Chapter

History Against Historicism, Formal Matters, and the Event of the Text: De Man With Benjamin

Marc Redfield

in Legacies of Paul de Man

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227600
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240951 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823227600.003.0004
History Against Historicism, Formal Matters, and the Event of the Text: De Man With Benjamin

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One reason de Man's work fell out of favor in the last two decades surely has to do with the rise of the New Historicism and related historicisms and materialisms: the swing of Foucault's pendulum, as it were. A widespread sense prevailed that de Man's thinking posed, in unduly formalist fashion, the literary text against or outside of history rather than embedded in it, or perhaps that de Man reduced history to a matter of textuality, narrowly construed. Surely one of the most valuable “legacies of Paul de Man” is the genuinely critical conception of history he draws out of the texts of the romantics. Indeed, one could say that de Man's thinking of history—in fact, what he in his last essays calls “material history” or “the materiality of actual history” (and what no doubt constitutes one of the most valuable and enduring legacies he has bequeathed to us)—gets produced by his reflection on, and reading of, the romantics.

Keywords: historicisms; construed; genuinely; bequeathed; legacies

Chapter.  5870 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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