Legacies of Paul de Man

Legacies of Paul de Man

Edited by Marc Redfield
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Legacies of Paul de Man
    Book Description:

    More than twenty years after his death, Paul de Man remains a haunting presence in the American academy. His name is linked not just with deconstruction,but with a deconstruction in Americathat continues to disturb the scholarly and pedagogical institution it inhabits. The academy seems driven to characterize de Manian deconstruction,again and again, as dead. Such reiterated acts of exorcism testify that de Man's ghost has in fact never been laid to rest, and for good reason: a dispassionate survey of recent trends in critical theory and practice reveals that de Man's influence is considerable and ongoing. His name still commands an aura of excitement, even danger: it stands for the pressure of a text and a theorythat resists easy assimilation or containment. The essays in this volume analyze and evaluate aspects of de Man's strange, powerful legacy. The opening contributions focus on his great theme of reading; subsequent chapters explore his complex notions of history,materiality,and aesthetic ideology,and examine his institutional role as a teacher and, more generally, as a charismatic figure associated with the fortunes of theory.Because the notion of legacy immediately raises questions about the institutional transmission of thought, the collection concludes with two appendixes offering documentary aids to scholars interested in de Man as an institutional presence and pedagogue. The first appendix lists the courses taught by de Man at Yale; the second makes available a previously unpublished document, almost certainly authored by de Man: a course proposal for the undergraduate course Literature Zthat de Man and Geoffrey Hartman began teaching at Yale in the spring of 1977.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4809-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Legacies of Paul de Man
    (pp. 1-14)
    Marc Redfield

    More than twenty years after his death, Paul de Man remains a haunting presence in the American academy. His name has retained its affective charge even as the context in which it first became nationally known has receded into the past, becoming as distant as disco music or the Ford or Carter administrations. The acrid debates about deconstruction and the “Yale School” and the bitter, high-profile purgings of junior faculty ranks at places like Yale and Princeton may now seem part of another world. And in certain ways it would no doubt be fair to say that the winds of...

  5. I. Reading
    • Double-Take: Reading de Man and Derrida Writing on Tropes
      (pp. 17-28)
      Cynthia Chase

      De Man’s late essay “Anthropomorphism and Trope in the Lyric,” delivered in a series of lectures at Cornell University in the spring of 1983,¹ begins with an argument which proceeds as a reading of the first third of a sentence in “On Truth and Lie in an Extramoral Sense,” the words affirming that truth is a mobile army of tropes.² It’s a sentence famous or notorious enough so that, as one might say, “it hardly needs translation.” Perhaps indeed it needs retranslation into a foreign tongue, or so one might be tempted to say given the disorienting usage of the...

    • Reading, Begging, Paul de Man
      (pp. 29-46)
      Jan Mieszkowski

      The opening sentence of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” cryptically informs us: “It was well said of a certain German book that ‘es lässt sich nicht lesen’—it does not permit itself to be read,” a pronouncement that returns in the final sentence of the story when the narrator concludes his comments on the “worst heart” in the world with: “Es lässt sich nicht lesen.”¹ The reading pursued in the tale framed by these two lines certainly has its share of difficulties. The narrator sits in a London coffeehouse, contemplating the crowd on the street. At first...

  6. II. Reading History
    • History against Historicism, Formal Matters, and the Event of the Text: de Man with Benjamin
      (pp. 49-61)
      Ian Balfour

      In the dynamics of the past four or five decades of literary theory and criticism, one could witness an often palpable struggle between the competing claims—and the partisans—of “theory” and “history.” The structuralism born in Saussure and reaching its methodological acme, say, in the writings and teachings of Lévi-Strauss was thought—in its freezing, if only momentarily, of cultural history—to be relatively indifferent to what counted as history, if by history, one understood change, contingency, and temporal heterogeneity or difference that had to be registered if any given moment or sequence of moments were to be understood...

    • Discontinuous Shifts: History Reading History
      (pp. 62-74)
      Andrzej Warminski

      Surely one of the most valuable “legacies of Paul de Man” is the genuinely critical conception of history he draws out of the texts of the romantics. As is well known, romantic literature was, for de Man, a privileged locus for asking the question of history (in particular, the question ofourhistory). Indeed, one could say that de Man’s thinking of history—in fact, what he in his last essays calls “material history” or “the materiality of actual history” (and what no doubt constitutes one of the most valuable and enduring legacies he has bequeathed to us)—gets produced...

  7. III. Institutions of Pedagogy
    • “At the Far End of This Ongoing Enterprise …”
      (pp. 77-92)
      Sara Guyer

      Paul de Man’s brief introduction to the 1979 issue ofStudies in Romanticismdevoted to “The Rhetoric of Romanticism” might be understood as his most explicit treatment of the question of legacy. The introduction is a strange and often contradictory text in which de Man provides an historico-fictional account of his own “generation”—understood synchronicallyanddiachronically, both as a group of individualsandas an act of genesis. At the same time, by editing a volume of work by his students, de Man here introduces a new “generation,” one that already in 1979 is understood to be his issue....

    • Professing Literature: John Guillory’s Misreading of Paul de Man
      (pp. 93-126)
      Marc Redfield

      Both the title and the overall rationale of this essay—a review-essay focused on a book, John Guillory’sCultural Capital, that appeared a good decade ago—merit a word of explanation. My subtitle, chosen for clarity, will have its pugnacious thrust slightly (if only slightly) muffled over the following pages, which thematize “misreading” not, or not only or primarily, as a mode of contingent error, but rather as a condition of all interpretation, especially forceful interpretation that ends up making a difference. Whether Guillory’s book has genuinely made a difference—whether it may truly be said to constitute an event...

  8. IV. Theory, Materiality, and the Aesthetic
    • Thinking Singularity with Immanuel Kant and Paul de Man: Aesthetics, Epistemology, History, and Politics
      (pp. 129-161)
      Arkady Plotnitsky

      Proceeding from Immanuel Kant’s thirdCritique, The Critique of Judgment, and Paul de Man’s reading of Kant, this essay will discuss certain specific concepts, first, of singularity, and, second, of the relationship between the individual and the collective, based on this concept of singularity. While emerging from Kant’s analysis ofaesthetics, this conceptuality entails a radical form ofepistemologyand, correlatively, a radical form ofhistoricity. This conceptual and epistemological configuration, however, also translates into apoliticalconcept of community or, as I shall call it here, “parliamentarity.” The genealogy of the conceptuality and epistemology in question may itself be...

    • Seeing Is Reading
      (pp. 162-178)
      Rei Terada

      What do we see in reading? It might seem that “see” is a murky word, one whose conflation of sensory perception with cognition makes it a poor lens for the inspection of either. This suggestion, common in the last twenty years’ work on lyric poetry, takes its cue from Paul de Man’s emphasis on the discontinuity of phenomenal and cognitive processes. In “Phenomenality and Materiality in Kant,” de Man proposes that in the Third Critique Kant needs “a phenomenalized, empirically manifest principle of cognition on whose existence the possibility of … an articulation [between conceptual and empirical realms of discourse]...

  9. APPENDIX 1 Courses Taught by Paul de Man during the Yale Era
    (pp. 179-184)
  10. APPENDIX 2 Paul de Man, “Course Proposal: Literature Z”
    (pp. 185-190)
    (pp. 191-192)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 193-222)
  13. Index
    (pp. 223-226)