paul de man semiology and rhetoric pdf

Paul De Man Semiology And Rhetoric Pdf

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Paul de Man

In this second lecture on deconstruction, Professor Paul Fry concludes his consideration of Derrida and begins to explore the work of Paul de Man. Chapter 1. You may not find it congenial; but supposing that you are intrigued by Derrida to account for this last sentence, to show how it picks up motifs generated throughout the essay, how it returns the essay to its beginning, and to consider very carefully its metaphors—it reflects on its own metaphors—I think you might find intriguing.

The passage is:. I employ these words, I admit, with a glance toward the business of childbearing—but also with a glance toward those who, in a company from which I do not exclude myself, turn their eyes away in the face of the as yet unnamable, which is proclaiming itself and which can do so, as is necessary whenever a birth is in the offing, only under the species of the non-species in the formless, mute, infant, and terrifying form of monstrosity.

Now I do want to go back to the relationship between Derrida and Levi-Strauss. I suggested last time that while in some ways the essay really seems to stage itself as a critique of Levi-Strauss, to a remarkable degree, confessed or unconfessed, it stands on the shoulders of Levi-Strauss; at the same time, however, having made use of Levi-Strauss finding a means of distancing himself from the source text. What he quotes from Levi-Strauss would seem, on the face of it, to have exactly the same kinds of reservation and hesitation about the emergence or birth of language that Derrida himself has.

Levi-Strauss writes:. Whatever may have been the moment and the circumstances of its appearance in the scale of animal life, language could only have been born in one fell swoop. Things could not have set about signifying progressively.

Following a transformation the study of which is not the concern of the social sciences but rather of biology and psychology, a crossing over came about from a stage where nothing had a meaning to another where everything possessed it. In other words, bam! All of a sudden you had language. You had a semiotic system, whereas before, yesterday, or a minute ago you had no language at all. You have, like lava emerging from a volcano, a rupture.

At the same time, he points out by way of criticism that to suppose that yesterday there was no language, there were just things as they are without meaning, and that today there is language—that things have meaning as a result of there now being in place that semiotic system we call language—he points out that this means that culture somehow or another must come after nature.

There was nature; now there is culture, which is very much like an event or birth in the older sense. You can see ramifications of arguments of this sort for environmentalism as well as for ethnography.

But this very critique leveled against Levi-Strauss, he could have found in Levi-Strauss and does find it on other occasions. It is a declaration of absolute interdependency among the things that we understand in binary terms but that we take somehow one to be causative of the other when we think about them.

Again and again and again you will encounter this idea in Butler. The absolute interdependency of these concepts is, again, central to her argument and to her understanding of things. This is a distinction which is not meant sort of counter-intuitively to suggest that somehow or another, as opposed to what we usually think, writing precedes speech—not at all.

We cannot say writing came into being belatedly with respect to speech in order to reproduce, imitate, or transcribe speech. Writing and speech are interdependent and interrelated phenomena which do different things. Now these two words precisely express in French what Derrida is trying to describe as the double meaning of supplementarity. How can A be B? A is only A.

This much we know. In the grammatical sense there is no sort of mystification about the metaphor. In the grammatical sense, this word is the means or principal of predication whereby we say one thing is another thing: the mare is the female of the horse, for example.

That is the main topic of what we have to say about de Man today. Now last time I said a little bit about the presence of Derrida and de Man together, together with a scholar named J. But this was a moment of particular and headlined notoriety in the history of academic thinking about literature, and a moment in which academic thinking about literature had a peculiar influence on topics much broader than literature.

It began to infiltrate other disciplines and was in general a high-spirited horse for that certain period of time. Then Miller eventually in the eighties went to Irvine, Derrida followed him there, and in Paul de Man died, and the main force of the movement began to give way to other interests and other tendencies and trends both here at Yale and elsewhere.

That was the fact that in his youth, de Man, still living in Belgium, the nephew of a distinguished socialist politician in Belgium, wrote for a Nazi-sponsored Belgian newspaper a series of articles anti-Semitic in tendency, a couple of them openly anti-Semitic or at least sort of racially Eurocentric in ways, that argued for the exclusion of Jews from the intellectual life of Europe and so on.

Now all of this is a matter of record and I suppose needs to be paused over a little bit. So, as I say, there was a considerable controversy swirling around this article, and just as is the case with Heidegger, it has been very difficult to read de Man in the same way again as a result of what we now know.

Let me just say though also that—and I think this was largely confessed by the people engaged in the controversy although some people did go farther—there is no cryptically encoded rightism either in de Man or in deconstruction. There are two possible ways of reacting to this, one positive and one negative. The negative way is to say that undecidability opens a void in the intellect and in consciousness into which fanaticism and tyranny can rush.

The positive reaction, however, to undecidability is this: undecidability is a perpetually vigilant scrutiny of all opinion as such, precisely in order to withstand and to resist those most egregious and incorrigible opinions of all: the opinions of fanaticism and tyranny. In other words, you can take two views in effect of skepticism: [laughs] the one that it is, in its insistence on a lack of foundation for opinion, a kind of passive acquiescence in whatever rises up in its face; and on the other hand, you can argue that without skepticism, everybody is vulnerable to excessive commitment to opinion, which is precisely the thing that skepticism is supposed to resist.

More than one can say or care to admit, it may ultimately be a matter of temperament which path one chooses to take. All right. That is to say, the entire tissue, structure, and nature of our lives—including history, which we know textually is all there is—our lives are textual lives. In genuine semiology as well as in other linguistically oriented theories, the referential [and notice the citation of Jakobson here] function of language is not being denied.

Far from it. That is not at all the case. Reality is there, reality is what it is, and the referential function is perpetually in play in language, trying to hook on to that reality. De Man goes on to say very challengingly:] What we call ideology is precisely the confusion of linguistic with natural reality, of reference with phenomenalism.

Now similarly, they both take for granted that it is very difficult to think about beginnings, but at the same time, one has to have some way, some proto-structuralist way, of understanding that before a certain moment—that is to say, before a certain synchronic cross-section—things were different from the way they were in some successive moment.

What both Derrida and de Man say about the difference when one thinks of language coming into being, from thinking about all those other things coming into being, is that language does not purport to stand outside of itself. It cannot stand outside of itself. It cannot constitute itself. We have to resist excessive commitment to this idea of it being a center, but it is at least not a center which somehow stands outside of itself and is a center only in the sense that it is some remote, hidden, impersonal, distant cause.

Language is caught up in itself in a way that all of these other moments were not. It is easy enough to see that this apparent glorification of the critic-philosopher in the name of truth is in fact a glorification of the poet as the primary source of this truth….

What he means is what he says in the following clauses. In other words, truth arises out of error. Error is not a deviance from truth. On the contrary, philosophy properly understood is what comes into being when one has achieved full recognition of a preexisting error. That is the way in which de Man wants to think about the relationship precisely between literature and other forms of speech.

In saying that, I want to move immediately to the differences with Derrida. Derrida, as I said, believes in a kind of seamless web of discourse or discursivity. We are awash in discourse. Yes, we can provisionally or heuristically speak of one form of discourse as opposed to another—literature, law, theology, science and so on—but it is all easily undermined and demystified as something that has real independent integrity. De Man does not believe this. De Man thinks, on the contrary, that there is such a thing as literariness.

He follows Jakobson much more consistently in this regard than Derrida does. Again and again he says that the important thing is to insist on the difference between literature and other forms of discourse. There are all kinds of passages I could elicit in support of this. He says:. The code is unusually conspicuous, complex, and enigmatic; it attracts an inordinate amount of attention to itself, and this attention has to acquire the rigor of a method.

The structural moment of concentration on the code for its own sake cannot be avoided, and literature necessarily breeds its own formalism. Well, it is the disclosure of error that other forms of discourse supposing themselves to refer to things remain unaware of. Literature knows itself to be fictive. This is after all perfectly true. The author may have been looking out of the window, [laughs] but literature, as we encounter it and as a text, is not looking out of the window.

How can a text look out of the window? All of us [de Man continues] know this although we know it in the misleading way of a wishful assertion of the opposite, yet the truth emerges in the foreknowledge we possess of the true nature of literature when we refer to it as fiction.

This is why in the last passage on your sheet from the interview with Stefano Rosso, de Man is willing to venture on a categorical distinction between his own work and that of his very close friend, Jacques Derrida. I have a tendency to put upon texts [and he means literary texts] an inherent authority which is stronger, I think, than Derrida is willing to put on them. In a complicated way, I would hold to the statement that the text deconstructs itself [In other words, literature is the perpetual denial of its referentiality], is self-deconstructive rather than being deconstructed by a philosophical intervention [that which Jacques Derrida does—that is to say, Jacques Derrida bringing his sort of delicate sledgehammer down on every conceivable form of utterance from the outside—right—rather than being deconstructed by a philosophical intervention from outside the text].

So those are some remarks then on the differences and the similarities between de Man and Derrida. What about reality? De Man says in this atmosphere of response—at the top of page , the left-hand column, he says:. The task of the essay is to deny the complementarity—the mutual reinforcement even in rigorous rhetorical analysis like that of Gerard Genette, Todorov, Barthes and others, all of whom he says have regressed from the rigor of Jakobson—to deny that in rhetorical analysis rhetorical and grammatical aspects of discourse can be considered collusive, continuous, or cooperative with each other.

Both readings are available. Now the rhetorical question completes the usual reading of the poem. How can we tell the dancer from the dance? This is also a grammatical question. What nonsense poetry speaks. Then de Man, who happens to be a Yeats scholar—he published a dissertation on Yeats and really knows his Yeats—starts adducing examples from all over the canon of Yeats to the effect that Yeats is perfectly knowing and self-conscious about these grammatical differences, and that there is a measure of irony in the poem that saves it from this sort of symbolizing mystification.

He makes a perfectly plausible argument to the effect that the question is grammatical rather than rhetorical. They cannot be reconciled as traditional students of the relationship between rhetoric and grammar in studying the rhetorical and grammatical effects of literature take for granted.

Every sentence is a predication, and if every sentence is a predication, it also has the structure of a metaphor; and the metaphor in a sentence and the predication in a sentence are always going to be at odds.

Semiology and Rhetoric by Paul de Man

When was this essay first published? What does he see as the flaw of semiology as he has encountered it in French models? Why is it useful or necessary to separate these two? What does he find to differ with in the identification of rhetoric with persuasion? With what views does he credit C. How does de Man define a rhetorical question?


Paul de Man's “Semiology and Rhetoric” · The main argument of de Man's seminal essay can be stated as follows: The grounds of literary meaning (and by​.


Key Theories of Paul de Man

To think about literature is to think theoretically. This is not arid academicism. It affects the way students will respond to literature for the rest of their lives. If this is not the most important thing in the world to understand, it is certainly not the least.

While we are building a new and improved webshop, please click below to purchase this content via our partner CCC and their Rightfind service. You will need to register with a RightFind account to finalise the purchase. A stellar cast of fifteen contributors seeks to show the direction in which continental and continentally oriented American literary criticism has evolved in recent years. Nine of the essays are published here for the first time; five of the remaining six were translated, by the editor, from the French; only one has previously appeared in English. The essays make available some of the most important and most representative work that has been done in the wake of structuralism.

At the time of his death, de Man was one of the most prominent literary critics in the United States—known particularly for his importation of German and French philosophical approaches into Anglo-American literary studies and critical theory. 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. These, in combination with revelations about his domestic life and financial history, caused a scandal and provoked a reconsideration of his life and work.

Figures of speech tropes allow the writer to say something and mean something else.

Department of English

In this second lecture on deconstruction, Professor Paul Fry concludes his consideration of Derrida and begins to explore the work of Paul de Man. Chapter 1. You may not find it congenial; but supposing that you are intrigued by Derrida to account for this last sentence, to show how it picks up motifs generated throughout the essay, how it returns the essay to its beginning, and to consider very carefully its metaphors—it reflects on its own metaphors—I think you might find intriguing. The passage is:. I employ these words, I admit, with a glance toward the business of childbearing—but also with a glance toward those who, in a company from which I do not exclude myself, turn their eyes away in the face of the as yet unnamable, which is proclaiming itself and which can do so, as is necessary whenever a birth is in the offing, only under the species of the non-species in the formless, mute, infant, and terrifying form of monstrosity.

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