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Reading Jane Austen in Wartime

Date published: 

August, 2008

Reading Jane Austen in Wartime

Mary A. Favret, Indiana University-Bloomington


  1. Why teach Jane Austen in wartime? An old commonplace has it that Jane Austen's novels showed little awareness of a world disrupted by revolution and war. There are many versions of this thought, but I will cite only one of the more sophisticated, coming from another wartime novelist, Virginia Woolf: 

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Professing Literature: John Guillory's Misreading of Paul de Man

This essay examines John Guillory's influential reading of de Man in Cultural Capital. Guillory characterizes de Manian rhetorical reading as a symptom of, and a defense against, the increasing marginality of literary culture, and the increasing bureaucratization of the professoriat. Redfield argues that Guillory is right to claim that de Man's performance as a teacher and critic is inseparable from the professionalization of reading in the modern university, but that he is wrong to claim that de Man's text fails to reflect on this aspect of its own production. On the one hand, Guillory's text reads as a summa of anti-de Manian cliches that have circulated ever since de Man's work began to gain wide attention in the 1970s; on the other hand, Guillory's forceful misreading opens up a truth beyond the reach of more timid interpretations. In the wake of Guillory's flawed but productive interpretation, it becomes possible to think of de Man's oeuvre as a reflection on institutionality and pedagogy precisely because this oeuvre focuses so stubbornly on the problem of reading reading.
May 2005

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Response: Reading the Aesthetic, Reading Romanticism

This essay responds to essays by Ian Balfour, David Ferris, and Karen Swann that examine the centrality of the question of the aesthetic both within Romantic studies and within the academic institution of literary and cultural criticism. They may also all three be said to exemplify the diverse legacy of deconstruction, and more particularly that of Paul de Man. David Ferris mounts for inspection de Man’s analysis of aesthetic education as founded in a violence it must also conceal. Karen Swann draws attention to those strange, beautiful human forms one encounters now and then in Shelley’s poetry—figures suspended between life and death, within landscapes of wreckage and loss—and she elaborates de Man’s severe emphasis on aesthetic monumentalization into a rich reading of the kind of biographical material—memoirs, anecdotes, letters—that is so often marshalled as an antidote to textual complexity. Ian Balfour emphasizes the way Kantian aesthetics and Romantic writing generally render inadequate psychological and individualist notions of the subject. These three essays all, in their different ways, show that the aesthetic fulfills itself in turning against itself; that it succeeds through failure; that it ruins even as it reproduces the monumental artwork, the monumentalized artist, the psychological subject, and the space of pedagogical and political formation within which modern subjects come to pass. These essays also suggest that the uncertain, conflicted phenomenon that we go on stubbornly calling “Romanticism” continues to have so much to tell us precisely because it names a literary-historical displacement of the aesthetic.
February 2005

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Ekphrasis and the Other

February, 1997

Ekphrasis and the Other

W. J. T. MITCHELL

This article reproduced as part of
the Romantic Circles Electronic Edition of Shelley's "Medusa"
by kind permission of the University of Chicago Press.

"Ekphrasis and the Other" by W. J. T. Mitchell from PICTURE THEORY published by The University of Chicago Press, copyright 1994 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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White, "Menace to Philosophy: Jacques Derrida and the Academic Sublime"

This essay explores how Derrida’s writings on the institutions of philosophy (primarily in __Du Droit à la Philosophie__) draw on the discourse of the sublime to rethink the university as a site of institutional responsibility. In the university, philosophy undergoes 'the risk of presentation'--at once exposing itself to and yet shielding itself from an apparently menacing exteriority. Through a sometimes ironic figuration of the sublime, Derrida explores how one can defend a right to philosophy and yet still strive to leave philosophy without defenses or defensiveness--that is, open to exteriority and to 'the entirely other of a terrifying future.' This essay appears in _The Sublime and Education_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.

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Pyle, "Letter on an Aestheticist Education"

Pyle's epistolary essay approaches the topic of a sublime education first as a particular pedagogical assignment: just how does one teach the sublime as a mode of aesthetic experience as well as a question posed for and by philosophical aesthetics. This directive prompts readings of two poems by Shelley which explicitly link aesthetic experience to forms of instruction: 'Hymn to Intellectual Beauty' and 'Mont Blanc.' He argues that one lesson to be learned from Shelley's poetic teaching is an aestheticism. Subsequent sections in the essay address the implications of this aestheticism for those who resist it (de Man, Spivak) and those who don't (Wilde, Foucault). He concludes the essay by turning to a passage—at once sublime and pedagogical—from _The Triumph of Life_ which arrives at what he calls a genuinely radical aestheticism.. This essay appears in _The Sublime and Education_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.

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