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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the record straight
This volume of essays is beautiful and haunting, as well as haunted: nowhere does Derrida simply or unthoughtfully dismiss De Man's past, nor does he shrink from admitting the almost unassimilable fact of this history. Rather, he uses it--as well as De Man's death itself--to think through problems both interpretive and ethical. Those interested in the truth behind De...
Published on December 15, 2003

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14 of 68 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Banal defense of an anti-semitism
Paul De Man spent his early years in Europe as a confirmed Anti-Semitic fascist. When the Nazis invaded his homeland, he actively collaborated in creating and disseminating virulent polemics against Jews. After the war De Man fled to America. He was hired to teach at Yale (great background check, guys) while desperately attempting to conceal his wartime activities...
Published on July 23, 1999


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the record straight, December 15, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Memoires for Paul de Man (Paperback)
This volume of essays is beautiful and haunting, as well as haunted: nowhere does Derrida simply or unthoughtfully dismiss De Man's past, nor does he shrink from admitting the almost unassimilable fact of this history. Rather, he uses it--as well as De Man's death itself--to think through problems both interpretive and ethical. Those interested in the truth behind De Man's past would do well--as, I suspect, another reviewer here has not--to carefully research that past, like Derrida and other scholars have. De Man's wartime writings are undeniably deplorable, but one must also--as Derrida does--read them carefully and, perhaps, with reference to a whole lifetime of later work. (De Man was very young at the time of the earliest writings, and in the position of making an ethical choice which proved extraordinarily difficult to tens of thousands of other French men and women of the period, the vast majority of whom responded, it must be admitted, little better than De Man.) Most important, the interested reader is encouraged to discover what "deconstructionism" (a practice, not a school) is and what it is not: one thing it decidedly is not, however, is "an intellectually disreputable philosophy which claimed that works of art may be freely interpreted by observers without consideration for the creator's intentions." The reviewer here seems to be thinking of New Criticism (a theoretical and methodological school much earlier than--and vastly different from--deconstructionism, led by folks like the famous duo Wimsatt and Warren, as well as Cleanth Brooks, I.A. Richards, John Crowe Ransom, and others.) It was the New Critics who proclaimed against the "intentional fallacy" (the belief that criticism ought to attempt to ferret out the author's true, final "intention" in the work); a fairly conservative product of a conservative era (the 1940s and 50s), New Criticism was hardly a bastion of cultural relativism. Deconstruction, on the other hand, suggests that texts--like language--often exceed and undo the intentions of the author; they manifest unavoidable contradictions and crossed committments, and this undecidability renders a simple, singular reading impossible. As an exemplary model of this practice, turned toward questions of ethics, commitment, and friendship, this is a lovely and important volume.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mourning and Melancholia, September 30, 1999
By A Customer
Although Derrida utilizes the death of a friend to illustrate reflections on other thinkers, the text primarily illustrates the double bind we find ourselves in when those close to us die, as illustrated in Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia" as well as in Holderin. We find ourselves making an impossible decision. We may repair our memories inward like a "tomb", a "bad object" incorporation resulting in an inward flow of libidinal cathexes, leading to a dead, incorporated otherness and a narcissistic and deadened state, or retrieve our libidinal investitures from our deceased friend, resulting in a sense of betrayal. A timeless human dilemna illustrated beautifully here. I suppose a third choice is a healthy dose of therapy. Maybe M. Derrida should have called on his buddy M. Lacan when he had the chance, like M. Althusser? At any rate, I can't comment on De Man's political activities prior to his Yale appointment because I don't know. I suppose I'm just an irresponsible intellectual. Nonetheless, "Memoires" is worthwhile for those initiated in continental thought and some of the nuances of presentation.
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14 of 68 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Banal defense of an anti-semitism, July 23, 1999
By A Customer
Paul De Man spent his early years in Europe as a confirmed Anti-Semitic fascist. When the Nazis invaded his homeland, he actively collaborated in creating and disseminating virulent polemics against Jews. After the war De Man fled to America. He was hired to teach at Yale (great background check, guys) while desperately attempting to conceal his wartime activities. De Man became famous at Yale for founding the School of Deconstructionism, an intellectually disreputable philosophy which claimed that works of art may be freely interpreted by observers without consideration for the creator's intentions. In other words, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" might have one meaning to a Bantu and another meaning to a Swede without concern for Hitler's intentions. This type of moral equivocation appealed to members of the politically correct sect, which faithfully regurgitated De Man's shallow assertions. Early in his Yale career De Man's European escapades became known to the senior staff and faculty at Yale. When confronted by his accusers, De Man lied. Yale never publicized De Man's record of violent bigotry (great moral courage, guys), allowing De Man to proselytize his message of moral relativism for decades without public recognition of the Great Scholar's character or moral fitness.
In the person of Paul De Man the politically correct are forced to confront the true nature of their inhuman philosophy. Thomas Jefferson preached freedom and liberalism while owning slaves, in direct contradiction of his philosophy, becoming a hypocrite. De Man preached genocide against helpless minorities, lied after the fact, and never apologized for his actions. In doing so he conformed perfectly to the moral relativism of political correctness. Deconstructionism became the intellectual shield behind which hides the totalitarian urge.
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Memoires for Paul de Man
Memoires for Paul de Man by Jacques Derrida (Paperback - April 15, 1989)
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