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Paul de Man and the Future of Rhetorical Reading

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Organizer: Nathan Brown

Co-Organizer: Ronald Mendoza-de Jesús

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In “The Epistemology of Metaphor,” Paul de Man suggests that “the relationship and the distinction between literature and philosophy cannot be made in terms of a distinction between aesthetic and epistemological categories. All philosophy is condemned, to the extent that it is dependent on figuration, to be literary and, as the depository of this very problem, all literature is to some extent philosophical.” This seminar will return to the relation between literature and philosophy via de Man’s interrogation of their tropological mingling and the attention to rhetoric it demands. Decades after its articulation in the work of de Man and Derrida (especially in “White Mythology”), what is at stake in a methodological orientation toward figuration and the epistemological problems it brings to bear? Might such an orientation help us hold onto the specificity of theory, working within and across literature and philosophy? What is at issue in the pointed qualifications de Man’s formulation introduces: “to the extent that” and “to some extent”? How are the capacities of formalization related to the detours of figuration, and how might we understand the contribution of literary texts to problems of conceptual determination in philosophy?
Seeking to assess the importance of Paul de Man’s work for theory, comparative literary studies, and philosophical inquiry today, we welcome papers addressing the significance of rhetorical reading for the future of critique, interpretation, and disciplinarity.  

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