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Legacies of Paul de Man

Marc Redfield

Publication Year: 2007

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 The first appendix lists the courses taught by de Man at Yale; the second makes available a previously unpublished document, almost certainly authored by de Man: a course proposal for the undergraduate course Literature Zthat de Man and Geoffrey Hartman began teaching at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.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

Early versions of these essays were published in Romantic Circles’ Praxis Series (http://www.rc.umd.edu/praxis/deman/index.html). We thank the journal Romantic Circles and the editor of its Praxis Series, Orrin N. C. Wang. Special thanks to Kate Singer for her help with many technical matters, and to Mary Powell for the many hours she spent preparing the...

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Introduction: Legacies of Paul de Man

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pp. 1-14

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...

Part I: Reading

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Double-Take: Reading de Man and Derrida Writing on Tropes

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pp. 17-28

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, 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. It’s a sentence famous or...

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Reading, Begging, Paul de Man

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pp. 29-45

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 lasst 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...

Part II: Reading History

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History against Historicism, Formal Matters, and the Event of the Text: de Man with Benjamin

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pp. 49-61

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 Levi-Strauss was thought—in its freezing, if...

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Discontinuous Shifts: History Reading History

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pp. 62-73

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 of our history). Indeed, one could say that de Man’s thinking of history—in...

Part III: Institutions of Pedagogy

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‘‘At the Far End of This Ongoing Enterprise...'’

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pp. 77-92

Paul de Man’s brief introduction to the 1979 issue of Studies in Romanticism devoted 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...

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Professing Literature: John Guillory’s Misreading of Paul de Man

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pp. 93-126

Both the title and the overall rationale of this essay—a review-essay focused on a book, John Guillory’s Cultural 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...

Part IV: Theory, Materiality, and the Aesthetic

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Thinking Singularity with Immanuel Kant and Paul de Man: Aesthetics, Epistemology, History, and Politics

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pp. 129-161

Proceeding from Immanuel Kant’s third Critique, 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 of aesthetics, this conceptuality...

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Seeing Is Reading

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pp. 162-177

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...

Appendix 1: Courses Taught by Paul de Man during the Yale Era

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pp. 179-183

Appendix 2: Paul de Man, ‘‘Course Proposal: Literature Z’’

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pp. 185-189


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pp. 191-192


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pp. 193-222


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pp. 223-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248094
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823227600
Print-ISBN-10: 082322760X

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2007