Fleeing the Universal

The Critique of Post-Rational Criticism

By Carl Rapp

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory
Paperback : 9780791436264, 297 pages, April 1998
Hardcover : 9780791436257, 297 pages, April 1998

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Table of contents



Introduction: What is Post-Rational Criticism?

1. The Transcendentalist Impulse in the Projects of Contemporary Criticism

2. Hegel's Concept of the Dissolution of Art

3. William Carlos Williams and the Art of Infinite Spirituality

4. The Metaphysics of Deconstruction

5. Ideology and the New Pragmatism

6. The Self-Contradictions of Pragmatism

7. Postmodern Fantasies of Pluralism

8. The Crisis of Reason in Contemporary Thought

9. Concrete History or Mere Hologram?: Hegel versus the New Historicism

10. Santayana's Critique of Transcendentalism

11. Hegel and Santayana on the Nature of Philosophy

Appendix: Theses for the Critique of the Post-Rational Critique of Reason



Rapp mounts a devastating critique against the notion that literary and cultural theory since the 1960s has succeeded in effecting, or at least reporting, both the demise of philosophy and the emergence of a genuinely post-philosophical culture.


Fleeing the Universal takes issue with the popular view that contemporary literary and cultural theory has brilliantly effected, or at least brilliantly reported, the demise of philosophy and the emergence of a new post-philosophical culture. It offers a critique of the various options presented by "post-rational" critics and theorists and, at the same time, argues for the superiority of speculative philosophy to all these options. Further, it demonstrates that the chief problems with post-rationalism were already seen, before our time, by two speculative philosophers, Hegel and Santayana, both of whose systems of philosophy are primarily intended to avoid the problems that beset the critique of reason.

Fleeing the Universal criticizes the arguments and methods of deconstruction, the new pragmatism, and New Historicism, and suggests that the alternatives to post-philosophy developed by Hegel in the early nineteenth century and by Santayana in the early twentieth century have not been superseded by any theory associated with the culture of postmodernism or the analytical techniques of poststructuralism.

Carl Rapp is Associate Professor of English at the University of Georgia. He is also the author of William Carlos Williams and Romantic Idealism, recipient of the Brown University Press First Book Prize Award.


"With clarity and wit, Rapp reveals how postmodernist claims to emancipation and pluralism collapse upon themselves to disclose a position which wavers disingenuously between equally incoherent poles of smug irrationalism and intellectual fascism. " — William Maker, Clemson University

"Carl Rapp's Fleeing the Universal is a clearly written, lively critique of what he calls post-rational criticisms, especially deconstruction, the new pragmatism, and New Historicism. " — Michael Fischer, University of New Mexico