Bio-mythographies : a study of textual reflexivity in Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paul de Man, Louis Althusser and Jacques Derrida
Re-reading Rousseau, using cognate works by de Man, Althusser and Derrida, this thesis hopes to destabilise the convention of reading 'confessional' texts in terms of authorial intention. Chapter One undermines critical responses to Rousseau's work, tracing a tradition of reading which rejects his oeuvre, not due to a rigorous reading of his texts, but through an ad hominem attack. We establish de Man, Althusser and Derrida as writers who lie outside this tradition. Chapter Two examines the intellectual debate surrounding the revelation of Paul de Man's wartime journalism, concentrating on this journalism's power to contaminate his oeuvre. We unsettle the terms of this debate, revealing its reliance upon a cryptobiographical reading of the author irito the text. We account for the problematic nature of de Man's deconstructive stance differently when we read de Man's texts as a conscious type or copy of Rousseau's texts. Chapter Three studies the anti-Althusserian polemic which attacked"his 'theoretical' Marxism with reference to insanity and murder. Again, a reading which might have located a resistance to theory within theory itself instead favours a reductive, biographical reading. We trace a reading of Rousseau in Althusser's work in order to destabilise this debate. Chapter Four looks at the concepts of scandal and slander and their current usage in both legal and literary contexts. Our aim here is to unite our authors in the shared aim of re-synonimising the two terms so as to reveal biography as necessarily fictional. Rousseau's Confessions is re-read as an instance where the concepts of slander and scandal are equated. Chapter Five upsets a traditional theory of the archive when it reads Althusser's autobiography as a deliberate copy of Rousseau's Confessions. Finally, Chapter Six unites all our writers in a discussion of the necessarily fictive nature of a re-iterable autobiography.