Serenity in Crisis


Serenity in Crisis

A Preface to Paul de Man, 1939-1960

Ortwin de Graef

Texts and Contexts Series

242 pages


January 1993


$50.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

A polymath well versed in European literature and philosophy, one of the founders of deconstruction, and a widely respected teacher, Paul de Man brought unprecedented attention and acclaim to the so-called Yale Critics. His fame was at a zenith when he died suddenly in 1983. A few years later, Ortwin de Graef found the de Man had written for the collaborationist press during the Nazi occupation, a discovery that ignited an international reassessment of de Man's work.

Serenity in Crisis is the first sustained account of the complex, intertextual tradition in which de Man wrote and of the persistent concerns expressed in his early work. It reconstructs the truth-models with which de Man justified his political choice before and during the occupation and traces them back to an ambitious intention to integrate the competing truths of the natural sciences, the social sciences, and literature. The significance of de Man's ideational framework and the decisions that followed from it have extended well beyond the disasters of World War II. De Graef clearly illuminates and critiques the abstruse paths of logic in de Man's early writings as well as in the reformulations of de Man's thought expressed in his writings of the 1950s.

Author Bio

Ortwin de Graef holds a doctorate in letters and philosophy from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and is a researcher with the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research. He is the author of several articles and essays on Paul de Man, including one in Responses: On Paul de Man's Wartime Journalism (1989), also published by the University of Nebraska Press.


"This is an outstanding work of scholarship and criticism. It is the most scrupulous and intelligent study of Paul de Man's writings."—Jonathan Culler, author of On Deconstruction (1982)

"Wiley was a creative thinker. He once wrote of seeing Muhammad Ali in his current condition and wondering what Ali’s fists had done to the brains of other men. So when Wiley’s thoughts turn to boxing, it’s worth the read."—Thomas Hauser,

"The debates about deconstruction may now be waning, but the historical and cultural analysis of the phenomenon is just beginning. De Graef's book will be the beginning of a serious study of this movement as an intellectual force."—Sander Gilman, author of Inscribing the Other (Nebraska, 1991)

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