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The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History
     

The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History

by Walter Benn Michaels
 

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The Shape of the Signifier is a critique of recent theory--primarily literary but also cultural and political. Bringing together previously unconnected strands of Michaels's thought--from "Against Theory" to Our America--it anatomizes what's fundamentally at stake when we think of literature in terms of the experience of the reader rather than the

Overview

The Shape of the Signifier is a critique of recent theory--primarily literary but also cultural and political. Bringing together previously unconnected strands of Michaels's thought--from "Against Theory" to Our America--it anatomizes what's fundamentally at stake when we think of literature in terms of the experience of the reader rather than the intention of the author, and when we substitute the question of who people are for the question of what they believe.

With signature virtuosity, Michaels shows how the replacement of ideological difference (we believe different things) with identitarian difference (we speak different languages, we have different bodies and different histories) organizes the thinking of writers from Richard Rorty to Octavia Butler to Samuel Huntington to Kathy Acker. He then examines how this shift produces the narrative logic of texts ranging from Toni Morrison's Beloved to Michael Hardt and Toni Negri's Empire. As with everything Michaels writes, The Shape of the Signifier is sure to leave controversy and debate in its wake.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this critique of deconstruction and identity politics, Michaels (English, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) maintains that the author's intentions are key to interpreting the text. The ideas of Paul de Man are a prevalent focus of the argument. Michaels uses the poet Susan Howe, the artist Robert Smithson, and discussions of photography and minimalism to explain the nature of the work. Among sf writers, he pays particular attention to the ideas of Octavia Butler and Kim Stanley Robinson. He considers the importance of the concept of meaning in interpretation of literature and art and criticizes multicultural ideas in which the concepts of culture and language prevent meaningful thought and action. Michaels also discusses Richard Rorty's pragmatism as an effort to make all cultural statements equally valid. A discussion of the war on terrorism and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire shows how philosophic ideas and literary theory have influenced world events and thought. A wide-ranging, rigorously argued analysis of important ideas, this is highly recommended for literature collections. Gene Shaw, NYPL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Chronicle of Higher Education
[This] book is not scholarship, criticism, or theory. It is a brazen call for the return to ideology.
— Lindsay Waters
The Minnesota Review
[W]hat makes this book compelling . . . is his central thesis: that the apparent diversity of the marketplace of ideas, as in the marketplace of commodities, conceals fundamental uniformity (so many choices in the cereal aisle, so few in the voting booth).
— Robin J. Sowards
Modernism/Modernity
Michaels's absorbing new book swims against the critical stream with a brilliance and originality unmatched this side of Slavoj Žižek.
— Henry Staten
Modernism/modernity

Michaels's absorbing new book swims against the critical stream with a brilliance and originality unmatched this side of Slavoj ?i?ek.
— Henry Staten
Modernism/modernity - Henry Staten
Michaels's absorbing new book swims against the critical stream with a brilliance and originality unmatched this side of Slavoj Žižek.
Chronicle of Higher Education - Lindsay Waters
[This] book is not scholarship, criticism, or theory. It is a brazen call for the return to ideology.
The Minnesota Review - Robin J. Sowards
[W]hat makes this book compelling . . . is his central thesis: that the apparent diversity of the marketplace of ideas, as in the marketplace of commodities, conceals fundamental uniformity (so many choices in the cereal aisle, so few in the voting booth).
From the Publisher
"Michaels's absorbing new book swims against the critical stream with a brilliance and originality unmatched this side of Slavoj Žižek."—Henry Staten, Modernism/modernity

"[This] book is not scholarship, criticism, or theory. It is a brazen call for the return to ideology."—Lindsay Waters, Chronicle of Higher Education

"[W]hat makes this book compelling . . . is his central thesis: that the apparent diversity of the marketplace of ideas, as in the marketplace of commodities, conceals fundamental uniformity (so many choices in the cereal aisle, so few in the voting booth)."—Robin J. Sowards, The Minnesota Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400849598
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/31/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
232
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

MichaelsWalter Benn: Walter Benn Michaels is Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of "The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism" and "Our America".

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