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de Man, Paul

MARTIN MCQUILLAN


Subject Literature

Key-Topics deconstruction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405183123.2011.x


Extract

Paul de Man (1919–83) was a Belgian literary critic and theorist most commonly identified with the Yale School of deconstruction and the posthumous revelation of his wartime journalism in occupied Belgium. However, de Man's life and work is considerably more diverse and complex than these associations would suggest. De Man studied engineering, chemistry, and, later, social sciences in Brussels in the years before World War II and the German occupation. His uncle, Hendrik de Man, was a socialist minister in the prewar Belgian government. At this time Paul de Man was a member of the editorial board of the left-wing student literary journal Les Cahiers du Libre Examen . During the occupation, de Man's university closed and his uncle, having initially helped to negotiate the surrender of the Belgian army and a nonviolent transition to German military rule, went into political exile in Switzerland. During the early years of the war Paul de Man wrote literary and cultural reviews for Le Soir and other Belgian newspapers. While the vast majority of these reviews are noncontentious, even banal, a small number demonstrate an attitude of accommodation with the Nazi occupation. One text in particular, “The Jews in contemporary literature,” published as part of an anti-Semitic special issue of Le Soir has marked de Man's posthumous reputation. This early writing is collected in the volume ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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