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Culler and Deconstruction

Gerald Graff, 3 September 1981

The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction 
by Jonathan Culler.
Routledge, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 7100 0757 4
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... is an interpretation of the text, an analysis of what it says or means.’ Paul de Man and J. Hillis Miller, according to Culler, have turned deconstruction into a ‘methodological principle’ by which semantic ‘undecidability’ is, as Miller puts it, ‘always thematised in the text itself ...’ In other ...

Leases of Lifelessness

Denis Donoghue, 7 October 1993

Beckett’s Dying Words 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, July 1993, 0 19 812358 2
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... these studied coincidings. In the French, the cliché can be left for dead, flatly horizontal: ‘Je suis la discrétion même. Un tombeau’. But when this is resurrected as English, it becomes Irish, at once extravagant and proverbial: ‘I’m discretion itself. The wild horse’s despair.’ I suppose it is common knowledge that this gets its point from ...

Wild, Fierce Yale

Geoffrey Hartman, 21 October 1982

Deconstruction: Theory and Practice 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 157 pp., £6.50, April 1982, 0 416 32060 0
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... of self or subject. It would be dishonest not to mention that my own work (together with that of Hillis Miller) is placed ‘on the wild side’. It has vigour but not rigour. Norris sees it as playful and skirmishing, a kind of sacrificial scouting action. Its style matters, but what matter is that? Norris is half-grateful to find someone without ...

The Subtleties of Frank Kermode

Michael Wood, 17 December 2009

... but more generally on the ‘new transgressive criticism’ produced by Geoffrey Hartmann, J. Hillis Miller, Edward Said and others, not to mention any of their French influences and inspirations. These were relatively early days in the Theory Wars, and Kermode was splitting his vote in a way that was both subtle and rare. He liked transgressions but ...


Terry Eagleton: Lawrence Sanitised, 5 February 2004

D.H. Lawrence and ‘Difference’: Post-Coloniality and the Poetry of the Present 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Oxford, 226 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 19 926052 4
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... Kafka, Gérard Genette on Flaubert, Hélène Cixous on Joyce, Harold Bloom on Wallace Stevens, J. Hillis Miller on Henry James. Some theorists are slapdash readers, but so are some non-theoretical critics. Derrida is so perversely myopic a reader, doggedly pursuing the finest flickers of meaning across a page, that he exasperates some of his opponents ...
Structuralism and Since: From Lévi-Strauss to Derrida 
edited by John Sturrock.
Oxford, 190 pp., £5.50, January 1980, 0 19 215839 2
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... to the surface. In his preface, Geoffrey Hartman writes: Caveat lector. Derrida, de Man and Miller are certainly boa-deconstructors, merciless and consequent, though each enjoys his own style of disclosing again and again the ‘abysm’ of words. But Bloom and Hartman are barely deconstructionists. They even write against it on occasion. The reason ...

Signposts along the way that Reason went

Richard Rorty, 16 February 1984

Margins of Philosophy 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Alan Bass.
Harvester, 330 pp., £25, May 1983, 0 7108 0454 7
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... Heidegger did to Nietzsche, Derrida has done to Heidegger by recovering Nietzsche’s slaphappy je-m’en foutisme, his refusal to be ‘serious’ and concentrated and Thoughtful. Nobody on our side of the Channel has as yet managed to face down the later Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein has as yet had no brave, strong, parricidal sons. But even though we have ...


Alexander Nehamas, 22 May 1986

Contest of Faculties: Philosophy and Theory after Deconstruction 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 247 pp., £16, November 1985, 0 416 39939 8
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Philosophical Profiles 
by Richard Bernstein.
Polity, 313 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7456 0226 6
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Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism 
edited by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 146 pp., £12.75, November 1985, 0 226 53226 7
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... attributes to ‘soft’ or ‘non-rigorous’ deconstructive critics like Geoffrey Hartman and J. Hillis Miller, who rest content with pointing out ‘that all texts are figural’ – rhetorical or fictional – ‘through and through, whatever their self-professed logical status.’ Richard Rorty, who identifies philosophy merely as ‘a kind of ...

From Plato to Nato

Christopher Norris, 7 July 1983

Literary Theory: An Introduction 
by Terry Eagleton.
Blackwell, 244 pp., £15, May 1983, 0 631 13258 9
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Essays on Fiction 1971-82 
by Frank Kermode.
Routledge, 227 pp., £9.95, May 1983, 0 7100 9442 6
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Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction 
by Vincent Leitch.
Hutchinson, 290 pp., £15, January 1983, 0 09 150690 5
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Readings and Writings: Semiotic Counter-Strategies 
by Peter Wollen.
Verso, 228 pp., £15, March 1983, 0 86091 055 5
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Knowing the Poor: A Case-Study in Textual Reality Construction 
by Bryan Green.
Routledge, 221 pp., £12.95, February 1983, 0 7100 9282 2
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... accorded to ‘creative’ or ‘imaginative’ writing. Critics like Geoffrey Hartman and J. Hillis Miller exploit this freedom to the full, deconstructing what they see as the privileged metaphysical status that literary texts have traditionally enjoyed. Up to a point, such practices might seem to square with Kermode’s line of argument: that ...

Against the Same-Old Same-Old

Seamus Perry: The Brownings, 3 November 2016

The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 21 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 432 pp., $110, April 2014, 978 0 911459 38 8
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The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 22 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 430 pp., $110, June 2015, 978 0 911459 39 5
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Robert Browning 
edited by Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan.
Oxford, 904 pp., £95, December 2014, 978 0 19 959942 4
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Browning Studies: Being Select Papers by Members of the Browning Society 
edited by Edward Berdoe.
Routledge, 348 pp., £30, August 2015, 978 1 138 02488 5
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... vehement response was ‘Now, jump out with me, Ba!’ And of course, miraculously, she did. J. Hillis Miller plausibly speculated that part of the fascination of Miss Barrett was her very inaccessibility, ‘immured in darkness and jealously guarded’: in Browning’s imagination her liberation assumed an operatic immensity, like the prisoners ...

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