Deconstruction as Pretext | Paul de Man and Academia | Simulacra

Read the full article | The Weekly Standard Book Review
When de Man died in 1983, he was at the height of his influence…. Deconstruction was an academic orthodoxy, and its high priests—Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman, and Harold Bloom (since then something of an apostate)—were the well-remunerated guardians of its sacred truths. After de Man’s death, appreciations appeared in prominent literary weeklies, and new volumes gathered together his unpublished and uncollected work. His memorial service in New Haven, where he had been Sterling professor of humanities and head of the comparative literature department at Yale, was the equivalent of a state funeral.

Then, in 1988, a graduate student made an astonishing discovery. Between 1940 and 1942, unbeknownst to any of his academic peers, Paul de Man had written nearly 200 articles, most of them on ostensibly literary themes, for two collaborationist newspapers. These articles, which were soon translated and published in the United States, saw de Man praising generic “Western” writers for their ability to shake off the cultural baggage of Jewish mediocrity and endorsing the idea that all of Europe’s Jews should be deported en masse, through Franz Rademacher’s so-called Madagascar Plan.


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