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From Work to Text and Back

Around 1980, those of us coming up in literary studies learned that we could no longer refer to a work of art. The term had become obsolete. If you uttered it even in passing, you appeared behind the times, not up-to-date. You had to use another word: text. Roland Barthes announced . . . . Continue Reading »

Vulgar Deconstruction

Back in the 1970s, when the humanities still set the intellectual tone for the college campus, it was common for advanced scholars to divide the personnel in two: There were those who understood High Theory and those who didn’t. New ideas and methods were in the air. Leading-edge journals and . . . . Continue Reading »

Derrida, Death, and Forgiveness

Barth, Derrida, and the Language of Theologyby graham ward cambridge university press, 258 pages, $54.95 The Gift of Deathby jacques derrida, translated by david wills university of chicago press, 115 pages, $18.95 Though Jacques Derrida is perhaps France’s best-known living philosopher, his . . . . Continue Reading »

On the Death of Literature

Those who began to study literature before the radicalization of the university in the 1970s learned that literary criticism was not only a valid undertaking in itself but a way to understand the larger culture and, indeed, the human condition in general. For a time, it seemed that just as much of . . . . Continue Reading »

The Question of the Sign

Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man by David Lehman Poseidon Press/Simon & Schuster, 318 pages, $21.95 David Lehman’s book on deconstruction has the rare quality of being better than its jacket blurbs and prepublication puffs. It is more than “lively and engaging” . . . . Continue Reading »

Ideology Therapy

Wise is he to whom all things taste as they are.—Joseph Pieper The first time the popular use of “pragmatic” registered on me was during the campaign of 1960. Time explained that religion was not a real danger with either Kennedy or Nixon, since both were “pragmatic.” It was . . . . Continue Reading »

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