In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 121 across the European continent waned drastically after the eleventh century. (This is a matter well documented by Bennett, and also by Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg in her "Female Sanctity: Public and Private Roles, ca. 500-1100." The idea is essential, as Christine Fell has demonstrated in Women in Anglo-Saxon England and the Impact of 1066, especiaUy to students seeking to understand the complex of affairs that changed EngUsh and French culture at the peak of Norman influence.) Erler and Kowaleski's volume contains a wealth of useful and interesting arguments that wiU stimulate further investigation among scholars familiar with such material, and it will also provide a solid introduction to students who are interested in the principles of the new history. JAMES J. PAXSON Paul de Man: Deconstruction and the Critique ofAesthetic Ideology by Christopher Norris . New York & London: Routledge, 1988. pp. 200. $30.00 (cloth); $12.50 (paper). Christopher Norris is the great paraphraser ofdeconstruction, known most for his Methuen "New Accents" Deconstruction: Theory and Practice, which has been a graduate student and older-professor-trying-to-stay-hip crib since its pubUcation in 1982.' Since then, he has been prolific, spreading the word of deconstruction in his collections The Deconstructive Turn (1983) and TAe Contest ofFaculties (1985), in his recent Derrida (1987), and now in his just-published Paul de Man: Deconstruction and the Critique ofAesthetic Ideology.' To his credit, he has performed a kind of polemical service, first, by glossing deconstruction so the uninitiated or not-disposed would find it more accessible, and second, by defending it, notably in the book under review here, against charges of poUtical quietism. The central polemic ofPauldeMan: Deconstruction andtheCritiqueofAestheticIdeology is that de Man's brand of deconstruction is a form of Ideologiekritik and thus is poUticaUy engaged. Norris' chief claims are that de Man's work is situated in the Kantian philosophical tradition and that the primary concern ofthe later essays is to demystify aesthetic ideology. Norris privUeges "aesthetic ideology" to the exclusion of other issues in de Man, a point we wiU return to later. Norris' argument proceeds by tracing a progressive course for de Man's work. The early essays, mostly on Romanticism, have existentiaUst overtones and show an avoidance of poUtics.' The first chapter, "Allegories of Disenchantment," finds that the marxist attack (by Lentricchia and Eagleton) on de Man's ami- poUtical stance is justified regarding de Man's early criticism, notably on Wordsworth and the French Revolution. As Norris puts it, "the underlying 'point' of the early essays [is the] frustrated hope or nonfulfillment that constitute poetry's chief lesson in the reading of poUtical events" 052). Norris conjectures that de Man's early avoidance of pontics is due to his biography, specifìcaUy the influence of the faUen political career of his uncle, Henrik de Man, a prominent Belgian sociaUst accused of collaboration during the Nazi occupation. Norris claims that Allegories of Reading marks a shift away from this early "existentiaUst ethos" to a more Kantian emphasis, critiquing aesthetic ideology via Kant and Schüler (chapter 2). Norris stresses the philosophical character of de Man's work, particularly in the philosophy of language, stretching similarities to Foucault, in that both deal with a "language paradigm" (chapter 3). Norris repeatedly stresses de Man's "deepening concern" (155) and "vigUant practice" (119) to "demystify aesthetic ideology" (170), "in order to dispel errors and persistent misreadings" (176). Contrary to charges of poUtical quietism, hostile critics "mistake his sceptical rigor for 'nihüist' indifference" (105), which offers not nihiUsm but a "negative knowledge" (150). Counter to the charges of the marxist critics mentioned above, "In the essays of his last decade, de Man set out to argue the poUtical consequences ofthis widespread aesthetic ideology" (1 19). What exactly these political impUcations are, Norris does not really specify. Chapter 5 provides a hint, in a lengthy discussion of the Critical Legal Studies movement , and of Derrida, Kant, Fish and others on law. This discussion gives concrete and 122 the minnesota review practical examples of the political import of deconstruction, but it diverges oddly from the narrative of de Man's course. Norris ends by analogizing de Man's project...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 121-124
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.