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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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... In 1987, readers of the New York Times were further baffled to learn that during the war Paul deMan, 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 subject was ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham, 19 September 2002

Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... way touch gets under the guard of consciousness in such stories as ‘You Touched Me’ and ‘The Man who Died’ (a happily blasphemous tale about the sexual awakening of Christ), but in his later poetry he elevated touch over thought and eccentrically concluded that ‘Once men touch one another, then the modern industrial form of machine civilisation will ...

Outside the Academy

Robert Alter, 13 February 1992

Authors and Authority: English and American Criticism 1750-1990 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Macmillan, 392 pp., £40, August 1991, 0 333 43294 0
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A History of Modern Criticism 1750-1950. Vol. VII: German, Russian and Eastern European Criticism, 1900-1950 
by René Wellek.
Yale, 458 pp., £26, October 1991, 0 300 05039 9
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... There is good evidence to support his scepticism at his home institution in the so-called École de Yale. In 1979, Harold Bloom, Paul deMan, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman and J. Hillis Miller, all at the time Yale colleagues, put together a kind of manifesto entitled ...


Frank Kermode, 22 May 1986

Pound, Yeats, Eliot and the Modernist Movement 
by C.K. Stead.
Macmillan, 393 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 333 37457 6
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The Myth of Modernism and 20th-century Literature 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Harvester, 216 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7108 1002 4
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The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts 
by Roger Shattuck.
Faber, 362 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 571 12071 7
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... Artaud, you become dependent on the past if only because you need to have it around to reject. As Paul deMan observed in his subtle essay ‘Literary History and Literary Modernity’, ‘the more radical the rejection of anything that came before, the greater the dependence on the past.’* What blurs these ...

A Waistcoat soaked in Tears

Douglas Johnson, 27 June 1991

The Noble Savage: Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1754-1762 
by Maurice Cranston.
Allen Lane, 399 pp., £20, February 1991, 0 7139 9051 1
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Writings of Rousseau. Vol I: Rousseau: Judge of Jean-Jacques. Dialogues. 
translated by Judith Bush, edited and translated by Christopher Kelly and Roger Masters.
University Press of New England, 277 pp., $40, March 1990, 0 87451 495 9
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... he bestowed on them) before he buries himself in the rustic retreat of Montmorency. He is still a man subject to the strongest of emotions, capable of moving easily from melancholy to indignation, from humility to pride and petulance, from friendship to jealousy and enmity. He could declare his love for the whole of the human race and then practise the ...

Aestheticise, Aestheticise

Benjamin Markovits: ‘Shroud’, 2 January 2003

by John Banville.
Picador, 408 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 330 48315 3
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... book describes their affair, or rather the collision of their personalities, the clash between a man who insists there is no such thing as the self and a woman whose psychological disorder requires her to interpret everything in the world as relating to her. Of course, it’s Vander who proves the real egotist. ‘Were we,’ Vander asks, any of ...

Some Versions of Narrative

Christopher Norris, 2 August 1984

Hermeneutics: Questions and Prospects 
edited by Gary Shapiro and Alan Sica.
Massachusetts, 310 pp., February 1984, 0 87023 416 1
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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge 
by Jean-Francois Lyotard, translated by Geoff Bennington, Brian Massumi and Fredric Jameson.
Manchester, 110 pp., £23, August 1984, 0 7190 1450 6
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Literary Meaning: From Phenomenology to Deconstruction 
by William Ray.
Blackwell, 228 pp., £17.50, April 1984, 0 631 13457 3
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The Philosophy of the Novel: Lukacs, Marxism and the Dialectics of Form 
by J.M. Bernstein.
Harvester, 296 pp., £25, February 1984, 0 7108 0011 8
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Criticism and Objectivity 
by Raman Selden.
Allen and Unwin, 170 pp., £12.50, April 1984, 9780048000231
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... of textual interpretation. Particularly irksome is the claim of conceptual rhetoricians like Paul deMan that philosophy has not yet caught up with ‘elementary refinements’ that criticism has long since taken for granted. Deconstruction goes furthest towards contesting the status of philosophy by showing how ...

Character References

Robert Taubman, 15 May 1980

The Echo Chamber 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 154 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 85527 807 2
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by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 160 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 575 02762 2
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Kingdom Come 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Secker, 352 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 436 06714 5
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A Gentle Occupation 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Chatto, 360 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 7011 2505 5
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Innocent Blood 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 276 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 571 11566 7
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... novel, which might be called the old nouveau roman in its latest or ‘deconstructionist’ phase: Paul deMan says deconstruction is about ‘the fallacy of reference in a necessarily referential mode’. Names of characters, for instance, aren’t much use as points of reference without at least a face or a label of ...

Theory and Truth

Frank Kermode, 21 November 1991

Minor Prophecies: The Literary Essay in the Culture Wars 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Harvard, 252 pp., £23.95, October 1991, 0 674 57636 5
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Spinoza and the Origins of Modern Critical Theory 
by Christopher Norris.
Blackwell, 240 pp., £30, July 1990, 0 631 17557 1
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What’s wrong with Postmodernism: Critical Theory and the Ends of Philosophy 
by Christopher Norris.
Harvester, 287 pp., £40, October 1990, 0 7450 0714 7
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... two kinds of critical style, that of the learned specialist and that of the public critic (a.k.a. man of letters)’. He himself, for instance, is a learned specialist, a pro, whereas the likes of George Steiner and myself are ‘public critics’ (a.k.a. reviewers, vulgarisateurs), given to needless complaints about the ‘dehumanising’ technical language ...


Claude Rawson, 4 March 1982

Ferocious Alphabets 
by Denis Donoghue.
Faber, 211 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 571 11809 7
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... interactions between author and invisible reader implies Wordsworthian notions of the poet as ‘a man speaking to men’, augmented by a later and sophisticated awareness of the written text as a formal (and fictive) occasion for the encounter. Donoghue rejects the ‘communication’ models of Jakobson or Richards, with their idea of message or signal ...

Belfast Diary

Edna Longley: In Belfast , 9 January 1992

... to make reader-reception – or the most effective propaganda? – our arbiter of war. Shades of Paul deMan, perhaps. It would, for instance, be both a pity and a lie if another Irish anthology. Troubled Times: ‘Fortnight’ Magazine and the Troubles in Northern Ireland I970-91,† had left out ‘what really ...

Back to the future

Julian Symons, 10 September 1992

The Children of Men 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 239 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16741 1
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A Philosophical Investigation 
by Philip Kerr.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 7011 4553 6
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by Georgina Hammick.
Chatto, 212 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 7011 4133 6
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The Death of the Author 
by Gilbert Adair.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 434 00623 8
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Jerusalem Commands 
by Michael Moorcock.
Cape, 577 pp., £15.99, July 1992, 0 224 03074 4
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... who believe that sinister things are happening in the Pen Settlement for offenders on the Isle of Man. They are also disturbed by the voluntary group suicides called the Quietus, organised by the Special Security Police and approved by the Council. Faron agrees to approach the Warden, although he is sceptical of the complaints. He defines ‘sound ...

Big John

Frank Kermode, 19 March 1987

Little Wilson and Big God 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 448 pp., £12.95, February 1987, 0 434 09819 1
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... play of intrigue that has thwarted me all my life’ but some self-indulgence is inevitable: as Paul deMan, speaking of Jean-Jacques, neatly notes, qui s’accuse s’excuse. Hence a detailed accounting of many amorous episodes in many parts of the world, all spiced, though not fiercely, by cradle-Catholic ...

Scholarship and its Affiliations

Wendy Steiner, 30 March 1989

... a scholarly cause célèbre. One has only to compare the recent furore over Martin Heidegger and Paul deMan to see how slight the impact of the Blunt affair has been on the academic community. Mutatis mutandis, all three men had disreputable if not dishonourable commerce with totalitarian regimes, all three produced ...

Fratricide, Matricide and the Philosopher

Shadi Bartsch: Seneca, 18 June 2015

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero 
by James Romm.
Knopf, 290 pp., £18.45, March 2014, 978 0 307 59687 1
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Seneca: A Life 
by Emily Wilson.
Allen Lane, 253 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 84614 637 4
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... of thinker we’re talking about. When it was discovered a few years after his death in 1983 that Paul deMan had written for Nazi-controlled newspapers in Belgium, a debate began on whether this had any bearing on the deconstruction he propounded. The new revelations rooted out by Evelyn Barish in her biography of ...

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