De Man vs. ‘Deconstruction’: Or, Who, Today, Speaks for the Anthropocene?

Tom Cohen

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:
De Man vs. ‘Deconstruction’: Or, Who, Today, Speaks for the Anthropocene?

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This chapter argues that De Man's draft of Textual Allegories returns one to a site in which the (then) future trajectory of ‘deconstruction’ was unformed. His instinct was to cut it off in advance, as any performative deconstruction claiming to undo a metaphysical hierarchy would, itself, need to be deconstructed in turn, and again, to the nth exponential. It is misleading to ask if such a writing is relevant today because the deleted term theotropic adds something fresh. It got in the way of what could more easily be described as anthrotropic in the absence of ‘man’ (as void metaphor). It leans the other way to numerous retro-humanisms that have regathered at this site today, or even under pop ‘deconstruction’ — whether under the lure of Levinasian ‘ethics’, or the organicist thought of phantom multitudes.

Keywords: Paul de Man; Textual Allegories; deconstruction; metaphysics; theotropic; nthrotropic

Chapter.  9530 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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