After Ontology

Literary Theory and Modernist Poetics

By William D. Melaney

Subjects: Philosophy Of Literature
Paperback : 9780791449585, 270 pages, April 2001
Hardcover : 9780791449578, 270 pages, April 2001

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Table of contents


Introduction: Modernism and the Crisis in Aesthetics

1. Hermeneutics and the Modern Work of Art


Section1. Gadamer's Interpretation of Kant: The Perils of Subjectivity
Section 2. Heidegger's Poetic Ontology: Art as the Truth of World
Section 3. Hermeneutics after Structure: Rethinking Modernist Time
Section 4. Vattimo's Understanding: History in Postmodern Hermeneutics


2. Deconstruction and the Modernist Text


Section 1. Derrida's Passage beyond Kant: The Silent Space of Language
Section 2. Deconstruction after Heidegger: "Double Reading" in "Restitutions"
Section 3. Nietzsche and Psychoanalysis: Toward the Other in Language
Section 4. Lyotard's Postmodern Turn: Legitimacy and the Missing Trace


3. Archeology and the Modernist Poetics


Section 1. Eliot's Postsymbolist Inter-Text: Hamlet and the Voices of Irony
Section 2. Eliot/Pound as Epic Poets: Dante and the Site of Translation
Section 3. In Search of Joyce's Ulysses: From Discourse to Semiotics
Section 4. Yeats and the Poetic Occasion: History in the Signs of Writing


4. Criticism and the Modernist Inter-Text


Section 1. Modernism as the "Completion" of Aesthetics
Section 2. Deconstruction as an Ethical Hermeneutic



Select Bibliography


Offers a reconsideration of modernism in both philosophy and literature.


After Ontology identifies the uniquely postmodern elements in hermeneutics and deconstruction in order to re-read many of the central texts in modernist literature. In a comparative study that illuminates points of contact between the philosophical positions of Gadamer and Derrida, William D. Melaney discusses Heidegger's influence on both Gadamer's ontological approach to the work of art and Derrida's transformative approach to the cultural text as implicitly postmodern. The difference between these two approaches is presented through a mutual critique of modern aesthetics that demonstrates how deconstruction can contribute to postmodern criticism.

The poetry of Eliot, Pound, and Yeats is examined within this framework, while the crucial example of Joyce is taken up in terms of the production and reception of Ulysses as a seminal influence. The study concludes by emphasizing how Derrida provides an ethical version of hermeneutics that departs from Gadamerian models but can be reconciled with both postmodern insights and historical research.

William D. Melaney is Assistant Professor of English at The American University in Cairo.


"There are numerous deconstructive and hermeneutical readings of Anglo-American modernism, but Melaney's work is distinctive in combining the two in a study of poststructural aesthetics that draws upon Gadamer, Derrida, Vattimo, and Lyotard without being polemical and without denying their differences. Its breadth, philosophical concerns, and focus on ethics in the modernist text makes it a notable work. " — Joseph Kronick, author of Derrida and the Future of Literature