The Utter Misery of the Human Mind: Apotropaic and Theotropic in de Man's Rousseau

Nigel Mapp

in The Political Archive of Paul de Man

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780748665617
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780748676637 | DOI:
The Utter Misery of the Human Mind: Apotropaic and Theotropic in de Man's Rousseau

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This chapter argues that De Man's rhetorical readings not only make the apparent demystification of emotion a vital moment, but also enlist them as a critical thrust in some readings. His severity concerning ethical and aesthetic obliterations of texts as texts may have to do with his interest in the cognitive and linguistic character or dimensions of emotions, then, and it is only a kind of rationalistic dismemberment of understanding, where knowledge and feeling are sundered, that is targeted. There is after all a lot of discussion in the later de Man about passions and emotions. And however ‘apathetic’ or technical those discussions generally are and seem to wish to be, there is also nevertheless to many of them a significant aspect of pathetic dramatization, or emotional charge, that can look like the critic's own compulsive, affective extra rather than something earned in or derived from the reading of the work under investigation. But that pathos is cognitively productive — or simply cognitive — and can allow something further to be read.

Keywords: Paul de Man; rhetorical readings; emotions; knowledge; feeling

Chapter.  8523 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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