4
DISFIGURATION,
DEFACEMENT AND
AUTOBIOGRAPHY
The Rhetoric of Romanticism

Of the two collections containing de Man’s essays on Romantic literature (the Rousseau section in Allegories of Reading might be thought of as a third) Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism came out later (1993) even though it is comprised of earlier essays. This volume includes the Gauss Seminar on ‘Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism’ given at Princeton University in 1967 (the same time that de Man was finding his feet using the term deconstruction, see ‘The Rhetoric of Temporality’ included in Blindness and Insight). These essays are of importance in gauging the historical development of de Man’s thought as he negotiates a path from the vocabulary of the traditional literary criticism, which he found unsatisfactory, towards his more mature consideration of topics such as allegory, irony, history, and so on. De Man has a particular fascination with poetry in these essays, which are not complete and do not seem to have been intended for publication. If literature is a privileged site for the study of tropes then surely poetry is the most literary (tropological) site in literature? The essays in The Rhetoric of Romanticism (1984) also focus on poetry. This volume was edited before his death by de Man himself and, as he states in the preface, ‘represents the bulk of what I have written on Romanticism’ (RR vii). As a collection of previously published essays the book is not a general investigation into Romanticism (as a period of intense historical development for rhetoric) but is a series of examples of rhetoric at

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