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Miller, J. Hillis


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405183123.2011.x


J. Hillis Miller (b. 1928) is an American critic, specializing in Victorian and modern literature, as well as in American and European literature of the past two centuries. He was closely aligned, first, to phenomenological criticism or “criticism of consciousness,” and then, after 1968, to deconstruction. He was a key member of the Yale School. Miller received his BA in English from Oberlin College in 1948 and his PhD from Harvard in 1952, for a dissertation entitled “The symbolic imagery of Charles Dickens.” It made use of Kenneth Burke's idea that a literary work is a form of “symbolic action” in which its author attempts to work out indirectly some personal problem or impasse. After a year teaching at Williams College, he taught for 19 years at Johns Hopkins University, then 14 years at Yale, after which, in 1986, he moved to the University of California at Irvine, where he is UCI Distinguished Research Professor of Comparative Literature and English Emeritus. He was President of the Modern Language Association of America in 1986. Miller has always been interested in literary theory and its uses: nevertheless, his primary focus has always been on what he saw from the beginning as the strangeness of literary language. Literary theory, in Miller's view, is useful not so much as an end in itself as in the way it facilitates accounting for the strangeness of literature and transmitting ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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