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The Marxism Deconstruction Debate in Literary Theory

  • Michael Ryan

Abstract

I will argue that the debate between Marxists and deconstructionists in literary theory is in part a false one, at least from a Marxist perspective. The work of certain deconstructive literary critics like Paul de Man is relevant to a Marxist critique of ideology. And deconstructive theorists like Christopher Norris are not entirely correct in maintaining that deconstruction is antithetical to Marxism. Similarly the Marxist critics of deconstruction frequently misread basic deconstructive concepts like ‘textuality’ (which they take to mean a kind of literariness, when in fact it describes a spatialisation and a relationality that is in many ways congruent with such Marxist notions as practice and meditation), and they mistake as nihilistic an anti-idealist and anti-positivist affirmation of the irreducibility of the practical mechanics of rhetoric to pre-Marxian concepts of ideal thematics or unmediated objectivity, when in fact it is in keeping with a Marxist interest in the way practice mediates both ideality and materiality. I will first review the debate between Marxists and deconstructionists; then I will say why I think a deconstructionist like de Man can be useful to Marxists; and I will conclude with some comments on the relevance of deconstruction to a Marxist cultural criticism.

Keywords

Literary Criticism Literary Theory Yale School Marxist Critique Nuclear Warhead 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Christopher Norris, Deconstruction: Theory and Practice (London, 1982). All the subsequent page references to this book are incorporated in the text.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    ‘Ou commence et ou finit un crops enseignant’, in D. Grisoni, Politiques de la philosophie (Paris, 1976), as well as his texts in the Greph volume, Qui a peur de la philosophie? (Paris, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Antonio Negri, Marx Beyond Marx (Amherst, Mass., in press).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, trans. B. Johnson (Chicago, Ill., 1982) preface.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Jacques Derrida, ‘Living on Border Lines’, in Deconstruction and Criticism, Harold Bloom et al. (New York, 1979) p. 84.Google Scholar
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    Each is writing a doctoral dissertation, Crow at the University of Texas, Austin, and Yrchik at the State University of New York, Binghamton. Crow, I should point out, was working on a deconstructive analysis of Hobbes’s Leviathan as part of his dissertation long before I did the work that led to my remarks on Hobbes in the preface to my Marxism and Deconstruction. Although I had not read his work, my discussions with him greatly enabled my own thinking on the subject.Google Scholar
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    Terry Eagleton, Walter Benjamin or Towards a Revolutionary Literary Criticism (London, 1981) p. 168.Google Scholar
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    Terry Eagleton, The Raqeof Clarissa (Minneapolis, Minn., 1982).Google Scholar
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    Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious (Ithaca, N. Y., 1982).Google Scholar
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    Eagleton, Walter Beniamin, v. 109.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Spragens, Jr, The Irony of Liberal Reason (Chicago, Ill., 1981).Google Scholar
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    R. M. Unger, Knowledge and Politics (New York, 1975).Google Scholar
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    Paul de Man. Allegories of Readinv (New Haven. Conn.. 19791.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality, ed. S. Ortner and H. Whitehead (Cambridge, 1981).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Rajnath 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Ryan

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