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Paul deMan’s Abyss

Frank Kermode, 16 March 1989

Wartime Journalism, 1939-1943 
by Paul deMan 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 deMan, edited by Lindsay Waters.
Minnesota, 228 pp., $39.50, April 1989, 0 8166 1695 7
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Paul deManDeconstruction 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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... Paul deMan 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 magazines. When the Germans occupied Belgium in 1940 he and his wife fled, but were turned back at the Spanish frontier and resumed life in Brussels ...

Nothing but the Worst

Michael Wood: Paul deMan, 8 January 2015

The Paul deMan 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 deMan 
by Evelyn Barish.
Norton, 534 pp., £25, September 2014, 978 0 87140 326 1
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... can’t have known that he was sketching a theory of deconstruction as it was later elaborated by Paul deMan, and he was certainly hesitant enough about his proposition. But de Man’s suggestion, in Allegories of Reading, that ‘excuses not only accuse but they carry out the ...

Paul deMan’s Past

Christopher Norris, 4 February 1988

... title ‘Yale Scholar’s Articles Found in Nazi Paper’. The scholar in question was the late Paul deMan, 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 read as ...

Slow Deconstruction

David Bromwich, 7 October 1993

Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminars and Other Papers 
by Paul deMan, 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 deMan 1939-1960 
by Ortwin de Graef.
Nebraska, 240 pp., £29.95, January 1993, 0 8032 1694 7
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... most and the first encounter must succeed; the writing need only offer a clue to the presence. Paul deMan 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 years he was a ...

Presidential Criticism

John Sutherland, 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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... 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 of this book and then of Georges Poulet’s first volume of ...

Paul deMan’s Proverbs of Hell

Geoffrey Hartman, 15 March 1984

... The death of Paul deMan 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 a large body of published work. De Man’s career started late ...

Mallarmé gets a life

Barbara Johnson, 18 August 1994

Mallarmé: A Throw of the Dice 
by Gordon Millan.
Secker, 389 pp., £16.99, March 1994, 9780436270963
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... work by Charles Mauron, Jean-Pierre Richard, Robert Greer Cohn, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Paul deMan, 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 ...

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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... forged in America, even if the theory had to await Derrida; moreover, such émigré scholars as Paul deMan 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 on its own ...

Derridas’s Axioms

E.D. Hirsch, 21 July 1983

On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism 
by Jonathan Culler.
Routledge, 307 pp., £16.95, February 1983, 0 7100 9502 3
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... Just a few years ago, Derrida’s work was introduced into the American academy by Professor Paul deMan; it was then taken up by his students and colleagues; and for the past five years it has been at the centre of academic literary debate. Intellectual culture thrives upon debate. Although opponents of ...

Doing what doesn’t come naturally

John Sturrock, 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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... 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 need to think in French. It’s not like my grandmother’s ...

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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... 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 schoolwork. Once again, reading has the thrill of ...

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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... thanks largely to the posthumous revelations about the Belgian-American literary theorist Paul deMan. 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 Nazis is made ...

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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... 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 during the Inquisition; they spoke Ladino, Hebrew and ...

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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... friends and (often) colleagues of his. They are, in addition to the five I have just mentioned, Paul deMan, 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 time. The ...

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 deMan, 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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... 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 and the Experience of Limits, a collection of essays ...

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