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Theory and History of Literature

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Aesthetic Ideology

Paul De Man

This long-awaited volume by one of the major figures of twentieth-century thought represents perhaps the most provocative, serious, and important rethinking of “ideology” since the publication of Althusser's essays in the 1960s and 1970s. Aesthetic Ideology offers the definitive resource to de Man's thoughts on philosophy, politics, and history.

The core of Aesthetic Ideology is a rigorous inquiry into the relation of rhetoric, epistemology, and aesthetics, one that presents radical notions of materiality. De Man reads Kant and Hegel with a combination of philosophical rigor, interpretive pressure, speculative daring, and ironic good humor that is unique to him, ultimately reaching the heart of philosophical aesthetics.

The texts collected here were written or delivered as lectures during the last years of de Man's life, between 1977 and 1983. Many of them have never been available previously in any form; these include essays on Kant's materialism, his relation to Schiller, and the concept of irony. A culmination of de Man's thinking on these central issues, Aesthetic Ideology is a necessary and vital component of your humanities bookshelf.  

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Belated Modernity and Aesthetic Culture

Inventing National Literature

Gregory Jusdanis

How does literature function in the formation of a nation-state?  What are its pivotal contributions to national discourse and the production of ideological collective will?  And, ultimately, how is literature institutionalized and aestheticized?

Belated Modernity and Aesthetic Culture: Inventing National Literature
addresses these questions and considers the role literature plays in the construction of a national cultural.  Gregory Jusdanis examines the emergence of art and literature in Western Europe in the eighteenth century and traces their introduction to Greece, a stratified, noncapitalist society that was hostile to Enlightenment and secularism.  This groundbreaking work explores the importation of national literatures into a largely non-Western society and the inherent resistance they faced.

Arguing for the literary status of national culture at its inception, Jusdanis brilliantly demonstrates  that in literature, the specific meanings in narratives and fiction form the process of nation building.  Culture, history, and literature, he says, merge in those narratives, which in turn provide the imaginary mirror in which a nation reflects itself.


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Border Writing

The Multidimensional Text

D. Emily HicksForeword by Neil Larsen

Border Writing was first published in 1991. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

Until recently, literary theory has been grounded in the histories of English, French, German, and Spanish literature. The terms and models for the production of literature and its function in culture and society were decided in Western Europe, and any deviations were immediately marginalized. This Eurocentric view has been widely attached by postmodern, feminist, and postcolonial political practices.

Drawing on a variety of critical and theoretical sources, D. Emily Hicks employs the concept of border writing to consider the complexities of contemporary Latin American writing. With its emphasis on the multiplicity of languages and the problems of translation, border writing connotes a perspective that is no longer determined by neat distinctions. Hicks combines Deleuze and Guattari's notion of "deterritorialization" (the geographic, linguistic, or cultural displacement from one's own country, language, or native culture) with a holographic metaphor in provocative readings of Latin America writers, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Luisa Valenzuela, and Julio Cortazar. The result is a volume that forces the reader to consider the development of literature in terms of strategies and tactics that contribute to the production of meaning in culturally complex and politically repressive societies.

D. Emily Hicks is associate professor of English and comparative literature and a member of the Latin American studies faculty at San Diego State University. Neil Larsen is associate professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at Northeastern University and the author of Modernism and Hegemony: A Materialist Critique of Aesthetic Agencies (Minnesota, 1990).

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Colonial Harem

Malek Alloula

A collection of picture postcards of Algerian women exploited by the French, this “album” illustrates a powerful analysis of the distorting, denigrating effects of their presence on Algerian Society.

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Framed Narratives

Diderot’s Genealogy of the Beholder

Jay CaplanAfterword by Jochen Schulte-Sasse

Framed Narratives was first published in 1985. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

The work of French philosophe Denis Diderot (1713-1784) has inspired conflicting reactions in those who encounter him. Diderot has been admired and despised; he has moved his readers and irritated them - often at the same time. His work continually shifts between mutually exclusive positions - neither of which provides an entirely satisfactory answer to the question at hand, yet neither of which can be disregarded. The nature of these paradoxes has been the fundamental problem in Diderot, a problem that his interpreters have approached by imagining synthetic perspectives or frames within which the paradoxes could be resolved.

In Framed Narratives, Jay Caplan focuses on the problem of framing in and of Diderot. He proposes an interpretive model that draws upon the notion of dialogue developed by Mikhail Bakhtin. For Bakhtin, no utterance can be reduced to a univocal meaning; one's discourse is always marked by other voices. In Diderot, Caplan shows, the narrative device of the tableau engages the reader (or beholder) in a dialogic relationship with the author and the characters. Diderot defines the players of those roles as members of a family, one of whom is always missing, and that sacrificial relationship becomes an integral part of the text. Caplan then uses the concept of the tableau to interpret the rhetoric of gender, genre, and pathos in Diderot's works for and about the theater, his novel The Nun, the philosophical dialogue D'Alembert's Dream,and his correspondence.

What emerges from these readings is not only an interpretation of certain texts, but a description of Diderot's—and, by implication, early bourgeois—poetics. Framed Narratives is, in addition, one of the first attempts to rely upon Bakhtin's concepts in the interpretation of specific texts, in this case the work of an essentially dialogic writer. A socio-historical supplement to Framed Narratives is provided in Jochen Schulte-Sasse's afterword.

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From Topic to Tale

Logic and Narrativity in the Middle Ages

Eugene VanceForeword by Wlad Godzich

From Topic to Tale was first published in 1987. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

The transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance has been discussed since the 1940s as a shift from a Latinate culture to one based on a vernacular language, and, since the 1960s, as a shift from orality to literacy. From Topic to Tale focuses on this multifaceted transition, but it poses the problem in different terms: it shows how a rhetorical tradition was transformed into a textual one, and ends ultimately in a discussion of the relationship between discourse and society.

The rise of French vernacular literacy in the twelfth century coincided with the emergence of logic as a powerful instrument of the human mind. With logic come a new concern for narrative coherence and form, a concern exemplified by the work of Chretien de Troyes. Many brilliant poetic achievements crystallized in the narrative art of Chretien, establishing an enduring tradition of literary technique for all of Europe. Eugene Vance explores the intellectual context of Chretien's vernacular literacy, and in particular, the interaction between the three "arts of language" (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) compromising the trivium. Until Vance, few critics have studied the contribution of logic to Chretiens poetics, nor have they assessed the ethical bond between rationalism and the new heroic code of romance.

Vance takes Chretien de Troyes' great romance, Yvain ou le chevalier au lion,as the centerpiece of the Twelfth-Century Renaissance. It is also central to his own thesis, which shows how Chretien forged a bold new vision of humans as social beings situated between beasts and angels and promulgated the symbolic powers of language, money, and heraldic art to regulate the effects of human desire. Vance's reading of the Yvain contributes not only to the intellectual history of the Middle Ages, but also to the continuing dialogue between contemporary critical theory and medieval culture.

Eugene Vance is professor of French and comparative literature at Emory University and principal editor of a University of Nebraska series, Regents Studies in Medieval Culture. Wlad Godzich is director of the Center for Humanistic Studies at the University of Minnesota and co-editor of the series Theory and History of Literature.

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Making Sense in Life and Literature

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

“The translation of these essays by Gumbrecht on literary theory and history marks the appearance in English of one of Europe’s most learned, productive, and inventive scholars. Their range is extraordinary. They show that Gumbrecht is not only a sophisticated theorist and historian of literature, but a master practitioner of cultural studies.” --Hayden White, University of California, Santa Cruz

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Modernism and Hegemony

A Materialist Critique of Aesthetic Agencies

Neil LarsenForeword by Jaime Concha

Modernism and Hegemony was first published in 1990. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

In Modernism and Hegemony, Neil Larsen exposes the underlying political narratives of modernist aesthetic theory and practice. Unlike earlier Marxist critics, Larsen insists that modernist ideology be approached as a "displaced politics" and not simply as an aesthetic phenomenon. In this view, modernism is broadly ideological project comprising not only the literary-artist canon but also a wide array of theoretical discourses from aesthetics to philosophy, culture, and politics. Larsen gives postmodernism some credit for the apparent breakup of modernism, and for exposing the philosophical and political nature of its aesthetic stance. But he parts company with its ideological and epistemological notions, proposing to change the terms, and thus the framework, of the debate.

For Larsen, modernism is intimately linked to a crisis of representation that affected all aspects of life in the late nineteenth century - a period when capitalism itself was undergoing transformation from its "classical" free market phase into a more abstract, monopolistic and imperialistic stage. Larsen finds the resultant loosening of ties between individuals and society - the breakdown of social and historical agency - behind the growth of modernism. He employs speculative cross-readings of key texts by Marx and Adorno, an examination of Manet's "The Execution of Maximilian," and an analysis of modernism in a Third World setting to explain why modernism made special claims upon the aesthetic, and how it ultimately ascribed historical agency to "works of art."

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Narrative As Communication

Didier Coste

Narrative as Communication is the first major treatise on narrative and narrative theory to make use of all the analytic tools developed in the twenty years. Intended as an up-to-date introduction, it carefully defines narrative discourse, distinguishing it from other discourses, and analyzes what it entails by referring to numerous examples spanning a wide range of media and literary works. At the same time, it orients narrative theory in the current debates surrounding the “New Historicism” and postmodern ideology, showing that theories of narrative are necessarily central to any understanding of history. Not restricted to any single genre, Coste’s text emphasizes the production of narrative meaning in diverse contexts: The Epic of Gilgamesh, a John Ford film classic, French American, and Spanish new fiction, Dante, Shakespeare, the pastoral, the fairy tale, The Communist Manifesto, Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Peru, a painting by Gustave Moreau. Coste thoroughly and critically examines the usual concepts of voice, character, point of view and narrative syntax, and he develops radical revisions in the notion of fictionality, character, narrative economy and the function of narrative meaning itself. The book is a remarkable synthesis that will likely become a reference for future studies in narratology.

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Philosophy Beside Itself

On Deconstruction and Modernism

Stephen W. MelvilleForeword by Donald Marshall

Philosophy Beside Itself was first published in 1986. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

The writings of French philosopher Jacques Derrida have been the single most powerful influence on critical theory and practice in the United States over the past decade. But with few exceptions American philosophers have taken little or no interest in Derrida's work, and the task of reception, translation, and commentary has been left to literary critics. As a result, Derrida has appeared as a figure already defined by essentially literary critical activities and interests.

Stephen Melville's aim in Philosophy Beside Itself is to insist upon and clarify the distinctions between philosophy and criticism. He argues that until we grasp Derrida's philosophical project as such, we remain fundamentally unable to see his significance for criticism. In terms derived from Stanley Cavell's writings on modernism, Melville develops a case for Derrida as a modernist philosopher, working at once within and against that tradition and discipline.

Melville first places Derrida in a Hegelian context, the structure of which he explores by examining the work of Heidegger, Lacan, and Bataille. With this foundation, he is able to reappraise the project of deconstructive criticism as developed in Paul de Man's Blindness and Insight and further articulated by other Yale critics. Central to this critique is the ambivalent relationship between deconstructive criticism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. Criticism—radical self-criticism—is a central means through which the difficult facts of human community come to recognition, and Melville argues for criticism as an activity intimately bound to the ways in which we do and do not belong in time and in community. Derrida's achievement has been to find a new and necessary way to assert that the task of philosophy is criticism; the task of literary criticism is to assume the burden of that achievement.

Stephen Melville is an assistant professor of English at Syracuse University, and Donald Marshall is a professor of English at the University of Iowa.

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