Manfred Frank

(b. 1945)

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Germanphilosopher and cultural critic. A prolific author of books on the German Romantic tradition in philosophy (especially the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Johann Gottlieb Fichte), very few of which have been translated into English, Frank is probably best known though for his sympathetic critiques of deconstruction and post-structuralism, or what he himself labels neostructuralism. Operating in the hermeneutic tradition of Hans Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, but radicalizing their positions significantly, Frank charges Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard with underplaying the importance of the subject and overplaying the arbitrariness of the sign. Frank upholds the structuralist position that the sign is constituted in a systematic network of interconnections between other signs, but resists the implication that the meaning of specific signs is completely arbitrary. He insists rather that meaning is multi-layered and that the network of signs is influenced by history. But rather than argue, as structuralism does, that it is the system of signs that confers meaning, Frank takes the contrary view and suggests that it is the historically sedimented meaning of signs that produce structures.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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