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The Paul De Man Notebooks$
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Paul de Man and Martin McQuillan

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641048

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641048.001.0001

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Postdoctoral Essay on Symbolism (c.1960)

Postdoctoral Essay on Symbolism (c.1960)

Chapter:
(p.48) 4 Postdoctoral Essay on Symbolism (c.1960)
Source:
The Paul De Man Notebooks
Author(s):

Martin McQuillan

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641048.003.0005

In this essay (c.1960), Paul de Man talks about symbolism as a literary movement. According to de Man, symbolism remains an obscure and controversial subject; ‘obscure, not only to the extent to which all lyrical poetry should normally be difficult, but obscure in its most fundamental intentions’. The controversies it arouses go well beyond the usual discrepancies of taste involved in the appreciation of a group of writers. Something much more essential seems to be at stake: a certain conception of the poetic that challenges a well anchored notion of general human behaviour. Symbolism has been attacked and admired with much more passion than those literary movements that confine themselves to mere participation in their era. The debate about its validity often crosses the border of purely literary considerations. Very few poets have expressed themselves so little on anything except poetry, but none have been more imitated or rejected for entirely non-poetic reasons. The great symbolist poetry deals with the oscillation between form and its destruction, between chaos and its rebirth into shape.

Keywords:   symbolism, Paul de Man, lyrical poetry, poets, symbolist poetry, literary movements

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