Chapter

Inscribing the Political: Paul de Man and the Wild Art of Letter Writing

Kevin Newmark

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748665617.003.0008
Inscribing the Political: Paul de Man and the Wild Art of Letter Writing

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This chapter asks how the passage from trope to performance occurs in the writing of Paul de Man. Where does the emergence of a language of power from a language of cognition be said to occur as an actual event in its own right? The answer leads back to a formulation that recurs in de Man's work after Allegories of Reading. ‘The bottom line’, he will at one point insist, ‘is the prosaic materiality of the letter’. The shift from a tropological to a different mode of language effected through epistemological critique must itself be articulated in such a way as to leave its mark on the world, though not simply in the mode of either tropological or performative structures of language. The name de Man gives to this marked articulation that he also calls history is curiously enough the letter, or more precisely, the prosaic materiality of the letter.

Keywords: Paul de Man; trope; cognition; language; prosaic materiality

Chapter.  7050 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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