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de Man's Semiology and Rhetorica

In Semiology and Rhetorica, Paul de Man creates a bridge between the beliefs of the structuralists and the new critical practices of the poststructuralists. He uses the assumptions of structuralism as the logical foundation of the more radical beliefs of the subsequent generation of literary critics. De Man asserts that linguistic structure is the most likely place to find literary meaning within a text or an essay. However, because of the infinite ambiguity of language, no precise meaning can ever be pinned down and identified. In part, this is because two distinct components "grammar and rhetoric" have long been mistakenly lumped together under the too-broad category of "language".

de Man's Semiology and Rhetorica

In Paul de Man's view, the fundamental opposition of these two modes of communication are crucial to the construction of meaning. Therefore, a critical method that recognizes this conflict and traces its significance throughout the text is more finely attuned to the nuances and ambiguities of language than a critical practice that seeks to delineate a single, correct interpretation of a text through a close inspection of its grammatical structures. Again, my chief problem with deconstruction is its lack of a logical stopping point. Carried to its conclusion, adopting this critical approach is tantamount to undermining all of the long-held beliefs and ideas that form the basis of Western civilization.

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