Walter Benn Michaels's The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History makes the ostensive cul-de-sac of identity politics the dominant symptom of postmodernism per se. The Shape connects its argument to the controversy over intention and interpretation created by Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels's twenty-year-old essay "Against Theory." This very connection, however, highlights the not-quite-acknowledged presence of a certain type of romanticism in both works that each also wants to attack. Misunderstanding Paul de Man's notion of materiality, Michaels becomes the latest thinker hoping to free us from the inchoateness of romantic sensation, both as the indulgence of sensory experience and the cognitive sloppiness (from Michaels's perspective) of nonmeaning as the sense of meaning. Far from a Fukuyama-inspired postmodern condition, Michaels's scenario actually adumbrates a basic problem between romanticism and modernism-as-modernity.


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pp. 3-29
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