Theory and the Disappearing Future
On de Man, On Benjamin
Routledge – 2011 – 184 pages
Paul de Man is often associated with an era of ‘high theory’, an era it is argued may now be coming to a close. This book, written by three leading contemporary scholars, includes both a transcript and facsimile print of a previously unpublished text by de Man of his handwritten notes for a lecture on Walter Benjamin. Challenging and relevant, this volume presents de Man’s work as a critical resource for dealing with the most important questions of the twenty-first century and argues for the place of theory within it.
The humanities are flooded with crises of globalism, capitalism and terrorism, contemporary narratives of financial collapse, viral annihilation, species extinction, environmental disaster and terrorist destruction. Cohen, Colebrook and Miller draw out the implications of these crises and their narratives and, reflecting on this work by de Man, explore the limits of political thinking, of historical retrieval and the ethics of archives and cultural memory.
'A surprising and provocative intervention in thinking about deconstruction and environmental crisis, an exciting shift in direction.' - Timothy Clark, Durham University, UK
'This gem of a book should be read by anyone who wants to avoid repeating the past. Like a faintly heard, uncanny background noise that starts to ooze menacingly around the facile conversations in the foreground, de Man emerges as a figure with a crucial message regarding the current world historical, ecological emergency. De Man rises again, not the person as such, but the persona: a deconstructor distinct from Derrida, attuned to the radical contingency and secrecy of language, the impossibility of easy ways out. De Man is put into conversation with Deleuze and Guattari, Agamben, even de Landa and Lovelock. De Man returns from the dead, not as a rejuvenated person but as a haunting warning against compulsive affirmations of 'life.' Oh, and there's a very beautiful set of his notes on Benjamin, in facsimile and transcription.' - Timothy Morton, University of California, Davis, USA
Part 1: de Man on Benjamin Introduction, Claire Colebrook Transcript Notes on the Task of the Translator, Paul de Man Part 2: Theory and the Disappearing Future 1. Paul de Man at Work: In These Bad Days, What Good is an Archive?, J. Hillis Miller 2.Toxic Assets: De Man’s Remains and the Ecocatastrophic Imaginary (an American Fable), Tom Cohen 3. The Calculus of Individual Worth, Claire Colebrook
Tom Cohen is Professor of Literary, Cultural and Media Studies, University at Albany, SUNY, USA.
Claire Colebrook was Professor of Modern Literary Theory at the University of Edinburgh from 2000-2008 and is now a professor of English at Penn State University, USA.
J. Hillis Miller is Distinguished Research Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Irvine, USA. He olds honorary degrees as Doctor of Letters from the University of Florida, Doctor of Humane Letters at Bucknell University, and Doctor Honoris Cause at the University of Zaragoza. He is also Honorary Professor of Peking University and past president of the Modern Language Association.