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The Yale Critics

The Yale Critics: Deconstruction in America

Jonathan Arac
Wlad Godzich
Wallace Martin
Volume: 6
Copyright Date: 1983
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    The Yale Critics
    Book Description:

    The ten essayists in this book consider the “Yale critics”—Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller—in the context of American criticism and the critical tradition. The editors note in the preface that “The largest context that continually concerns us is that of the gap between Anglo-American and Continental criticism, resulting from a difference in social experience. … By selecting contributors who, in different ways, find themselves between these two traditions, we hope that we have made our volume interesting and accessible to the American reader.”

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5304-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Key to Brief Titles
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Jonathan Arac, Wlad Godzich and Wallace Martin
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxxviii)
    Wallace Martin

    The purpose of this volume is to disentangle the themes and theories of four critics who are often treated as a group because of their association at Yale, and to assess the implications of their writings for the future of literary study.

    If they had not intimated that they have something in common, J.Hillis Miller, Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, and Paul de Man might never have been grouped as a critical school. Among the theoretical strands running through their writings, there is not one that would serve to unite them or distinguish them clearly from other contemporary critics. When presenting...

  6. PART I

    • Variations on Authority: Some Deconstructive Transformations of the New Criticism
      (pp. 3-19)
      Paul A. Bové

      There have been recently many attempts to describe, rebut, “go beyond,” and account for deconstructive criticism. They have come from Marxist, phenomenological, humanistic, and political quarters. Occasionally, there have been sympathetic accounts, sometimes bordering on the apologetic, from a younger generation of scholars nurtured in the excitement of the Derridean era.¹

      Jonn Brenkmann and Michael Sprinker, for example, both remark on the power of deconstructive discourse within the academy and account for this fact by seeing deconstruction as the mirror image of contemporary society. Sprinker specifically identifies the source of deconstruction’s power in the “technicality of [its] procedure.” For this...

    • The Domestication of Derrida
      (pp. 20-40)
      Wlad Godzich

      On July 17, 1976, H. M. Queen Elizabeth II. rose from her seat, approached the microphone, and, staring into the Canadian Broadcasting Company camera’s eye which re-transmitted the event simultaneously to over a hundred countries around the world, said, in heavily accented French: “Je déclare ouverts les dix-huitième Jeux Olympiques de 1'ère moderne, que nous célébrons dans la ville de Montréal.”¹ For the speech act theorist, even more than for the sports enthusiast, the moment was particularly savory:Themost competent agent one could summon in all of one’s examples, the Queen herself, speaking as the Sovereign of Canada from...

  7. PART II

    • Aesthetic Criticism: Geoffrey Hartman
      (pp. 43-65)
      Michael Sprinker

      Writing to Louis Colet in 1852, Flaubert envisioned an ideal work of prose fiction. This ideal has haunted European literature ever since:

      What seems beautiful to me, what I should like to write, is a book about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be held together by the strength of its style, just as the earth, suspended in the void, depends on nothing external for its support; a book which would have almost no subject, or at least in which the subject would be almost invisible, if such a thing is possible. The finest works are those...

    • J. Hillis Miller: The Other Victorian at Yale
      (pp. 66-89)
      Donald Pease

      Several abrupt turns mark the critical career of J. Hillis Miller and withhold from his works that sense of stability and continuity that a lifelong pursuit of a single critical project might otherwise provide. They do so, moreover, because they seem precipitated more by Miller’s translation and adaptation of the positions of other critics than by reversals in his own thinking. First, there was the New Critical dissertation at Harvard; then, after a one-year stay at Williams in 1952-53, the years of phenomenological criticism at Johns Hopkins from 1953 to 1972, and more recently the move to deconstruction at Yale....

    • Error in Paul de Man
      (pp. 90-108)
      Stanley Corngold

      Paul de Man was born in 1919.¹ This fact will come as a surprise, I think, to many of his readers. Many will have begun reading him about 1971, with the publication ofBlindness and Insightand his increasing conspicuousness in the new critical journalsDiacritics, New Literary History,andGlyph. They will have taken him to be a “strong” writer, perhaps in his thirties, on the basis of marked anomalies of his exposition: a drive toward the boldest and least cautious form of a position;² a taste for the jargon of foreign schools imported but not naturalized; an untroubled...

    • The Genius of Irony: Nietzsche in Bloom
      (pp. 109-132)
      Daniel O’Hara

      Twin epiphanies conclude Joyce’s story “Eveline.” The initial epiphany concerns Eveline’s mother’s fate and her own possible future:

      As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother’s life laid its spell on the very quick of her being—that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness. She trembled as she heard again her mother’s voice saying constantly with foolish insistence:

      —Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!

      She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be...


    • History, Theory, and Influence: Yale Critics as Readers of Maurice Blanchot
      (pp. 135-155)
      Donald G. Marshall

      One difficulty even for sympathetic readers of the Yale critics is simply a difference of bibliography. The main reference point for American academics is New Criticism, which long ago triumphed both over historical scholarship and over doctrinally based political and social commentary. Protest over the war in Vietnam stirred recollections of these earlier debates about the historical context and social function of both literature and criticism, but masked the simultaneous and more enduring infusion of European theory into American criticism. While Paul de Man contributed a quite orthodox essay to Reuben Brower and Richard Poirier’s New Critical collectionIn Defense...

    • Joining the Text: From Heidegger to Derrida
      (pp. 156-175)
      Rodolphe Gasché

      In an article entitled “TheRetraitof Metaphor,” Jacques Derrida argues that within a certain context (but only in the limits of this context), the French wordretraitis “the most proper to capture the greatest quantity of energy and information in the Heideggerian text.”Retrait, having a variety of meanings in French like retrace, withdrawal, recess, retraction, retreat, etc., translates (without translating) Heidegger’s notion of a withdrawal of Being(Entziehung, Entzug).¹ If this word became indispensable to Derrida when trying to account for Martin Heidegger’s statements on metaphor, it becomes indispensable to me as well when trying to assess,...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 176-200)
    Jonathan Arac

    “Few facts about the life of our culture are more striking than the recent growth of literary criticism in both extent and prestige.” It is now “fiercely professional, an ‘institution’ as well as a discipline, a self-contained world as well as a secondary branch of humane letters.” When Irving Howe wrote this in 1958, the end seemed near to what Randall Jarrell had called “The Age of Criticism.” M. D. Zabel noted in 1962 “the effect of selfcancellation which a large part of contemporary critical writing conveys.” Yet to mark this effect, Zabel reached back to Mencken’s mockery of “criticism...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-212)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 213-214)
  12. Index
    (pp. 217-222)