Legacies of Paul de Man
Courses Taught by Paul de Man during the Yale Era
Marc Redfield, Claremont Graduate University
More than most thinkers—even more than most professional academic thinkers—Paul de Man offers us a "legacy" inseparable from his role as a teacher. Since this pedagogical persona figures largely in the phantasmatics of the de Man legend as well as in more prosaic forms of his reception, it has seemed worth documenting here the courses he taught, both at Yale and elsewhere, after accepting a Yale professorship in 1970.
My data is drawn from a book in progress on de Man and the Yale years. The list of courses is substantially complete for those years, though one or two seminars may be missing (the semesters of Fall 72 and Spring 81 look as though they should record another course). I've been unable to obtain any comparably concrete information about de Man's teaching at Cornell or Johns Hopkins, and I'm still trying to unearth course numbers for several of the Yale seminars; in all cases I would be grateful for any information anyone might have (please contact email@example.com). (Many thanks to Tom Keenan, Kevin Newmark, and Andrzej Warminski for their help with what follows.)
All the Yale University courses are graduate courses except for "Literature Z," as it was called when de Man and Geoffrey Hartman introduced it in 1977; after that first year it was renamed "Literature 130." The graduate seminars are more or less self-explanatory (though they raise interesting questions: I know of no study, for instance, that addresses itself to de Man's abiding interest in Gide). The story behind Lit Z, however, is worth telling. Most senior faculty at Yale have regular undergraduate teaching duties, but de Man, who had administrative responsibilities during most of these years as well as a couple of external teaching grants, taught relatively few undergraduates during his decade at Yale. (He chaired the French Department from 1974 to 1977, then Comparative Literature from 1978 until his death in 1983; furthermore, as detailed below, he led NEH-funded seminars in 1976-78.) Lit Z came into being as part of the Literature Major, which had been founded in 1972 by Peter Brooks, Alvin Kernan, and Michael Holquist as an undergraduate version of comparative literature. During its first few years—until course numbering was regularized in the late 1970s—the Literature Major had core courses bearing letter names: Lit X ("Man and His Fictions," a course with structuralist and narratological leanings that was later retitled for gender neutrality), and Lit Y (an overview of twentieth-century literary theory, usually taught as a lecture course by Peter Demetz). De Man seems to have been the main force behind the idea of a third Lit course. In Appendix II we have reproduced an internal position paper proposing the course; it is unsigned and undated, but written in de Man's distinctive style, presumably around 1975. It proposes Lit Z as "an introductory course in the reading and the interpretation of primary and secondary texts" to be team-taught by de Man and Hartman. The new course was to be
quite different from Literature X which deals with the relationship between literary fictions and society, and from Literature Y, which deals with the history of contemporary critical theory rather than with exegesis, or the practical application of critical theories. In Literature Z, students will read a series of increasingly difficult texts (poetic, narrative, dramatic, as well as historical, philosophical, and critical) and are initiated at the same time into the bewildering variety of ways in which such texts can be read. Through this emphasis on exegesis and interpretation they are also introduced to the linguistic and rhetorical models that may explain this semantic complexity. The purpose of the course is practical: it sets out to refine the process of reading and writing by drawing attention to some of its intrinsic complications. It can also help students to decide how gifted they in fact are for literary study. It should therefore be taken early in the student's career, preferably in the sophomore or junior year. Though the course has no language requirement, it makes use of some foreign language material, and one of its functions is to demonstrate the necessity of the knowledge of a second language for competent literary interpretation.
(I thank Peter Brooks for his help in making this document available to me; for further acknowledgements, see the headnote to Appendix II.) The course was approved, and de Man and Hartman team-directed it in the spring of 1977 and in several subsequent springs, as detailed below.
Lit 130 occasioned some anecdotes that have circulated ever since among theory buffs (de Man coming to the podium after a Hartman lecture on Keats, saying, "We've had beauty, now we'll have the truth"; de Man lecturing on Shelley's Triumph of Life, joking about his inability to pronounce the difference between "tread" and "thread" on which his interpretation was hanging). But the course also played a more serious role in the institutional production and transmission of de Manian rhetorical reading. Andrzej Warminski has pointed out to me that, in addition to its two lecturer-directors, Lit 130 also employed TA's (usually two, though in the first years de Man and Hartman each taught a section); these TA's, whose main job was to lead sections, were also expected to give a lecture apiece, and out of these lectures came many of the first "de Manian" readings to achieve publication (e.g., Barbara Johnson on Melville; Timothy Bahti on Benjamin; Andrzej Warminski on Hegel; other critics whose early publications include essays that began as Lit 130 lectures include Claudia Brodsky, Cathy Caruth, Tom Cohen, Deborah Esch, David Ferris, Tom Keenan, Kevin Newmark).
Lit 130 no longer exists at Yale, though it survived de Man's death by a few years. Cancelled in spring 1984, it was taught by Barbara Johnson in 1985, team-taught by Andrzej Warminski and Kevin Newmark in 1986 and 1987, by Cathy Caruth and David Ferris in 1988, and by Caruth and Newmark in 1989. It remains an intriguing and, to date, unexamined example of de Man's interest in and approach to literary-critical pedagogy—providing an important complement to and concretization of his remarks in "The Return to Philology" on Reuben Brower's HUM 6 undergraduate course at Harvard (for which de Man had been a TA in the 1950s). Furthermore, as these brief notes have tried to suggest, like the special issue of Studies in Romanticism that Sara Guyer discusses in this issue, Lit 130 merits study as a significant institutional medium of de Man's "legacy" within professional criticism.
Appointed to Yale, but on leave with Guggenheim
F 71: Comp Lit 130a: "Nietzsche's Theory of Rhetoric" French 142a: "Jean-Jacques Rousseau" S 72: Comp Lit 131b: "The Image of Rousseau in European Romanticism" French 163b: "Proust et la théorie du roman"
F 72: French 142a: "Jean-Jacques Rousseau (2ème partie)" S 73: Comp Lit 138b: "Romantic Autobiography" French 167b: "Mallarmé"
On leave, teaches "Methodology" and "Nietzsche" and "Rousseau" at the University of Zurich; "Rousseau" at the Free University of Berlin
F 74: French 149a: "Théorie du roman au XVIII siècle (Marivaux, Prévost et Diderot)" S 75: Comp Lit 140b: "Theories of Language in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries" French 165b: "André Gide"
F 75: French 174a: "Lecture de textes théoriques" S 76: Comp Lit 142b: "Theory of Irony" French 162b: "La poésie de Paul Valéry"
[Teaches a NEH summer seminar, summer 1976.]
F 76: [continuation of NEH seminar] S 77: Lit Zb: "Reading and Rhetorical Structures" (with Geoffrey Hartman) "Epistemology of Metaphor"
F 77: [NEH seminar 1977-78: a full-year seminar (led to SiR issue)] S 78: Lit 130b (formerly Lit Zb) (with Geoffrey Hartman) Comp Lit 910b: "Baudelaire, Yeats, Rilke"
[Teaches "Rhetoric of Romanticism" and "Lyric: Baudelaire, Yeats, Rilke" at the University of Constanz, and "Baudelaire and Rimbaud" at the University of Zurich during the summer of 1978]
F 78: Comp Lit 800a: "Autobiography" S 79: Lit 130b (with J. Hillis Miller) French 850b: "Descartes and Pascal"
[Teaches Comp Lit 377: "Baudelaire/Rilke/Yeats," and Comp Lit 388: "Theory of Rhetoric," at the University of Chicago, Spring-Summer 1979]
F 79: "Rhetorical Readings" S 80: Lit 130b (with Geoffrey Hartman) Comp Lit 815b: "Hegel's Aesthetik"
F 80: Comp Lit 816a: "Hegel and English Romanticism" (with Hartman) S 81: Lit 130b (with Geoffrey Hartman)
[Teaches NEH summer seminar: "Rhetorical Readings," summer 1981.]
On leave with Guggenheim. Lit 130b is taught by Hartman and Warminski
[Teaches "Rhetoric, Aesthetics, and Ideology" at the School of Criticism and Theory, Northwestern University, summer 1982]
F 82: Comp Lit 817a: "Aesthetic Theory from Kant to Hegel" S 83: Comp Lit 790b: "Théories esthétiques de Diderot à Baudelaire" Lit 130b (with Andrzej Warminski)
F 83: "Theory of Rhetoric in the 18th and 20th Centuries"