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Paul de Man’s Abyss

Frank Kermode

16 March 1989
Wartime Journalism, 1939-1943 
by Paul de Man and Werner Hamacher, edited by Neil Hertz and Thomas Keenan.
Nebraska, 399 pp., £28, October 1988, 9780803216846
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Critical Writings 1953-1978 
by Paul de Man, edited by Lindsay Waters.
Minnesota, 228 pp., $39.50, April 1989, 0 8166 1695 7
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Paul de ManDeconstruction and the Critique of Aesthetic Ideology 
by Christopher Norris.
Routledge, 218 pp., £25, October 1988, 0 415 90079 4
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Reading de Man​ Reading 
edited by Lindsay Waters and Wlad Godzich.
Minnesota, 312 pp., $39.50, April 1989, 0 8166 1660 4
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... PauldeMan was born in 1919 to a high-bourgeois Antwerp family, Flemish but sympathetic to French language and culture. He studied at the Free University of Brussels, where he wrote some pieces for student ...

Nothing but the Worst

Michael Wood: Paul de Man

8 January 2015
The Paul de Man​ Notebooks 
edited by Martin McQuillan.
Edinburgh, 357 pp., £80, April 2014, 978 0 7486 4104 8
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The Double Life of Paul de​ Man 
by Evelyn Barish.
Norton, 534 pp., £25, September 2014, 978 0 87140 326 1
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... conclusion: ‘The truth seems to be that it is impossible to lay the ghost of a fact.’ Marlow can’t have known that he was sketching a theory of deconstruction as it was later elaborated by PauldeMan, and he was certainly hesitant enough about his proposition. But deMan’s suggestion, in Allegories of Reading, that ‘excuses not only accuse but they carry out the verdict implicit in ...

Paul de Man’s Past

Christopher Norris

4 February 1988
... On 1 December 1987 the New York Times ran a piece under the title ‘Yale Scholar’s Articles Found in Nazi Paper’. The scholar in question was the late PauldeMan, who had written these pieces during the early Forties before leaving Belgium for America. They were published in Le Soir, a newspaper of pro-Nazi sympathies, and contain many passages that can be ...
10 January 1991
Victorian Subjects 
by J. Hillis Miller.
Harvester, 330 pp., £30, December 1990, 0 7450 0820 8
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Tropes, Parables, Performatives: Essays on 20th-Century Literature 
by J. Hillis Miller.
Harvester, 266 pp., £30, December 1990, 0 7450 0836 4
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... Jean-Pierre Richard, Jean Starobinski and Gaston Bachelard, I am reminded of a passage in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Marcel Raymond I read first in the English translation, published in 1950, of De Baudelaire au Surréalisme. It became immediately a precious book for me, both as an evidence of the power of poetry and as evidence of a power in criticism I had not before encountered. The reading ...

Slow Deconstruction

David Bromwich

7 October 1993
Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminars and Other Papers 
by Paul de Man, edited by E.S. Burt, Kevin Newmark and Andrzej Warminski.
Johns Hopkins, 212 pp., £21.50, March 1993, 0 8018 4461 4
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Serenity in Crisis: A Preface to Paul de Man​ 1939-1960 
by Ortwin de​ Graef.
Nebraska, 240 pp., £29.95, January 1993, 0 8032 1694 7
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... read his work; the meeting may come later, and may disappoint. With the guru, personal contact matters most and the first encounter must succeed; the writing need only offer a clue to the presence. PauldeMan said enough memorable things to be quoted like scripture by the susceptible, and one of the things he said was about quotation: Citer, c’est penser. It is fair to conclude that in his last ...
15 March 1984
... The death of PauldeMan at the age of 64 deprives us of a literary critic whose influence, already immense in the United States and on the Continent, was beginning to be received in England. This influence is not linked to ...
18 August 1994
Mallarmé: A Throw of the Dice 
by Gordon Millan.
Secker, 389 pp., £16.99, March 1994, 9780436270963
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... and thematic criticism to structuralism, semiotics and deconstruction. We have had analyses of his work by Charles Mauron, Jean-Pierre Richard, Robert Greer Cohn, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, PauldeMan, Leo Bersani, Malcolm Bowie and others. It might seem surprising, therefore, not to find a single full-length biography published between Henri Mondor’s 1941 Vie de Mallarmé and Gordon ...

The Iron Rule

Jacqueline Rose: Bernhard Schlink’s Guilt

31 July 2008
Homecoming 
by Bernhard Schlink, translated by Michael Henry Heim.
Weidenfeld, 260 pp., £14.99, January 2008, 978 0 297 84468 6
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... was – between his home in Germany and his Swiss grandparents, alighting on an unfinished novel that tells the story of a soldier who returns from the war, only to find his wife living with another man. His grandparents publish novels – ‘Novels for Your Reading Pleasure and Entertainment’ – which they forbid him to read. He reads this one on the back of sheafs of paper he is using for his ...

Mizzlers

Patrick Parrinder

26 July 1990
The Sorrow of Belgium 
by Hugo Claus, translated by Arnold Pomerans.
Viking, 609 pp., £14.99, June 1990, 0 670 81456 3
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Joanna 
by Lisa St Aubin de​ Teran.
Virago, 260 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 1 85381 158 0
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A Sensible Life 
by Mary Wesley.
Bantam, 364 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 9780593019306
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The Light Years 
by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Macmillan, 418 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 0 333 53875 7
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... The question of collaboration amongst intellectuals in the occupied nations has again become a talking-point, thanks largely to the posthumous revelations about the Belgian-American literary theorist PauldeMan. But what about the ordinary people of the Low Countries? Hugo Claus’s The Sorrow of Belgium, a novel first published in Holland in 1983, presents a world in which collaboration with the ...

Viscounts Swapping Stories

Michael Wood: Jacques Derrida

1 November 2001
The Work of Mourning 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Pascale-Anne Brault.
Chicago, 272 pp., £16, July 2001, 0 226 14316 3
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A Taste for the Secret 
by Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris, translated by Giacomo Donis.
Polity, 161 pp., £13.99, May 2001, 0 7456 2334 4
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... The book brings together Derrida’s eulogies or essays or condolences on 14 writers and thinkers, all friends and (often) colleagues of his. They are, in addition to the five I have just mentioned, PauldeMan, Max Loreau, Jean-Marie Benoist, Edmond Jabès, Joseph Riddel, Michel Servière, Louis Marin, Sarah Kofman and Emmanuel Levinas. Six of the pieces are published here in English for the first ...

Not in the Mood

Adam Shatz: Derrida’s Secrets

22 November 2012
Derrida: A Biography 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 629 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 0 7456 5615 1
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... on an equal footing, using the one to illuminate the other. We see his many sides: a loyal friend and irrepressible seducer; a critic of dogma who couldn’t bring himself to admit his own errors; a man who loathed tribalism but was so thin-skinned and so in need of adoration that he ended up leading his own academic tribe. Derrida’s ancestors were Sephardic Jews from Spain who fled to Algeria ...

Beyond Textualism

Christopher Norris

19 January 1984
Text Production 
by Michael Riffaterre, translated by Terese Lyons.
Columbia, 341 pp., $32.50, September 1983, 0 231 05334 7
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Writing and the Experience of Limits 
by Philippe Sollers, edited by David Hayman, translated by Philip Barnard.
Columbia, 242 pp., $31.50, September 1983, 0 231 05292 8
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The Reach of Criticism: Method and Perception in Literary Theory 
by Paul​ Fry.
Yale, 239 pp., £18, October 1984, 0 300 02924 1
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Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism 
by Paul de Man, edited by Wlad Godzich.
Methuen, 308 pp., £7.50, November 1983, 0 416 35860 8
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Displacement: Derrida and After 
edited by Mark Krupnick.
Indiana, 198 pp., £9.75, December 1983, 0 253 31803 3
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Authoritarian Fictions: The Ideological Novel as a Literary Genre 
by Susan Rubin Suleiman.
Columbia, 299 pp., £39, August 1983, 0 231 05492 0
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... literary’ and preserves their meaning against the ravages of time and cultural change. There is much here that would gladden the heart of a rearguard New Critic, but little – besides the somewhat de rigueur terminology – that a current post-structuralist would want to take on board. By an odd quirk of circumstance, Columbia have also brought out a translation of Philippe Sollers’s Writing ...
16 December 1993
French Lessons: A Memoir 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 221 pp., £15.95, September 1993, 0 226 42418 9
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... how mental and linguistic alienation may be paired. Writing of her in the terminally confused state she had fallen into, Alice Kaplan finds herself using a French expression – ‘Il n’y avait pas de suite dans ses idées’; and, properly alerted by the intrusion of a gallicism into her English thought-stream, puzzles over the reason for it: ‘I wonder why I switch like that – why I suddenly ...

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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... to break with incarnationist and imagistic theories of expression. The practice of deconstruction was forged in America, even if the theory had to await Derrida; moreover, such émigré scholars as PauldeMan began to suggest that the problem did not rest exclusively with literary studies, whose practice was in advance of its theory, but also with philosophy, whose theory tended to avoid reflection ...

Down with DWEMs

John Sutherland

15 August 1991
ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education 
by Charles Sykes.
St Martin’s, 304 pp., $9.95, December 1989, 0 312 03916 6
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Tenured Redicals: How politics has corrupted our Higher Education 
by Roger Kimball.
HarperCollins, 222 pp., $9.95, April 1991, 0 06 092049 1
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... contrived to be ridiculously incomprehensible yet at the same time a deadly threat to Western civilisation. In 1987, readers of the New York Times were further baffled to learn that during the war PauldeMan, a leading exponent of Deconstruction, had written almost two hundred all-too-comprehensible articles for a Nazi newspaper, at least one of which was grossly anti-semitic. Public alarm on the ...

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