Resistance To Theory (Theory and History of Literature)
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The title essay in this book does not engage in a debate with the polemical opponents of literary theory; to Paul de Man, the resistance to theory is inherent in the theoretical enterprise itself, and the real debate is with its own methodological assumptions and possibilities.
dissociated, and than the thematic paraphrase which it tends to render superfluous. Books such as I. A. Richards' Practical Criticism or Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity, not to mention their New Critical extensions, never left the slightest trace on French literary studies. It is no exaggeration to say that, with very few and entirely non-academic exceptions,6 French literary criticism developed and flourished by bypassing the question of reading altogether. Up till very recently, French
pressure of their persistence as well as of genuine affinities between their enterprise and his own, he has acknowledged some of their findings, it has always been a guarded and partial recognition. There are good pedagogical and ideological reasons, of local rather than general interest, for this reserve. The tactics of exclusion, on the other hand, are so familiar as to constitute, within the Community of literary scholarship, a mass reaction: in a long tradition, more familiar even in the
und Praxis (Munich, 1975). 5. The sequence of volumes containing the proceedings of the yearly meetings of the research group have appeared since 1963 under the general title Poetik und Hermeneutik. READING AND HISTORY D 71 6. See, for example, Martin Heidegger's introductory statement in Erlduterungen z,u Holderlins Dichtung (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1951), p. 8. 7. Aristotle, Rhetoric, p. 1406b. 8. Rainer Warning, "Rezeptionsasthetik als literaturwissenschaftliche Pragmatik," in
part of Rousseau's novel. In this exchange, the question is no longer a question of who or what: it would be naive to ask who DIALOGUE AND DIALOGISM D 113 wins the match since in this model, Rousseau, as author, controls the moves of each of the antagonists. And it would be equally naive to ask over what one is fighting: one fights over whether or not there is a question, which means that one is at least twice removed from any possibility of an answer as to what, in this fight, is at stake.
all people who generally came from the tradition of Surrealism, specifically Bataille, Blanchot, even critics like Bachelard who were working in a very different vein than Sartre. And in the slight opposition which became visible, for example, in the debate that developed between Sartre and Blanchot —in Sartre's piece on Qu'est-ce que la litterature which was very much read and discussed, to which Blanchot then wrote a kind of answer which was called La litterature et le droit a la mort — I felt