PAUL DE MAN The Poetics of Collaboration
The Resistance to Theory, Paul de Man's widely influential 1982 essay, begins by noting the resistance the essay originally encountered. Commissioned by the Committee on Research Activities of the Modern Language Association for its volume Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures, the piece was nevertheless judged inappropriate by the editors, who declined to print it. De Man characterizes the decision, in the version of the essay since published in the volume that shares its name, as "altogether justified, as well as interesting in its implications for the teaching of literature." 1 The latter point seems to me plausible; in a rather oblique fashion I shall address some of those implications here. But I am not convinced that de Man was convinced that the rejection was "justified," even if it did prove paradoxically fortunate for the future life and influence of the essay. In one sense I thoroughly approve of de Man's decision to begin with the anecdote of the committee's decision. It is not possible to be sufficiently suspicious of "the value / Of well-gowned approbation / Of literary effort," and of this the committee's judgment is an exemplary reminder. In another sense, however, I find the decision to begin with the anecdote disingenuous, although interesting in its implications, in the barely disguised pride it takes in evidence of "well-gowned' institutional disapprobation.
It is evidence that de Man would have had some difficulty multiplying. In 1982 he was widely considered the state of the art, and few committees or journals would have so obligingly provided him with proof of the