The Yale Critics: Deconstruction in America (Theory and History of Literature)
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The Yale Critics was first published in 1983. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
A heated debate has been raging in North America in recent years over the form and function of literature. At the center of the fray is a group of critics teaching at Yale University—Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller—whose work can be described in relation to the deconstructive philosophy practiced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. For over a decade the Yale Critics have aroused controversy; most often they are considered as a group, to be applauded or attacked, rather than as individuals whose ideas merit critical scrutiny. Here a new generation of scholars attempts for the first time a serious, broad assessment of the Yale group. These essays appraise the Yale Critics by exploring their roots, their individual careers, and the issues they introduce.
Wallace Martin's introduction offers a brilliant, compact account of the Yale Critics and of their relation to deconstruction and the deconstruction to two characteristically Anglo-American enterprises; Paul Bove explores the new criticism and Wlad Godzich the reception of Derrida in America. Next come essays giving individual attention to each of the critics: Michael Sprinker on Hartman, Donald Pease on Miller, Stanley Corngold on de Man, and Daniel O'Hara on Bloom. Two essays then illuminate "deconstruction in America" through a return to modern continental philosophy: Donald Marshall on Maurice Blanchot, and Rodolphe Gasche on Martin Heidegger. Finally, Jonathan Arac's afterword brings the volume together and projects a future beyond the Yale Critics.
Throughout, the contributors aim to provide a balanced view of a subject that has most often been treated polemically. While useful as an introduction, The Yale Critics also engages in a serious critical reflection on the uses of the humanities in American today.
necessary to reinterpret a number of philosophic distinctions—including those traditionally used to interrelate words, concepts, and referents. His arguments on this issue lend themselves to misunderstanding. If they are construed as implying that there is something fundamentally wrong with our references to the real (to objects, literature, the self, language) we will probably conclude that the theory being advanced is some form of idealism, skepticism, or negative theology (cf. Gasche,
proposition. We have seen this to be one of the modalities of truth. Derrida's critique of logocentrism deconstructs the solidary opposition of subject and object as well as the deliberative modality of truth. Rousseau's relation to the supplement is much more fluid than the subject/object relation allows, for neither "Rousseau" nor the "supplement" constitute stable entities but represent a mouvance capable of multiple configurations, in which the idea of one somehow seizing 32 D WLAD GOD2ICH
others, we realize that The Form of Victorian Fiction anticipates in an uncannily precise way the self-division of the critic into host and parasite constitutive of Miller's defensive reply to Abrams. When we further recall that in this book Miller characterizes writing as a way for a character to "re-enter the social world from which he had been excluded'' (p. 63), a re-entry assuming the form of an identification not with the hodiernal space of Victorian England, but with the "ideally
nothingness stated and restated by a subject that is the agent of its own instability" (BI, 19).9 We pass, with Blindness and Insight, into a more devastating perception of the universal adhesion of error in literary and critical texts—to a negativity more radically pervasive. This perception comes with de Man's discovery of the insistent error of the reading process, a discovery provoked by an ideological shift from phenomenology to rhetorical analysis, from continental philosophy to the
the necessity of reading. The written work ("livre") "needs the reader in order to affirm itself a thing without author and also without reader" (EL, 257). "Literary reading" ("lecture litteraire") is not the exegesis which builds on acquired, in this case, historical knowledge, as Hartman does; nor is it a turning toward a self which was there all along, as de Man claims. For Blanchot, it is "au-dela ou en dega de la comprehension," in the reader's entrance into the ontological difference which