Like the Sound of the Sea Deep within a Shell: Paul de Man's War

Critical Inquiry 14 (3):590-652 (1988)
Unable to respond to the questions, to all the questions, I will ask myself instead whether responding is possible and what that would mean in such a situation. And I will risk in turn several questions prior to the definition of a responsibility. But is it not an act to assume in theory the concept of a responsibility? Is that not already to take a responsibility? One’s own as well as the responsibility to which one believes one ought to summon others?The title names a war. Which war?Do not think only of the war that broke out several months ago around some articles signed by a certain Paul de Man, in Belgium between 1940 and 1942. Later you will understand why it is important to situate the beginning of things public, that is the publications, early in 1940 at the latest, during the war but before the occupation of Belgium by the Nazis, and not in December 1940, the date of the first article that appeared in Le Soir, the major Brussels newspaper that was then controlled, more or less strictly, by the occupiers. For several months, in the United States, the phenomena of this war “around” Pula de Man have been limited to newspaper articles. War, a public act, is by rights something declared. So we will not count in the category of war the private phenomena—meetings, discussions, correspondences, or telephonic conclaves—however intense they may have been in recent days, and already well beyond the American academic milieu. Jacques Derrida is Directeur d’Études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and also teaches at the University of California, Irvine. A teacher at Yale for ten years, he is the author of Mémoires: for Paul de Man .Peggy Kamuf is associate professor of French at Miami University. She is the author of Fictions of Feminism Desire: Disclosures of Heloise and Signature Pieces: On the Institution of Authorship . Her article “Pieces of Resistance” is forthcoming in Reading de Man Reading
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DOI 10.1086/448458
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