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The Resistance to Theory

The Resistance to Theory

Paul de Man
Foreword by Wlad Godzich
Volume: 33
Copyright Date: 1986
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 156
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsp06
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  • Book Info
    The Resistance to Theory
    Book Description:

    In a brilliant collection of essays, de Man explores his views, that, the resistance to theory is inherent in the theoretical enterprise itself, and the real debate is with its own methodological assumptions and possibilities. “Indispensable. . . . There is resistance to ‘theory’ and also confusion about its status with reference to both philosophy and criticism.” -Frank Kermode, Columbia University

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8203-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword: The Tiger on the Paper Mat
    (pp. ix-2)
    Wlad Godzich

    After the publication ofAllegories of Readingin 1979, Paul de Man found himself constantly besieged by requests for articles, introductions, conference papers, and other forms of scholarly communication. Whereas some scholars live in a tragic mode, the disjunction between what they consider their proper intellectual pursuits and the demands made upon them by their profession, Paul de Man had come to think of this disjunction as the relation between the contingency of the historical and the necessity of coherent thought, with the former imposing a salutary heterogeneity upon the latter’s inevitable drift toward single-minded totalization. Though he remained steadfast...

  4. The Resistance to Theory
    (pp. 3-20)

    This essay was not originally intended to address the question of teaching directly, although it was supposed to have a didactic and an educational function — which it failed to achieve. It was written at the request of the Committee on Research Activities of the Modern Language Association as a contribution to a collective volume entitledIntroduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures.I was asked to write the section on literary theory. Such essays are expected to follow a clearly determined program: they are supposed to provide the reader with a select but comprehensive list of the main trends...

  5. The Return to Philology
    (pp. 21-26)

    The quarrelsome tone that hangs over the debates on the teaching of literature can often be traced back to the advent of contemporary literary theory. This is certainly not surprising. Whenever new approaches or techniques are being advocated, a very understandable ill-humor overcomes those who feel they may have to modify or to reconsider well-established pedagogical habits that served them well until the most recent troublemakers came along. But the polemical response in the case of contemporary theory, and especially of some of its aspects, runs deeper.

    It feeds not only on civilized conservatism but on moral indignation. It speaks...

  6. Hypogram and Inscription
    (pp. 27-53)

    As seen from the public perspective of literary journalists and literary critics, the disputes among literary theorists more and more appear to be like quarrels among theologians, at the furthest remove from any reality or practicality. It is harder than ever, on these battlefields, to tell friend from foe, more difficult still to state the issues in intelligible ordinary language. One feels tempted to stress the existence of a dividing line between the marketplace and the monastery, between the public arena and the academy, by pointing out that there is nothing whatever in common between the discourses held in either...

  7. Reading and History
    (pp. 54-72)

    By his own volition, the work of the German literary historian and theorist Hans Robert Jauss has been associated with a study group for which he is a spokesman and which practices a specific way of investigating and teaching literature. In the field of literary theory, the existence of such groups is not an unusual occurrence. They are, at times, centered on a single, dominating personality and take on all the exalted exclusiveness of a secret society, with its rituals of initiation, exclusion, and hero-worship. Nothing could be more remote from the spirit of the group of which Jauss is...

  8. “Conclusions”: Walter Benjamin’s “The Task of the Translator”
    (pp. 73-105)

    I at first thought to leave this last session open for conclusions and discussion; I still hope for the discussion, but I have given up on the conclusions. It seemed to me best, rather than trying to conclude (which is always a terrible anticlimax), just to repeat once more what I have been saying since the beginning, using another text in order to have still another version, another formulation of some of the questions with which we have been concerned throughout this series. It seemed to me that this text by Benjamin on “The Task of the Translator” is a...

  9. Dialogue and Dialogism
    (pp. 106-114)

    The set of problems that surrounds the general topic of this issue,¹ the relationship between fiction and reality in the novel, recurs in many forms to organize contemporary theories of narration as well as of the relationship between narrative, discursive and poetic language. Much is at stake, stylistically, philosophically, and historically, in these discussions whose importance, not only in the realm of theory but also in the practical sphere of ethics and politics, is superseded only by their difficulty. The higher the stakes the harder the game. Such situations, conducive to obsession and to fatigue, are prone to generate legitimate...

  10. An Interview with Paul de Man
    (pp. 115-121)
    Stefano Rosso

    Rosso:You have been educated in Europe and have taught both in Europe and the U.S.: what kind of implications for your understanding of “pedagogy” did you derive from this experience?

    de Man:I have been teaching in the United States for the last thirty years and it’s an experience which I take so much for granted that I don’t reflect on it very much anymore. I became aware of it because for a time I taught alternatively at the University of Zurich, at Cornell, and at Hopkins. I had then the possibility to compare the situation of teaching in...

  11. Bibliography of Texts by Paul de Man
    (pp. 122-128)
    Tom Keenan
  12. Index
    (pp. 131-137)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 138-138)