Critical writings, 1953-1978 by Paul de Man, Lindsay Waters

By Paul de Man, Lindsay Waters

This quantity brings jointly 25 essays and reports by means of Paul De guy, Sterling Professor of Literature,Yale college

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73 The literary philosophical concern for interiority that flourished among certain writers in France had no analogue in America. But although the way was not prepared for de Man, the situation was one where he could have some considerable effect, especially among the literary, given the nature of the resistance to the category of subjectivity—his preoccupation-in the AngloAmerican world of literary criticism. The year 1957 was probably the apogee for the literary modernism that was fostered by Eliot and Pound and the critical school of New Criticism that sprang up to promulgate, as it were, the ideas and values that the modernists espoused.

Eliot was no naive adherent of imagist doctrine. "82 The predicament that developed is described well in the 1950s by Jarrell and also usefully surveyed by Robert Pinsky in his 1976 book The Situation of Poetry. Modern poets sought an escape from abstraction and recurrence—characteristics of poetry that are also essential aspects of language—by attempting to give their poetic words the status of things. Pinsky wrote, "Modern poetry often expressed or implied certain persistent ambitions, ambitions which have to do with giving the poem some of the status of an object or phenomenon, rather than a statement.

The critic insists on turning poetry into image patterns or ideas despite (and in spite of) the experience of readers. "76 xlii D PAUL DE MAN: LIFE AND WORKS Criticism in the heyday of New Criticism had tamed poetry. 77 This all may have worked to the advantage of teaching students communication arts (as I. A. Richards had argued it would), but it was dispiriting for poets who were just as interested, if not more so, in words as in ideas. The problem for poets was that the critical industry threatened to co-opt every single line of poetry and recycle it for its own purposes.

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