” in the 1979 collectionDeconstruction and Criticism. For that work, Bloom and Hartman had asked de Man, Miller, and Derrida to contribute essays on Shelley’sTriumph of Lifein order, as Hartman writes in the preface, both to acknowledge “the importance of Romantic poetry” and to demonstrate the “shared set of...

    • 9 Rousseau and English Romanticism (1978)
      (pp. 107-125)

      The problem of Rousseau’s presence within English Romanticism, especially among the major poets, which is to say Coleridge, Wordsworth, Blake, Keats, and Shelley, has been treated by traditional comparative literature as a simply historical question. It has been treated, that is to say, at the level of so-called general ideas,idées reçues, and commonplaces to which the history of ideas sometimes risks sacrificing the complexity of readings.¹ The works that treat the question are few, especially in the English and German realms, where the reading of Rousseau continues to come up against some very deeply entrenched prejudices. The already mentioned...

    • 10 Introduction to Studies in Romanticism (1979)
      (pp. 126-130)

      The essays collected in this issue come as close as one can come, in this country, to the format of what is referred to, in Germany, as anArbeits-gruppe, an ongoing seminar oriented toward open research rather than directed by a single authoritative voice. Some of the papers originated in a year-long seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities conducted at Yale during the academic year of 1977–78. It was entitled “The Rhetoric of Romanticism,” and the title seemed suitable enough to be retrained in this expanded version of the initial group. The additional papers were often...

    • 11 Hommage à Georges Poulet (1982)
      (pp. 131-133)

      The first essay by Georges Poulet I ever read was in an ephemeral avant-garde review,Sang Nouveau, published some years earlier in the 1930s at Charleroi. The piece was signed with a pseudonym, “Georges Thialet,” and dealt with what now appears a somewhat odd grouping of four contemporary English novelists: Huxley, Priestley, Lawrence, and Joyce. Never had I heard literature talked about in quite that way, with an inner intensity that went far beyond critical evaluation, historical narration, or formal description – although this description, especially in the case of Huxley and Joyce, was both tantalizing and exact. Later, at the...

    • 12 A Letter from Paul de Man (1982)
      (pp. 134-138)

      You generously invited me to reply to Stanley Corngold’s essay, a somewhat ambivalent assignment since I can hardly feel to be “addressed” by a discourse which, as is so often the case, addresses its own rather than my defenses or uncertainties. But since the tone of the essay suggests indictment rather than dialogue, and since the only alternative thus left to me is a plea for mercy, I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight on one specific point: the Nietzsche passage which is offered as the main exhibit to establish probable cause of my guilt.

      I am grateful...

    • 13 Reply to Raymond Geuss (1983)
      (pp. 139-146)

      The tenuous relationships between the disciplines of philosophy and literary theory have recently been strengthened by a development which, at least in this country and over the last fifty years, is somewhat unusual. Literary theorists never dispensed with a certain amount of philosophical readings and references, but this does not mean that there always was an active engagement between the two institutionalized academic fields. Students of philosophy, on the other hand, can legitimately and easily do without the critical investigation of literary theorists, past or present; it is certainly more important for a literary theorist to read Wittgenstein than for...

    • 14 Interview with Robert Moynihan (1984)
      (pp. 147-166)

      You speak of doubleness, tripleness, and so on, and you immediately ask the question in a historical context by asking what has happened now that irony is again emphasized. That’s surely not the case – whether there is now more emphasis or less emphasis on irony, and how you would measure just how much irony. You know, you can’t be a “little bit ironic.”

      But nevertheless, what you speak of is true in a sense. What you are speaking of is a certain degree of self-consciousness, self-awareness, doubleness, and one always assumes this in any critical enterprise, because it is in...

  7. PART II: Translations

    • Introduction
      (pp. 169-170)
      Martin McQuillan

      An entire volume could be devoted to de Man as a translator. It might include his wartime translation into Flemish of Melville’sMoby Dick,or the texts produced while working as a hired hand for Henry Kissinger’s journalConfluence,when he was making ends meet prior to becoming a Junior Fellow at Harvard and translating across a range of European languages. It would include his edition ofMadame Bovaryand the French edition of Rilke. It would certainly include de Man’s translation into English of Martin Heidegger’s Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry, published in 1959 in theQuarterly Review...

    • 15 Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry (1959)
      (pp. 171-182)
      Martin Heidegger

      The five key-passages:

      1. Poetry: “the most innocent of all crafts” (III, 377).²

      2. “Therefore, man was given language, the perilous of all blessings … that he bear witness to what he is…” (IV, 246).

      3. “There is much that men have experienced.

      They have called the many of the heavenly by name Since we are an exchange of words And one can hear from another” (IV, 343).³

      4. “The poets found what will endure” (IV, 63).

      5. “With merit, and yet poetically, man dwells on this earth” (VI, 25).

      Why is it that Hölderlin has been chosen to explore...

    • 16 Essay on the Origin of Language: Melody and Musical Imitation Are Being Considered
      (pp. 183-224)
      Jean-Jacques Rousseau

      Speech sets man apart among animals, language distinguishes between nations: one knows where a man comes from only after he has spoken. Usage and need make that everyone learns the language of his country; but what is it that makes this language the language of his country and not of another? In order to tell, one must go back to an explanation that belongs specifically to the place and that predates even the local customs: speech, the first institution of society, owes its shape only to natural causes.

      As soon as man was recognized by another similar to himself, as...

  8. PART III: Teaching

    • Introduction
      (pp. 227-228)
      Martin McQuillan

      If the term ‘the Yale School’ continues to have currency it is less the result of a programme of published research by its members and more to do with the pedagogical programme established at Yale during de Man’s time there. In this sense de Man operated on the sound academic principle of attempting to transform an institution by running that institution: he served as Chair of the French Department at Yale from 1974 to 1977 and as Chair of the Comparative Literature Department from 1978 to his death in 1983. The legacy of Paul de Man is closely tied to...

    • 17 Field of Comparative Literature: Analysis of Needs (1967)
      (pp. 229-235)

      Note: The report follows the general outline proposed by the Department of Education with the addition of one section (Section C, entitled Special Programs). Numbered sections under the headings D and E correspond to the numbered subdivisions of sections C and D in the outline.

      Comparative literature has been an established field of study in European and American universities since the end of the nineteenth century: American departments such as Harvard and Columbia trace back their origins to the 1890s. The main expansion, however, took place after the Second World War, prompted by a renewed concern for the international aspects...

    • 18 The Comparative Literature Program at Rutgers University: A Report
      (pp. 236-241)

      Our report is based on extensive interviews with most of the faculty members involved in the Comparative Literature Program at Rutgers, as well as with numerous graduate and undergraduate students. We consulted the printed material put at our disposal and had conversations with several administrative officers of the University. We also spoke with Professor Guarino, Chairman of the Department of Literatures and Languages, and with Associate Provost Jean Parrish, who is herself closely associated with the program. We were able to get a good overview of the state of the discipline and we are satisfied that none of the strengths...

    • 19 Comparative Literature 816a: Hegel and English Romanticism
      (pp. 242-242)
      De Man and Hartman
    • 20 Comparative Literature 816a: Hegel and English Romanticism
      (pp. 243-243)
      De Man and Hartman
    • 21 Comparative Literature 817a: Aesthetic Theory from Kant to Hegel
      (pp. 244-246)
      De Man
    • 22 Curriculum for Lit Z Proposal (1975)
      (pp. 247-250)

      This document is for internal use only. It is not written for presentation to a foundation but as a preliminary position paper for discussion toward such a presentation.

      The curriculum for the teaching of literature, at Yale and elsewhere, has undergone very little change over the last two or three decades. The main organization of the program remains the same: a sharp distinction, without overlap, into national literatures and, within each national literature, a tripartite division into (1) introductory survey courses (English 25 and 29, French 41, Literature I, etc.), (2) a sequence of period courses diachronically ordered, and (3)...

    • 23 Literature Z: Exercise II
      (pp. 251-252)

      In the second part of the essayTruth and Falsity(pp. 512–15), Nietzsche sets up what appears to be a contrast, a polarity, between the man of “science” and the man of “art.” By a close reading of this section, you are invited (1) to discuss the structure of this opposition and (2) to examine its implications with regard to the relative value of both activities, in themselves as well as with regard to history.

      The following guidelines are given as suggestions to assist you in organizing your thoughts. If you find them cumbersome or obscure feel entirely free...

    • 24 Rhetorical Readings
      (pp. 253-254)
      Paul de Man

      The Seminar deals with a central problem in contemporary literary theory from a pedagogical, rather than from a purely theoretical perspective. It investigates how an awareness of the rhetorical properties of language influences the modalities and expectations of our reading and, consequently, of the way in which the reading of literary works is taught to undergraduates. This pragmatic approach is based on the experience of an experimental course for Yale undergraduates taught for the last four years. The assigned readings consist, for the most part, of literary and philosophical primary texts rather than of contemporary works of literary theory. The...

    • 25 Director’s Report on Rhetorical Reading (1982)
      (pp. 255-258)
      Paul de Man

      The theoretical and somewhat controversial topic of the seminar, which deliberately mixes literary, critical, and philosophical materials, does not seem to have deterred applicants. More than sixty applications were received. The twelve applicants who were admitted were selected by a board consisting of Assistant Professors Marshall, Warminski, and myself. Criteria for admission were primarily based on (1) declared interest in literary theory, backed up by some publication, also and especially when the applicant’s approach didnotcoincide with that of the seminar director and allowed for discussion and controversy; (2) some familiarity with the assigned reading material or with material...

    • 26 Seminar on “Aesthetic Theory from Kant to Hegel”. Yale University, Fall Semester, 1982
      (pp. 259-280)

      This course is part of a cycle on aesthetic theory around Hegel. Precursor courses include: “Hegel’s Aesthetics” and “Hegel and English Romanticism.”

      We’re concerned with the aesthetic as a philosophical category – a category in the Aristotelian sense. As a category, it is not something that one can be for or against; it is not open to valorization.

      And, with the relationship of the category of the aesthetic to questions of epistemology in the existing general philosophical tradition.

      And, to the elements of critical philosophy, which involves a testing of a variety of categories against an epistemological truth and falsehood.


  9. PART IV: Research

    • Introduction
      (pp. 283-284)
      Martin McQuillan

      The shape of the de Manian oeuvre has for the most part been determined by post hoc rationalisations. During his lifetime he published two editions ofBlindness and Insight(1971, revised edition 1983) andAllegories of Readingin 1979. These monographs, if that is what they are, bring cohesion to collections of essays by de Man in more or less satisfactory ways.The Rhetoric of Romanticism(1984) was planned for a similar purpose during de Man’s final years and he also agreed a structure with Lindsay Waters for the book that becameCritical Writings1953 to 1978 (published posthumously in...

    • 27 The Unimaginable Touch of Time: Proposed Table of Contents
      (pp. 285-285)
    • 28 Modernism in Literature: Background and Essay Selection
      (pp. 286-292)

      This anthology¹ is conceived as background reading for courses in nineteenth and twentieth-century general literature, fiction, poetry or literary criticism, as taught in Departments of English, Comparative Literature or under the auspices of General Education (Humanities) programs. Since the principle of selection that has determined the choice of texts is not obvious, some clarification of the book’s general purpose may be needed.

      The understanding of contemporary literature is considerably enriched if it is seen as part of a general movement of ideas, or of an extended reflection on the nature of literature, that originates in the past. Students respond to...

    • 29 Modernism in Literature: Revised Table of Contents
      (pp. 293-294)
    • 30 The Portable Rousseau: Table of Contents
      (pp. 295-296)
    • 31 The Portable Rousseau: Principle of Selection
      (pp. 297-297)

      The selection combines the theoretical side of Rousseau’s thought, which is primarily of interest to students of political science and of intellectual history, with the more purely literary components of the works. It also provides the means to make connections between these two aspects of the work, by including such texts as the “Essay on the Origins of Language,” in which the link between Rousseau’s reflections on language and his political theory becomes manifest. The book could therefore be usedincourses in European civilization,inpolitical theory, in the history of the Enlightenment, in the European novel, in romanticism...

    • 32 Outline for a Monograph on Nietzsche
      (pp. 298-299)

      The juxtaposition of Rousseau and Nietzsche has not been studied, partly because Nietzsche has nothing good so say about Rousseau, partly because their main common interest has for a long time been neglected in works dealing with these two authors. Of late however the theory of language and of rhetoric that both develop in their early writings has received more and more attention (on Rousseau in the work of J. Derrida, R. Althusser, implicitly in Judith Shklar, etc.; on Nietzsche in recent books and articles by Ph. Lacoue Labarthe, Gilles Deleuze, B. Pautrat, etc.). The combined presence, in both authors,...

    • 33 From Nietzsche to Rousseau
      (pp. 300-302)

      The project is the outcome of a fifteen-year-long concern with the history and the poetics of romantic and post-romantic literature in France, Germany and England. It began as a study of the poetry of Mallarmé, Yeats, and George written as a doctoral dissertation at Harvard under the title “The Post-Romantic Predicament.” In the course of rewriting this thesis for publication, I increasingly felt the need for a wider historical framework reaching back to the later part of the eighteenth century. At the same time, the experience of teaching alternatively in the US and in Europe has led me to reflect...

    • 34 Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust
      (pp. 303-304)

      The book offers a reading of a group of authors and texts dating from 1750 to the early twentieth century and used as examples to illustrate a mode of reading and of interpretation. The most extensive reading offered is that of Rousseau, who is considered at length in an overview that includes the major fictional, political and confessional writings. In the case of Proust and of Rilke, the corpus is much less extended, although it claims to be representative of structures that recur in the work as a whole. No such claim is made for Nietzsche, where the reading of...

    • 35 Aesthetics, Rhetoric, Ideology
      (pp. 305-306)
    • 36 11/3/82
      (pp. 307-308)
  10. Appendix. The Notebooks of Paul de Man 1963–83
    (pp. 309-314)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-353)
  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 354-364)