Yale school (deconstruction)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
The Yale school is a colloquial name for an influential group of literary critics, theorists, and philosophers of literature that were influenced by Jacques Derrida's philosophy of deconstruction.


Relationship to deconstruction

As a school of thought, the Yale school is more closely allied with the post-structuralist dimensions of deconstruction as opposed to its phenomenological dimensions. Additionally, the Yale school is more similar to the 1970s version of deconstruction that John D. Caputo has described as a "Nietzschean free play of signifiers" and not the 1990s version of deconstruction that was far more concerned with political and ethical questions.


During the period between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, Yale University was the home of a variety of thinkers that were indebted to deconstruction. The group included high-profile writers such as Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, J. Hillis Miller, and Harold Bloom. This group came to be known as the Yale school and was especially influential in literary criticism because de Man, Miller, and Hartman were all considered to be prominent literary critics.

The four critics listed above, along with Derrida, contributed to an influential anthology, Deconstruction and Criticism. Several of these theorists were subsequently affiliated with the University of California at Irvine.

Book summaries

Deconstruction and Criticism (1979)

In his introduction to Deconstruction and Criticism, Hartman draws a distinction between Derrida, Miller, and de Man on the one hand, and himself and Bloom on the other. The former category he refers to as "boa-deconstructors"<ref>Bloom, Harold, et al. Deconstruction and Criticism (New York: Continuum, 1979), ix.</ref> who pursue deconstruction to its utmost conclusions and who are more philosophically rigorous in their writings.

Hartman claims that both himself and Bloom are "barely deconstructionists" and that they "even write against it on occasion."<ref> Deconstruction and Criticism, ix.</ref> Hartman claims that his writing style in particular is more reliant on the traditional role of pathos as a fundamental impetus for literary language. In contrast, deconstruction as advocated by Derrida seeks to reveal that the very notion of pathos is caught up in the rhetorical play which is endemic to language.

Selected readings

  • (1973) “Speech and Phenomena” and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, Jacques Derrida
  • (1976) Of Grammatology, Jacques Derrida
  • (1978) Writing and Difference, Jacques Derrida
  • (1979) Deconstruction and Criticism
  • (1981) Dissemination, Jacques Derrida
  • (1981) Positions, Jacques Derrida
  • (1982) Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust, Paul de Man
  • (1983) On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism, Jonathan Culler
  • (1983) The Yale Critics: Deconstruction in America, Jonathan Arac, Wlad Godzich, Wallace Martin, editors.
  • (1985) Rhetoric and Form: Deconstruction at Yale, Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer, editors.
  • (1989) Memoires for Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida
  • (1992) Acts of Literature, Jacques Derrida
  • (1994) The Wake of Deconstruction, Barbara Johnson

See also

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