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Radical Indecision

Barthes, Blanchot, Derrida, and the Future of Criticism

Leslie Hill

Publication Year: 2010

In his newest book, Radical Indecision, esteemed scholar Leslie Hill poses the following question: If the task of a literary critic is to make decisions about the value of a literary work or the values embodied in it, decisions in turn based on some inherited or established values, what happens when that piece of literature fails to subscribe to the established values? Put another way, how should literary criticism respond to the paradox that in order to make critical judgments of literary works, it is first necessary to suspend judgment and to consider the impossibility of making a final decision? Hill pursues these ideas in the works of leading French critics Roland Barthes, Maurice Blanchot, and Jacques Derrida, discussing writers such as Sade, Mallarmé, Proust, Artaud, Genet, Celan, and Duras. Hill concludes that, despite their differences, Barthes, Blanchot, and Derrida share a conviction that criticism cannot take place without exposure to that resistance to decision that is inseparable from reading and that they address diversely as the “neuter” or the “undecidable.” Radical Indecision offers the first sustained exploration of the “undecidable.” This comprehensive book breathes new life into the discipline of literary theory and will be essential reading for students and scholars alike.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. ix-x

I should like to thank the numerous friends, colleagues, and students who, often without realising, have contributed to this book in many different ways. I am particularly indebted to Kevin Hart for his encouragement and generosity, to Andrew Benjamin for his unfailing support, to Christophe Bident for his friendship, to Barbara Hanrahan for her...

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pp. xi-xiv

For literary critics these are the very best of times—and the worst of times. The reach of criticism knows few bounds, and there is little that resists its ever greater expansion. What was once a narrow canon of consecrated works has become a whole Babelian library, a vast audio ...

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pp. 1-70

Fine art [Die sch

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2. ROLAND BARTHES: From Ideology to Event

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pp. 71-144

Few critics displayed with the economy or intensity of Roland Barthes the contradictions and impasses, revisions and hesitations, shifts and detours that mark the history of literary theory and criticism during the second half of the twentieth century. From the early 1950s till his ...

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3. MAURICE BLANCHOT: The Demand of the Unreadable

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pp. 169-232

Blanchot’s diagnosis of the challenges facing literary criticism in the late 1950s, as described in his response to the journal Arguments, was no isolated or idiosyncratic gesture. As the work of Barthes in subsequent ...

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4. JACQUES DERRIDA: Addressing the Future

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pp. 233-332

On 2 February 1947, some eight months after his release from the asylum in Rodez, the last in a series of mental institutions where he had been held since October 1937, Antonin Artaud, now living in a nursing home in Ivry, was prompted to visit an exhibition of paintings by van ...

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pp. 333-336

Many pages ago, this book sought to identify the challenges facing literary criticism today by asking to what extent it is incumbent on criticism, confronted with the corrosive scepticism or antagonism of much modern and not so modern literature, to defend literary value and the...


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pp. 337-431


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pp. 432-438

E-ISBN-13: 9780268081669
E-ISBN-10: 0268081662
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268031077
Print-ISBN-10: 026803107X

Page Count: 512
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 694144460
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Radical Indecision

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Criticism (Philosophy).
  • Literature -- Philosophy.
  • Literature -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Barthes, Roland -- Criticism and interpretation
  • Blanchot, Maurice -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Derrida, Jacques.
  • Philosophy, French -- 20th century.
  • Criticism -- History -- 20th century.
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