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The Yale Critics

Deconstruction in America

1983

Jonathan Arac, Wlad Godzich, and Wallace Martin, editors

The Yale Critics

The ten essayists in this book consider the “Yale critics”—Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller—in the context of American criticism and the critical tradition. The editors note in the preface that “The largest context that continually concerns us is that of the gap between Anglo-American and Continental criticism, resulting from a difference in social experience. … By selecting contributors who, in different ways, find themselves between these two traditions, we hope that we have made our volume interesting and accessible to the American reader.”

The ten essayists in this book consider the “Yale critics”—Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller—in the context of American criticism and the critical tradition. The editors note in the preface that “The largest context that continually concerns us is that of the gap between Anglo-American and Continental criticism, resulting from a difference in social experience. … By selecting contributors who, in different ways, find themselves between these two traditions, we hope that we have made our volume interesting and accessible to the American reader.”

“A disciplined, surprisingly clear, and integrated set of ten essays about the Yale critics both as a school and as four highly distinct individuals.”

American Literature, Dec. 1983, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p. 678

A heated debate has been raging in North America in recent years over the form and function of literature. At the center of the fray is a group of critics teaching at Yale University - Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller - whose work can be described in relation to the deconstructive philosophy practiced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. For over a decade the Yale Critics have aroused controversy; most often they are considered as a group, to be applauded or attacked, rather than as individuals whose ideas merit critical scrutiny. Here a new generation of scholars attempts for the first time a serious, broad assessment of the Yale group. These essays appraise the Yale Critics by exploring their roots, their individual careers, and the issues they introduce.

Wallace Martin’s introduction offers a brilliant, compact account of the Yale Critics and of their relation to deconstruction and the deconstruction to two characteristically Anglo-American enterprises; Paul Bove explores the new criticism and Wlad Godzich the reception of Derrida in America. Next come essays giving individual attention to each of the critics: Michael Sprinker on Hartman, Donald Pease on Miller, Stanley Corngold on de Man, and Daniel O’Hara on Bloom. Two essays then illuminate “deconstruction in America” through a return to modern continental philosophy: Donald Marshall on Maurice Blanchot, and Rodolphe Gasche on Martin Heidegger. Finally, Jonathan Arac’s afterword brings the volume together and projects a future beyond the Yale Critics.

Throughout, the contributors aim to provide a balanced view of a subject that has most often been treated polemically. While useful as an introduction, The Yale Critics also engages in a serious critical reflection on the uses of the humanities in American today.

The Yale Critics

Jonathan Arac, Andrew W. Mellon professor at the University of Pittsburgh, is the author of Commissioned Spirits; The Shaping of Social Motion in Dickens, Carlyle, Melville, and Hawthorne. His essays on recent criticism have appeared in Diacritics, boundary 2, and Salmagundi.

Wlad Godzich is professor of literature at UC-Santa Cruz. He is co-editor of the University of Minnesota Press series, Theory and History of Literature. Among his publications is The Culture of Literacy.

Wallace Martin is professor of English, emeritus, at the University of Toledo and is the author of “The New Age” under Orage: Chapters in English Cultural History. His articles on critical theory have appeared in Comparative Literature, Critical Inquiry, and Diacritics.

The Yale Critics

“A disciplined, surprisingly clear, and integrated set of ten essays about the Yale critics both as a school and as four highly distinct individuals.”

American Literature, Dec. 1983, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p. 678