11 December 2016

de Man is Da Man, yo?

The 6th of December is Paul de Man's birthday. From his--as the amazing Michael Riffaterre calls it--"seminal discussion of Nietzsche's On Truth and Lie," de Man makes a bold statement about poetry that I have spent several years pondering profitably:
What we call the lyric, the instance of represented voice includes the grammatical transformation of the declarative into the vocative modes of question, exclamation, address, hypothesis, etc., the tropological transformation of analogy into apostrophe or the equivalent, more general… transformation of trope into anthropomorphism.
He redescribes poetry as a series of figural moves of the voice and then resolves it into anthropomorphism. It's brilliant. It's fucking brilliant. It is a laser beam-direct insight into what makes representative language (and there is no other kind) happen, on the level of Rhetoric, on the level of Grammar (which he played with in oppositions, throughout his late career), as such. It is vital. It is indispensable. And I don't care if important readers, like Lydia Davis, whom I admire, and Louis Menand, who is an idiot, don't care for de Man. He's one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century, even if he wasn't really a Nazi.

Have a great day.

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