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Material Events: Paul de Man and the Afterlife of Theory

Judith Butler
T. J. Clark
Jacques Derrida
Barbara Johnson
Ernesto Laclau
Arkady Plotnitsky
Laurence A. Rickels
Michael Sprinker
Tom Cohen
Barbara Cohen
J. Hillis Miller
Andrzej Warminski
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Material Events
    Book Description:

    Responding to the problematic of "materialism" as posed in Paul de Man’s posthumous last book, Aesthetic Ideology, a diverse and distinguished group of scholars explores the question of "material events" in ways that illuminate not just de Man’s work but their own, work at the forefront of critical theory, productive thinking, and writing in the humanities. Contributors: Judith Butler, T. J. Clark, Jacques Derrida, Barbara Johnson, Ernesto Laclau, Arkady Plotnitsky, Laurence A. Rickels, and Michael Sprinker._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9176-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. A “Materiality without Matter”?
    (pp. vii-xxvi)
    Tom Cohen, J. Hillis Miller and Barbara Cohen

    Why de Man today? What if any claim might a project so linked to a “theory” that seems out of fashion—that is, rightly or not, to literary preoccupations and close reading—have in an era, say, moving beyond “cultural studies” to a reworking of technology, of technicity, of concerted political imaginaries and revived notions of materiality? Such questions were deferred not only in the overdetermined violence of de Man’s occlusion following discussions of the wartime journalism but in the artificially delayed and seeminglyuntimelypublication of the last essays, collected inAesthetic Ideology(1996). Is it in these texts,...

  4. I. Ideologies of/and the Aesthetic

    • “As the Poets Do It”: On the Material Sublime
      (pp. 3-31)
      Andrzej Warminski

      The entrance of “the poets” onto the scene of Kant’s attempt to ground aesthetic reflexive judgments of the sublime as a transcendental principle—in his phrase “as the poets do it” (wie die Dichter es tun)—could hardly be more peculiar and more enigmatic.¹ Paul de Man’s reading of this moment in the thirdCritiqueis no less enigmatic and, if anything, even more peculiar, not least of all because the vision of the ocean “as the poets do it” — “merely by what appears to the eye” (bloß . . . nach dem, was der Augenschein zeigt—“merely according...

    • Art and Ideology: Althusser and de Man
      (pp. 32-48)
      Michael Sprinker

      My title refers to a conceptual problematic with a long and complex heritage in Western philosophy. Given its classic formulation in the eighteenth century (most notably in Schiller’sAesthetic Letters), it has continued to trouble the theory and practice of art to the present day. For Marxism, it poses special difficulties, not least because of Marx’s own tantalizingly brief comments on Greek art in the Introduction to theGrundrisse, where the problem of the relationship between the ideological and aesthetic dimensions is posed with great clarity, but left unresolved.

      A somewhat less enigmatic account of the art/ideology relation appears in...

    • Algebra and Allegory: Nonclassical Epistemology, Quantum Theory, and the Work of Paul de Man
      (pp. 49-90)
      Arkady Plotnitsky

      The “nonclassical epistemology” of my title refers to the epistemology defined by a particular configuration, to be assembled in this essay, of the concepts of materiality, phenomenality, formalization, and singularity. These concepts would be naturally associated with de Man’s work by his readers, as would be the concept of allegory, which is, I shall argue, correlative to the epistemology and the conceptual configuration in question.¹ The appeal to “algebra” is somewhat more esoteric. It is, however, far from out of place, especially in the context of the question of formalization and given the relationships among de Man’s work, nonclassical epistemology...

  5. II. Deadly Apollo:: “Phenomenality,” Agency, the Sensorium

    • Phenomenality and Materiality in Cézanne
      (pp. 93-113)
      T. J. Clark

      The wordmaterialistas applied to painting need not mean anything very deep. Painting has always prided itself on being, next to sculpture, the most object-oriented of the arts. A brushy surface is supposed to put the viewer directly in touch with things. Color comes out of a tube into the eye. Most pictures seem happy with their gold frames. Even those painters (like Ingres or Mondrian) who wished to defeat the medium’s dumb objectivity took it for granted that the quality was basic and stubborn, and could only very gradually be turned against itself. The gradualness—the slow cunning...

    • Political Thrillers: Hitchcock, de Man, and Secret Agency in the “Aesthetic State”
      (pp. 114-152)
      Tom Cohen

      Why the perpetual motif of writing beneath surfaces in Hitchcock—as a tracing visible, perhaps, by certain spy agencies alone, of letters, carved in the ice? InThe 39 Steps, the secret formula is all letters and numbers; we are barely intoShadow of a Doubtwhen the motifs of telegrams and telepathy interface with a little girl’s automaton-like, compulsive reading; Hitchcock, in his first overt cameo in a “talkie” (Blackmail) is interrupted reading on a train—that is, interrupted within a stasis within the accelerated semiosis of a cinemallographic shuttle.¹ If these examples among numerous others indicate, point to...

    • Resistance in Theory
      (pp. 153-180)
      Laurence A. Rickels

      Is it possible to explore a resistance in theory to or in terms of the transferential setting of theorization, from formulation and reformulation, for example, to delivery and reappropriation? Yes. The setting shifts to and fits the displaced occasion of the transference dynamic. In the case of Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin’s pooling and schooling of their thoughts, the correspondence would be the place to look for all the staticky aftereffects and side effects of the proposed union in theory (including the forced marriage between Marxism and Freud’s science) which add up to a veritable couples theory that cannot...

  6. III. Re-Marking “de Man”

    • Paul de Man as Allergen
      (pp. 183-204)
      J. Hillis Miller

      It is easy to see why the institution of literary study in the United States, or, in a different way, in Europe, including journalistic reviewing in both regions, is antipathetical to de Man and needs to suppress him in order to get on with its business. De Man’s work is a violent allergen that provokes fits of coughing, sneezing, and burning eyes, perhaps even worse symptoms, unless it can be neutralized or expelled. “Allergen”: a substance that causes an allergy. The wordallergy, oddly enough, comes from the GermanAllergie, meaning “altered reaction,” a Teutonic formation from the Greekallo,...

    • Anthropomorphism in Lyric and Law
      (pp. 205-226)
      Barbara Johnson

      Recent discussions of the relations between law and literature have tended to focus on prose—novels, short stories, autobiographies, even plays—rather than on lyric poetry.¹ Literature has been seen as a locus of plots and situations that parallel legal cases or problems, either to shed light on complexities not always acknowledged by the ordinary practice of legal discourse, or to shed light on cultural crises and debates that historically underlie and inform literary texts. But, in a sense, this focus on prose is surprising, since lyric poetry has at least historically been the more law-abiding or rule-bound of the...

  7. IV. The Mnemopolitical Event

    • The Politics of Rhetoric
      (pp. 229-253)
      Ernesto Laclau

      Why would a political theorist like me, working mainly on the role of hegemonic logics in the structuration of political spaces, be interested in the work of a prominent literary critic such as Paul de Man? I could suggest at least two main reasons. The first is that one of the leitmotifs of Paul de Man’s work has been the subversion of the frontiers separating theoretical from literary disciplines, so that those dimensions that had traditionally been conceived as privative of literary or aesthetic language became, for him, actually defining features of languagetout court. Against all attempts to differentiate...

    • How Can I Deny That These Hands and This Body Are Mine?
      (pp. 254-274)
      Judith Butler

      I remember a sleepless night last year when I came into my living room and turned on the television set to discover that C-Span was offering a special session on feminist topics, and that the historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was making clear why she thought women’s studies had continuing relevance, and why she opposed certain radical strains in feminist thinking. Among those positions she most disliked she included the feminist view that no stable distinction between the sexes could be drawn or known, a view that suggests that the difference between the sexes is itself culturally variable or, worse, discursively fabricated,...

  8. V. Materiality without Matter

    • Typewriter Ribbon: Limited Ink (2) (“within such limits”)
      (pp. 277-360)
      Jacques Derrida

      Will this become possible? Will we one day be able, and in a single gesture, to join the thinking of the event to the thinking of the machine? Will we be able to think, what is called thinking, at one and the same time,bothwhat is happening (we call that an event)andthe calculable programming of an automatic repetition (we call that a machine)?

      Will we be able in the future (and there will be no future except on this condition) to thinkboththe eventandthe machine as two compatible or even indissociable concepts, although today...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 361-364)
  10. Index
    (pp. 365-368)