Material Difference

Modernism and the Allegories of Discourse


Material Difference: Modernism and the Allegories of Discourse argues that deconstruction can be employed in conjunction with the historically-oriented approach to cultural experience that is favored by Critical Theory. The two discourses that inform this comparative study situate Modernism between evolving traditions that begin with Hegel and Nietzsche, leading on to Adorno’s commitment to philosophical aesthetics and Derrida’s concern for writing ( écriture). Interrelated discussions of eight major authors, working in four different languages, are presented to show how allegorical Modernism foreshadows the possibility of cultural history. Joyce, Kafka, Malraux, Rilke, and Stevens are among the authors discussed in this book. The notion of material difference allows literature to be redefined in semiotic terms and demonstrates how the allegorical imagination mediates between art and time.


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Biographical Note

William D. Melaney is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo. He has published extensively in the fields of both modern literature and Continental philosophy. His first book, After Ontology: Literary Theory and Modernist Poetics (Albany: SUNY Press, 2001), brought together Gadamer’s hermeneutics and Derrida’s deconstruction in order to reread some of the key texts in Anglo-American Modernism. This early study compared both positions in order to re-examine the Modernist legacy in the work of major representatives.

Table of contents

Introduction: Allegory and Modernist Literature
Allegories of Discourse
Benjamin and Allegory: Resituating Modernist Practices
Allegory in Adorno/Derrida: Reading Material Difference
Allegorical Prose
Joyce’s Genealogies: Myth and Allegorical Criticism
Kafka’s Promise: Memory and the Art of Writing
Malraux’s Hope: Voices, Traces, Memorials
Andrić’s Resistance: Testimonies of Historical Conflict
Allegorical Poetry
Rilke’s Material Semiotics: On Signs and Performativity
Eliot’s Autobiographical Trace: Time and Critical Revision
Williams and Poetic Renewal: Borderlands, Exile, Return
Stevens and the Claims of Lyric: Allegory and Poetic Life
The Allegorical Imagination
A Semiotics of Reading: Literature, Language and History
Allegories of the Spirit: Modernism and Material Difference


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