Paul de Man
He began teaching at Bard College. In the late 1950s he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University, then taught at Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Zurich, ending up on the faculty in French and Comparative Literature at Yale University, where he was considered part of the Yale School of deconstruction. At the time of his death from cancer, he was Sterling Professor of the Humanities and chairman of the Department of Comparative Literature at Yale. De Man oversaw the dissertations of Gayatri Spivak (at Cornell), Barbara Johnson (at Yale), Samuel Weber (at Cornell), and many other noted scholars.
At the time of his death, de Man was among the most influential literary critics in the United States -- particularly distinguished for his success importing questions from Germanophone and Francophone philosophy into Anglo-American literary studies and critical theory. He was part of a much larger movement that pushed Anglophone literary criticism beyond a naive "interpretation" of texts and towards a more critical reflection on the epistemological difficulties inherent in any textual, literary, or critical activity. This theses (and deconstruction more generally) were treated with suspicion or even opposition by many of his Anglophone colleagues -- an opposition that de Man characteristically attributed, not so much to the content of his ideas, but a variety of "resistance" internal to the difficult enterprise of literary interpretation itself. 
After his death, the discovery of some two hundred articles he wrote during World War II for collaborationist newspapers, including one explicitly anti-Semitic, caused a scandal and provoked a reconsideration of his life and work.
Paul de Man was born in Antwerp, Belgium the son of Robert de Man. His mother committed suicide when he was a young man. Two elder brothers both died in their youth, one by suicide. He was ultimately raised by his uncle, Hendrik de Man, a socialist politician. The de Mans were an affluent family of Flemish heritage who maintained an appreciation of French language and culture. In 1940, when the Germans took occupation of Belgium, de Man and his wife attempted to flee into Spain but were stopped from entry at the Spanish border. The de Mans resettled in Brussels where de Man studied at the Free University of Brussels until its closure by the occupying German forces in 1941. While a student, de Man had written for student magazines. After his university studies were aborted, his Uncle Hendrick used his influence to secure his nephew a position as cultural correspondent for the newspaper Le Soir, the foremost newspaper in Belgium and at the time under Nazi control. During his tenure at Le Soir, which continued into November of 1942, de Man's contribution was prolific, writing hundreds of articles and reviews. In 1945, de Man published his translation of Moby Dick into Flemish. In 1953, the uncle that had been his primary support in his formative years, Hendrik de Man, like others in the family, died by suicide. 
Post War Years
During the postwar period de Man emigrated from Europe to the Americas. He ultimately traveled to the United States while his first wife, Anaïde Baraghian, who was denied a visa, sailed to Argentina where her parents had recently emigrated. While in the United States de Man remarried, in what proved emotionally and financially devastating for his family in Argentina. De Man and his wife ultimately gave his eldest son to his second wife's parents to raise. Thereafter his relationship with his sons was strained and marked by long periods of estrangement. 
Whilst his first family was in Argentina de Man married Patricia Kelley, a former student of his from Bard College, and the two remained together until his death in the 1980s. This period in de Man's life, heavily fictionalized, formed the basis of Henri Thomas's 1954 novel Le parjure.
De Man ultimately went to Harvard University to obtain a PhD, following which he received a prestigious appointment at the Harvard Society of Fellows in the 1950s. During the 1960s he taught at Cornell University and gradually began to acquire a reputation as an innovative thinker and a gifted analyst of literature. Students of his from this period include Samuel Weber and Gayatri Spivak, who went on to become noted literary and cultural theorists.
In 1966, de Man met Jacques Derrida at a conference at Johns Hopkins University on structuralism during which Derrida first delivered his essay "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences". The two became close friends and colleagues. De Man elaborated a distinct deconstruction in his philosophically-oriented literary criticism of Romanticism, both English Romanticism and German Romanticism, with particular attention to William Wordsworth, John Keats, Maurice Blanchot, Marcel Proust, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Walter Benjamin, William Butler Yeats, Friedrich Hoelderlin and Rainer Maria Rilke.
Following a subsequent appointment in Zurich, de Man returned to the United States in the 1970s to teach at Yale University, where he became a key figure in emerging literary methods associated with deconstruction, psychoanalysis, French structuralism, and poststructuralism. At the time of his death he was a Sterling Professor and had been chair of the department of comparative literature at Yale.
Contributions to Literary Theory
While de Man's work in the 1960s differs from his deconstructive endeavors in the 1970s, there is nevertheless considerable continuity between his early and later work. In his 1967 essay "Criticism and Crisis" he argues that because literary works are understood to be fictions rather than factual accounts, they exemplify the break between a sign and its meaning: literature "means" nothing, but critics resist this insight because it lays bare "the nothingness of human matters" (de Man quoting Rousseau, one of his favorite authors)[dubious ]. De Man would later observe that, due to this resistance to acknowledging that literature does not "mean", English departments had become "large organizations in the service of everything except their own subject matter" ("The Return to Philology"), as the study of literature became the art of applying psychology, politics, history, or other disciplines to the literary text, in an effort to make the text "mean" something.
Among the central threads running through de Man's work is his attempt to tease out the tension between rhetoric (which in de Man's usage tends to mean figural language and trope) and meaning, seeking out moments in the text where linguistic forces "tie themselves into a knot which arrests the process of understanding." De Man's earlier essays from the 1960s, collected in Blindness and Insight, represent an attempt to seek out these paradoxes in the texts of New Criticism and move beyond formalism. One of De Man's central topoi is of the blindness on which these critical readings are predicated, that the "insight seems instead to have been gained from a negative movement that animates the critic's thought, an unstated principle that leads his language away from its asserted stand...as if the very possibility of assertion had been put into question." Here de Man attempts to undercut the notion of the poetic work as a unified, atemporal icon, a self-possessed repository of meaning freed from the intentionalist and affective fallacies. In de Man's argument, formalist and New Critical valorization of the "organic" nature of poetry is ultimately self-defeating: the notion of the verbal icon is undermined by the irony and ambiguity inherent within it. Form ultimately acts as "both a creator and undoer of organic totalities," and "the final insight...annihilated the premises which led up to it."
In Allegories of Reading, de Man further explores the tensions arising in figural language in Nietzsche, Rousseau, Rilke, and Proust. In these essays, he concentrates on crucial passages which have a metalinguistic function or metacritical implications, particularly those where figural language has a dependency on classical philosophical oppositions (essence/accident, synchronic/diachronic, appearance/reality) which are so central to Western discourse. Many of the essays in this volume attempt to undercut figural totalization, the notion that one can control or dominate a discourse or phenomenon through metaphor. In de Man's discussion of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, for instance, he claims that genetic conceptions of history appearing in the text are undercut by the rhetorical strategies Nietzsche employs: "the deconstruction does not occur between statements, as in a logical refutation or a dialectic, but happens instead between, on the one hand, metalinguistic statements about the rhetorical nature of language and, on the other hand, a rhetorical praxis that puts these statements into question." For de Man, an "Allegory of Reading" emerges when texts are subjected to such scrutiny and reveal this tension; a reading wherein the text reveals its own assumptions about language, and in so doing dictates a statement about undecidability, the difficulties inherent in totalization, their own readability, or the "limitations of textual authority."
De Man is also known for subtle readings of English and German romantic and post-romantic poetry and philosophy (The Rhetoric of Romanticism) and concise and deeply ironic essays. Specifically noteworthy is his critical dismantling of the Romantic ideology and the linguistic assumptions which underlie it. His arguments follow roughly as follows. First, de Man seeks to deconstruct the privileged claims in Romanticism of symbol over allegory, and metaphor over metonymy. In his reading, because of the implication of self-identity and wholeness which is inherent in the Romantics' conception of metaphor, when this self-identity decomposes, so also does the means of overcoming the dualism between subject and object, which Romantic metaphor sought to transcend. In de Man's reading, to compensate for this inability, Romanticism constantly relies on allegory to attain the wholeness established by the totality of the symbol.
In addition, in his essay "The Resistance to Theory", which explores the task and philosophical bases of literary theory, de Man uses the example of the classical trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic to argue that the use of linguistic sciences in literary theory and criticism (i.e. a structuralist approach) was able to harmonize the logical and grammatical dimension of literature, but only at the expense of effacing the rhetorical elements of texts which presented the greatest interpretive demands. He posits that the resistance to theory is the resistance to reading, thus the resistance to theory is theory itself. Or the resistance to theory is what constitutes the possibility and existence of theory. Taking up the example of the title of Keats' poem The Fall of Hyperion, de Man draws out an irreducible interpretive undecidability which bears strong affinities to the same term in Derrida's work and some similarity to the notion of incommensurability as developed by Jean-François Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition and The Differend. De Man argues that the recurring motive of theoretical readings is to subsume these decisions under theoretical, futile generalizations, which are displaced in turn into harsh polemics about theory.
Influence and legacy
|This section requires expansion. (March 2013)|
De Man followed developments in contemporary French literature, criticism, and theory. De Man's influence on literary criticism was considerable for many years, in no small part through his many influential students. He was a very charismatic teacher and influenced both students and fellow faculty members profoundly.
Much of de Man's work was collected or published posthumously. The Resistance to Theory was virtually complete at the time of his death. Andrzej Warminski, previously a colleague at Yale, edited the works already published which were to appear in a planned volume with the tentative title Aesthetic Ideology.
Wartime journalism and Posthumous Controversies
After de Man's death, some two hundred articles he wrote during World War II for a collaborationist Belgian newspaper Le Soir were discovered by Ortwin de Graef, a Belgian student researching de Man's early life and work. These writings provoked a controversy and broader re-evaluation of de Man's works. In at least one instance de Man expressed some degree of sympathy or indifference to anti-Semitic policies of deportation and cultural censorship of the sort esoused by occupying German Third Reich. More generally, these striking omission from de Man's otherwise eminent and widely read bibliography of works was taken, by a number of critics, as a sign of mendacity on de Man's part. Some of the fiercest opponents of literary deconstruction's influence on postwar Anglo-American literary theory heralded the discovery of de Man's writing as evidence of the malevolent or morally bankrupt origins of the Continental thought and approaches associated with de Man and his colleagues. In time the re-evaluation of de Man's work this inspired spilled out from the pages of scholarly journals  to the popular press, where The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times launched probing studies of de Man's personal life and his career history, lavishing particular attention on his failed marriage and difficult relationship with his family.  This continues well into the present, with at least one book scheduled for publication in 2014 offering a thorough-going--and often unflattering--evaluation of de Man's personal, professional, and political life from youth until his death in the 1980s. 
In the most explosive and explicitly anti-semitic essay from this period, titled “Jews in Contemporary Literature,” de Man examined the way "[v]ulgar anti-semitism willingly takes pleasure in considering post-war cultural phenomenon (after the war of 14-18) as degenerate and decadent because they are [enjewished]." He notes that "Literature does not escape this lapidary judgement: it is sufficient to discover a few Jewish writers under Latinized pseudonyms for all contemporary production to be considered polluted and evil. This conception entails rather dangerous consequences... it would be a rather unflattering appreciation of western writers to reduce them to being mere imitators of a Jewish culture which is foreign to them." The article continued to claim that contemporary literature had not broken from tradition as a result of the First World War and that "the Jews cannot claim to have been its creators, nor even to have exercised a preponderant influence over its development. On any closer examination, this influence appears to have extraordinarily little importance since one might have expected that, given the specific characteristics of the Jewish Spirit, the later would have played a more brilliant role in this artistic production." The article concluded that “our civilization... [b]y keeping, in spite of semitic interference in all aspects of European life, an intact originality and character... has shown that its basic character is healthy." It concluded that "the creation of a Jewish colony isolated from Europe" as “a solution to the Jewish problem” (probably referring to a suggested Jewish colony in Madagascar, but not to Hitler's Final Solution, which was not widely known at this early period) would not entail any "deplorable consequences" for "the literary life of the west." This is the only known article in which de Man pronounced such views so starkly, though two or three other articles also accept without demurral the disenfranchisement and ostracization of Jews, as some contributors to Responses have noted.
De Man's colleagues, students and contemporaries attempted to come to grips with both his early writings and his subsequent silence about them in the volume Responses: On Paul de Man's Wartime Journalism (edited by Werner Hamacher, Neil Hertz, and Thomas Keenan; Nebraska, 1989). Derrida himself published a long piece responding to critics, declaring that “To judge, to condemn the work or the man on the basis of what was a brief episode, to call for closing, that is to say, at least figuratively, for censuring or burning his books is to reproduce the exterminating gesture which one accuses de Man of not having armed himself against sooner with the necessary vigilance. It is not even to draw a lesson that he, de Man, learned to draw from the war.” That seemed to some readers to draw an objectionable connection between criticism of de Man and extermination of the Jews. Derrida, a Jew himself, however, did not refrain from condemning de Man's wartime writings.
In recent years some evidence has also surfaced to suggest that call into question the most sweeping, Anti-semitic allegations made against de Man. For example, eminent critic Shoshana Felman writes that "in 1942 or 1943, about a year after the journalistic publication of his compromising statement, he and his wife sheltered for several days in their apartment the Jewish pianist Esther Sluszny and her husband, who were then illegal citizens in hiding from the Nazis. During this same period, de Man was meeting regularly with Georges Goriely, a member of the Belgian Resistance. According to Goriely's own testimony, he never for one minute feared denunciation of his underground activities by Paul de Man." Despite such observations, de Man's death and his striking decision to abstain from revealing or commenting on his activities and writings during this period have prevented a conclusive evaluation, much less consensus, about the nature of de Man's possible collaboration or anti-Semitism.
Derrida's Defense of De Man: "Like the Sound of the Sea Deep Within a Shell: Paul de Man's War" Strictly speaking, this essay is not one of Jacques Derrida's typically theoretical and abstruse expositions of deconstruction. Here, Derrida uses deconstruction as a prop to explain away, to contextualize, and to de-legitimize the charges made against his good friend and fellow deconstructionist Paul de Man. When Paul de Man was a twenty-one year old journalist for the Nazi-controlled Belgian newspaper Le Soir in 1941, he wrote articles daily on a wide spectrum of topics, several of which were clearly anti-Semitic. One of these essays, "The Jews in Contemporary Literature," has gone on to infamy as the cornerstone of de Man's anti-Semitism. He did write other articles that had more than a few touches of anti-Semitism, but it is this one around which the controversy swirls since in it de Man urges that Europe's Jews be isolated from the European community and re-settled "elsewhere," presumably in Madagascar. After de Man wrote this particular essay, he ceased writing such screeds and generally tried to survive a war that became increasingly clear that Hitler was going to lose. When the war ended in 1945, de Man would soon enter the United States as a displaced person. He understandably did not inform the American immigration officials of his wartime writings. De Man eventually found employment as a professor of literature at various universities before winding up at Yale where he became widely known as a brilliant and much-beloved lecturer. When he died in 1987, he was mourned throughout academia. A few years later, a Belgian graduate student uncovered de Man's long-hidden past and that was when the bitter controversy erupted.
Derrida takes the position that de Man's position on anti-Semitism is less serious and therefore less worthy of condemnation than his critics warrant. In essence, what Derrida has done in his defense of de Man is to take the abstractness of deconstruction and put this abstractness to concrete use: to "cleanse" de Man's Nazi writings using Derrida's full bag of deconstructive strategies. These strategies had previously been used only in the realm of literary texts to subvert their privileged positions. Now, for the first time, they are put to a more ideologically positioned use. If one is a true believer in the combined tenets of deconstruction, then one may be convinced, at least in part, that when de Man is at his most virulently pro-Nazi, he did not mean what the words on the page say that he did.
Derrida begins his defense of Paul de Man through the use of contextualization, a process that permits a critic to place a potentially unpleasant thought within a larger context so as to make that thought more palatable: "Do not think only of the war that broke out several months ago around some articles signed by a certain Paul de Man." Within just this one sentence one can see several deconstructive strategies at work. The "war" referred to is not a "war" at all but a justifiable examination not only of the wartime activities of an accused anti-Semite but also in a wider context as an assault of a theory called deconstruction, a charge that Derrida soon enough levels in this essay. Next, consider the phrase "some articles signed by a certain Paul de Man." By limiting the authorship of "The Jews in Contemporary Literature" to one who has merely "signed" them, Derrida makes it seem as if "another" de Man was responsible for their publication. This, of course, brings in the word "certain." Much of Derrida's defense of de Man hinges on deconstructing that word so that the de Man of 1941 who wrote something that may have had potentially objectionable themes has no relation to the future and much beloved professor of literature at Yale University. The "potentially objectionable" thrust has in a sense been "deferred" and along the way a very nearly infinite host of traces has subliminally attached themselves to the seemingly certain definition of "certain," thereby rendering the identity of Paul de Man as some hazy ephemeral linguistic string of signifieds that point everywhere and thus nowhere. Derrida further notes that war is normally thought of in the context of what he refers to as "a public act, by rights something declared." Considering that Derrida will quickly envision a cabal of highly placed anti-de Manian critics in the media, the concept of an organized war by the many against the one or few is but the opening salvo in Derrida's attempt to deconstruct Paul de Man as the true victim. And this entire paragraph is contained and subsumed in the deconstructive vision of Jacques Derrida's single opening sentence.
The entire campaign against Paul de Man is, in Derrida's view, one that is marked by a long series of contradictory lessons. The word "contradictory" is another of Derrida's terms used in deconstructive analysis. What Derrida contradicts is the de Man of 1941 and the de Man of forty years later. The former de Man can be mentioned only if his name is prefaced by any of the following disclaimers: young, youthful, or juvenile. Hardly a page goes by in Derrida's essay without at least one mention of such a disclaimer. The following are random samples in Derrida's own words:
"But in the several months that followed, the very young journalist…" "…well beyond the limits of the literary and artistic column that a very young man wrote for a newspaper almost a half century ago." "One could recognize very quickly in the writing, along with the traits of a certain juvenility those of an extraordinary culture…" "…youth and journalism are not the best protections against such confusion." "…a young man of 22 did not resist the temptation."
Apparently in the lexicon of Jacques Derrida the sins of one's youth are an effective shield against charges laid against that miscreant in his dotage.
The ability to contextualize an act by placing it within some larger background is another deconstructive technique useful in subverting the privileged position of a literary text. And what works for a text can surely work for a human being as well. Derrida laments that the early anti-Semitic essays of Paul de Man this "young" journalist "will be read more intensely than the theoretician, the thinker, the writer, the professor, the author of great books that he was during forty years." Can this disparity between the two de Mans be unfair, Derrida asks rhetorically? The answer is a deconstructive staple: "Yes, no." This binary response sets up Derrida's contextualization with his comment that for any critic to even begin to hurl unwarranted charges at de Man, that critic must first "relearn how to read "all" of the work toward that which opens itself up there." What Derrida is doing is to set up a metaphorical bull's eye which has at the center Paul de Man's anti-Semitic essays. In the first concentric circle are all the other non-controversial texts that de Man ever wrote. In the second circle are all the texts that he has ever read. In the third circle are all the texts that have ever been written about him. In the fourth circle, is the totality of what it must have been like for a young journalist to seek employment in any newspaper in Nazi-occupied Belgium in 1941. This series of circles can be extended infinitely such that the very concept of personal responsibility becomes attenuated, thinned out, eventually evaporating in a deconstructive mist of non-being. If one cannot pin down the responsibility for another's actions and writings, then the idea of morality and responsibility no longer operate to conform humanity to basic ideas of goodness, decency, and humanity.
Not all of this essay is a variation of deconstruction. Much of it is no less than the venting of spleen undisguised as some old-fashioned name calling. What Derrida finds objectionable is the press' spin on a legitimate source of news: a former professor of literature at Yale who in his youth wrote articles favorable to German national socialism: "One will also analyze from every angle the significance of the press in the modernity of a history like this one…Yet whatever one may think of the ignorance, the simplism, the sensationalist flurry full of hatred which certain American newspapers displayed in the case, we will not engage in any negative evaluation of the press in general." It is comforting to know that after Derrida has referred to a wide swath of American journalists as simpletons that he "will not engage in any negative evaluation of the press in general. After this act of grossly insulting America's press corps, Derrida returns to his more normal deconstructive thrust with a red herring: "Incidentally, what would have happened if Paul de Man had not been a great American professor, or if as a professor, he had not been at Yale?" What Derrida apparently has in mind is that Yale is an ongoing target for journalistic abuse at the hands of those who are replete with a "flurry full of hatred." Incidentally, to respond to his rhetorical question about ex-Nazi professors at Yale, Derrida might not have taken umbrage had de Man taught elsewhere, say at Harvard. Not satisfied with this riposte, Derrida similarly asks: "If newspapers have the duty to inform and the right to interpret, would it not have been better if they had done so with caution, rigor, honesty?" The clear implication: bias in the media to the detriment of Yale.
Derrida sees himself at the vanguard of those who courageously stand up to the outrageous canards of the press: "I take the risk of writing on this subject." Later in this essay, he praises de Man for taking "the risk of writing" on a different subject: the future of Europe's Jews. In each case, both de Man and Derrida bravely took up the mantle of reporting what needed reporting. In Derrida's mind there is no doubt who began this newer war: "this war no doubt began in the newspapers."
Derrida sees no problem with transmogrifying Paul de Man using images that depict him as the Second Coming of Christ: "Paul de Man himself is dead. If there are some who want to organize a trial in order to judge him, de Man, they must remember that he, de Man, is dead and will not answer in the present…and yet, through the specters of memory and of the text, he lives among us." The trial of Christ in the court of Pontius Pilate is recreated in the trial of de Man in the court of the press.
With the phrase "Which war then?" Derrida widens the scope of contextualization to include the Second World War. As if this war were insufficient to attenuate the responsibility of de Man with reference to the Holocaust, Derrida now includes yet a third war: "The one that this man must have lived and endured in himself." Derrida refers here to the inner turmoil that de Man surely had to face "being torn apart by the tragedies, ruptures, dissociations, 'disjunctions.'" It is no coincidence that these latter three adjectives are themselves staples of a typical deconstruction of a text that inevitably leads to an overturning of a privileged reading. In this case, the "privileged reading" is that de Man was a committed Nazi. The deconstructed meaning is that he was not.
If a critic of de Man were to consider these three wars of Paul de Man, Derrida then would argue that Paul de Man is forever immune to charges that he was part of an infrastructure that led to the deaths of six million human beings. How, asks Derrida, can anyone ever know what really happened in the offices of Le Soir in 1942? "Do we have the right to testify to this?" And more stunningly, "Who has the right to judge it to condemn or to absolve?" Certainly not Jacques Derrida, nor anyone else: "Do I have anything to analyze in a pertinent fashion, to discern, to distinguish in the tangled fabric of this enigma?" War is not much different from discourse. The "enigma" of Paul de Man is part of the tangled fabric of killing as much as it is of a war in the journalistic sense. By extension, history itself is a tangled fabric and no thread of it can be clearly traced to another. Paul de Man is one such thread.
When Derrida first heard of these essays, he had hoped that "the concessions to the occupier or the ideological contagion would take minimal and some sort of negative form." After having read them, he saw that "things seemed serious and complicated. Paul de Man's discourse was clearly more engaged than I had hoped, but also more differentiated and no doubt more heterogeneous." What can all this possibly mean? Derrida presents a bare hint of where he will go in the very next sentence: "One could recognize very quickly in the writing, along with the traits of a certain juvenility those of an extraordinary culture." Besides excusing de Man's youthful status, Derrida now adds to that status quite another one, that of a cultured, educated, multi-lingual elite whose immense gifts of the intellect make any judgment of him by his less refined brethren inappropriate and irrelevant. Derrida does grant that "youth and journalism are not the best protections against" the glory that one could find as an essayist for a nation's leading newspaper. This, in Derrida's view accounts for de Man's decision to seek employ with Le Soir. As an employee of the Berlin controlled newspaper, de Man had a privileged position to view the war and to write about it. What he wrote about it is a function of who he was. What Derrida wrote about it is a similar function of who he was. If one peers under the avalanche of deconstructive ideology, the truth is both clear and indicative. Derrida, of course, would never grant such a grounded peering. For him, as soon as one commences to disentangle the infinite series of time deferred threads (that he terms "traces") one collides head on with an aporia, a sort of linguistic no-man's land where logic breaks down into an indecipherable mess. One such aporia is "war." To define it is impossible; to conceptualize it even more so. Derrida describes war as an entity "that can never be totally internalized nor externalized." If fact, any term can be thus limned. And if war remains a fuzzily defined non-entity, then so must any individual contained therein. Like Paul de Man. Should a would-be critic attempt to place even a modicum of responsibility on de Man, then what is required "even before reading de Man's articles, to look at what surrounds them, sometimes necessitates framing them immediately on the same page." As long as framing is required as a prerequisite to judge any historical figure, then deconstruction will never permit any judging. And in case anyone misses the point, Derrida later adds that any critic who "still wants to accuse or take revenge, will have to read de Man, from A to Z."
If Derrida's essay were not assured to be the height of seriousness, then one might be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of weirdly lumped parody of deconstruction. Towards the middle part of the essay, Derrida ponders de Man's state of mind as the latter pounded the keys of a typewriter. Derrida acknowledges that de Man had to juggle many balls at the same time, one of which was to "recognize here the concern of someone (de Man) who never ceased pointing to the necessity of posing the national problem, notably the German problem." And this leads of course to the ultimate in self-serving rhetorical questions: "And who can reproach him for that?" The answer? The aforementioned six million. Part of de Man's confronting the extent to which the German "problem" was involved lay in various of his articles which set out the inevitability of German hegemony in Europe. Concerning the content, context, and prose style of de Man, Derrida avoids the plain sense of the text by noting: "Although his (de Man's) analysis leads him to judge German 'hegemony' in Europe to be ineluctable, this diagnosis seems rather cold and rather far removed (my italics) from exhortation." Even for Derrida, to grant that de Man radiated exhortation would have been a tough nut to crack.
Another tactic that Derrida uses to exculpate Paul de Man is to accuse the accusers who charge de Man even in his youth with using the same rhetorical strategies that would later be termed deconstruction. This retorts Derrida is sheer nonsense: "What does deconstruction have to do with what was written in 1940-42 by a very young man in a Belgian newspaper?" Derrida does not respond to his own question which is probably just as well since the truthful answer would reveal that it doesn't matter whether deconstruction had a proper name then. The techniques of uncovering paradox and ambiguity were well known and described by the New Critics in the 1930s. And certainly Derrida could use deconstruction on any text from any time to subvert the obvious meaning. Further Derrida seeks to deflect anticipated criticism that deconstruction can be far more baleful than merely and falsely exonerating an ex-supporter of German national socialism. The looming defect of such a theory lies in dehumanizing entire ethnic groups who seek to find a rationale to pursue ethnic cleansing. It is arguable that the very members of the German SS were well versed in the radical theologies of pre-deconstructionists who similarly endorsed a way of life that would not be bound by the same rules of humanity that bind the majority of all human life on earth. This bending of the rules is nowhere more apparent than in the closing paragraphs where Derrida manages to turn Paul de Man into a victim: "To judge, to condemn the work or the man on the basis of what was a brief episode, to call for closing…for censuring or burning his books is to reproduce the exterminating gesture (my italics) against which one accuses de Man of not having armed himself sooner with the necessary vigilance." Now it is the rabbis who are tossing the SS into the crematoria.
- Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust, (ISBN 0-300-02845-8) 1979
- Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (2nd ed.), (ISBN 0-8166-1135-1) 1983
- The Rhetoric of Romanticism, (ISBN 0-231-05527-7) 1984
- The Resistance to Theory, (ISBN 0-8166-1294-3) 1986
- Wartime Journalism, 1934–1943, (ISBN 0-8032-1684-X) eds. Werner Hamacher, Neil Hertz, Thomas Keenan, 1988
- Critical Writings: 1953-1978, (ISBN 0-8166-1695-7) Lindsay Waters (ed.), 1989
- Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminar and Other Papers, (ISBN 0-8166-1695-7) eds. E. S. Burt, Kevin Newmark, and Andrzej Warminski, 1993
- Aesthetic Ideology, (ISBN 0-8166-2204-3) ed. Andrzej Warminski, 1996
- The Post-Romantic Predicament, (ISBN 9780748641055) ed. Martin McQuillan, 2012 [de Man's dissertation, collected with other writings from his Harvard University years, 1956-1961]
- The Paul de Man Notebooks, (ISBN 978-0748641048) ed. Martin McQuillan, forthcoming 2014
Selected secondary works
- Cathy Caruth and Deborah Esch (eds.), Critical Encounters: Reference and Responsibility in Deconstructive Writing
- Claire Colebrook, Paul de Man, Tom Cohen, and J. Hillis Miller. Theory and the Disappearing Future: On de Man, On Benjamin. New York: Routledge, 2012. (Includes de Man's notes for "Conclusions: on The Task of the Translator" in facsimile and transcript form.)
- Tom Cohen, Barbara Cohen, J. Hillis Miller, Andrzej Warminski (eds.), Material Events: Paul de Man and the Afterlife of Theory (essays pertaining to de Man's posthumously published work in Aesthetic Ideology)
- Ortwin De Graef. Serenity in Crisis: A Preface to Paul de Man, 1939-1960. University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
- Ortwin De Graef. Titanic Light: Paul de Man's Post-Romanticism. University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
- Jacques Derrida, Memoires for Paul de Man
- Rodolphe Gasché, The Wild Card of Reading
- Neil Hertz, Werner Hamacher, and Thomas Keenan (eds.), Responses to Paul de Man's Wartime Journalism
- Fredric Jameson. Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991. 217-259.
- Ian MacKenzie, Paradigms of Reading: Relevance Theory and Deconstruction. Palgrave, 2002.
- Jon Wiener, "The Responsibilities of Friendship: Jacques Derrida on Paul de Man's Collaboration." Critical Inquiry 14 (1989), 797-803.
- Christopher Norris, Paul de Man: Deconstruction and the Critique of Aesthetic Ideology
- David Lehman, Signs of the times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man.
- Lindsay Waters & Wlad Godzich, Reading de Man Reading. University of Minnesota Press, 1989.
- de Man, Paul. “The Resistance to Theory,” in The Resistance to Theory, University of Minnesota Press
- Peter Rudnytsky, "Rousseau's Confessions, De Man's Excuses," in Autobiography, Historiography, Rhetoric.
- Kermode, Frank, “Paul de Man’s Abyss,” London Review of Books, March 16, 1989 http://www.lrb.co.uk/v11/n06/frank-kermode/paul-de-mans-abyss
- DAVID LEHMAN, “Paul de Man: The Plot Thickens,” New York Times, May 24, 1992.
- Tom Bartlett, Paul de Man's Many Secrets, Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 21, 1013, http://chronicle.com/article/The-Many-Betrayals-of-Paul-de/142505/
- Lindsay Waters. "Paul de Man: Life and Works." Introduction to Paul de Man, Critical Writings: 1953-1978. Ed. Lindsay Waters. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1989. lxiv.
- de Man, Paul, "Shelley Disfigured", in Bloom, Harold, et al. Deconstruction and Criticism (New York, Continuum: 1979) 44.
- See de Man, Paul, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971).
- de Man, Paul, "The Rhetoric of Blindness", Blindness and Insight, 103.
- de Man, Paul, "The Rhetoric of Blindness", Blindness and Insight, 104.
- See de Man, Paul, Allegories of Reading (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979).
- de Man, Allegories of Reading, 98.
- de Man, Allegories of Reading, 99.
- See de Man, "The Rhetoric of Temporality", Blindness and Insight.
- For facsimiles of the articles, see Warner Hamacher, Neil Hertz, and Thomas Keenan, eds., Wartime Journalism 1939-1943 by Paul de Man. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.
- Evans,Richard J., 'In Defence Of History', London, 1997, p236
- Jacques Derrida, “Like the Sound of the Sea Deep within a Shell: Paul de Man’s War”, Critical Inquiry 14 (Spring 1988), 597-98.
- ”Yale Scholar Wrote for Pro-Nazi Newspaper”, New York Times, Dec. 1, 1987, p.1.
- Bartlett, Tom, “Paul de Man’s Many Secrets,” The Chronicle Review, October 21, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/The-Many-Betrayals-of-Paul-de/142505
- Paul de Man. "The Jews in Contemporary Literature." Originally published in Le Soir. (March 4, 1941). Trans. Martin McQuillan. In, Martin McQuillan. Paul de Man. USA: Routledge. 2001. pp. 127-129.
- ”Les Juifs dans la litterature actuelle” appears in ibid., p.45.
- Jacques Derrida, “Like the Sound of the Sea Deep within a Shell: Paul de Man’s War”, Critical Inquiry 14 (Spring 1988), 590-65; quote from 651; see also the “Critical Responses” in Critical Inquiry 15 (Summer 1989, 765-811) and Derrida’s reply, “Biodegradables: Seven Diary Fragments”, 812-873.
- See, for example, Jon Wiener, “The Responsibilities of Friendship”, Critical Inquiry 15 (Summer 1989), 797.
- Paul de Man's Silence, Shoshana Felman, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 15, No. 4, (Summer, 1989), pp. 704-744
- Guide to the Paul de Man Papers. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
- Guide to the Neil Hertz Papers on Paul de Man. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
- UCIspace @ the Libraries digital collection: Paul de Man manuscripts, circa 1973-1983
- Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory