A Distant View of Close Reading: On Irony and Terrorism around 1977

György Fogarasi 1
  • 1 University of Szeged, Department of Comparative Literature


In his article “A Distant View of Close Reading: On Irony and Terrorism around 1977,” György Fogarasi investigates the contemporary critical potentials of close reading in the light of recent developments in computation assisted analysis. While rhetorical reading has come to appear outdated in a “digital” era equipped with widgets for massive archival analysis (an era, namely, more keen on “distant,” rather than “close,” reading), Paul de Man’s insights concerning irony might prove useful in trying to account for the difficulties we must face in a world increasingly permeated with dissimulative forms of threat and violence. The article draws on three major texts from 1977: de Man’s draft on “Literature Z,” his lecture on “The Concept of Irony,” and the first and second Geneva Protocols. The reading of these texts purports to demonstrate the relevance of de Man’s theory of irony with respect to the epistemology of “terrorism,” but it also serves as an occasion to reflect upon questions of distance, speed, range, scale, or frequency, and the chances of “rhythmanalysis.”

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Benjamin, Walter. “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (Dritte Fassung).” In Rolf Tiedemann, Hermann Schweppenhäuser, eds. Gesammelte Schriften. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991. I.1: 471-508.

  • Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility: Third Version.” Trans. Harry Zohn, Edmund Jephcott. In Walter Benjamin. Selected Writings, Volume 4, 1938-1940. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2006. 251-83.

  • Brower, Reuben A. “Reading in Slow Motion.” In Reuben A. Brower, Richard Poirier, eds. In Defense of Reading: A Reader’s Approach to Literary Criticism. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1962. 3-21.

  • Brower, Reuben A., Richard Poirier. “Preface.” In Reuben A. Brower, Richard Poirier, eds. In Defense of Reading: A Reader’s Approach to Literary Criticism. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1962. vii-x.

  • “Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.” Common Core State Standards Initiative, Preparing America’s Students for College and Career. http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/.

  • Culler, Jonathan. “The Closeness of Close Reading.” ADE Bulletin 149 (2010): 20-25.

  • De Man, Paul. “Blocking the Road: A Response to Frank Kermode.” In Paul de Man, Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminar and Other Papers. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1993. 188-93.

  • De Man, Paul. “Course Proposal: Literature Z.” In Marc Redfield, ed. Legacies of Paul de Man. New York: Fordham UP, 2007. 185-89.

  • De Man, Paul. “Form and Intent in the American New Criticism.” In Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983. 20-35.

  • De Man, Paul. “Introduction.” Studies in Romanticism. 18.4 (1979): 495-99.

  • De Man, Paul. “Return to Philology.” In Paul de Man, Resistance to Theory. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986. 21-26.

  • De Man, Paul. “The Concept of Irony.” In Paul de Man. Aesthetic Ideology. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996. 163-84.

  • De Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke and Proust. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.

  • Derrida, Jacques. “Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides.” In Giovanna Borradori, ed. Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003. 85-136.

  • Derrida, Jacques. Psyche: Inventions of the Other I-II. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2007-2008.

  • English, James F., Ted Underwood. “Shifting Scales: Between Literature and Social Science.” Modern Language Quarterly 77 (2016): 277-95.

  • Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries. Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross. https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/vwTreaties1949.xsp

  • Guyer, Sarah. “’At the Far End of This Ongoing Enterprise…’” In Marc Redfield, ed. Legacies of Paul de Man. New York: Fordham UP, 2007. 77-92.

  • Hancher, Michael. “Re: Search and Close Reading.” In Matthew K. Gold, Lauren F. Klein, eds. Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016. Minnesota: U of Minnesota P, 2016. 118-38.

  • Hayot, Eric. “A Hundred Flowers.” In Jonathan Goodwin, John Holbo, eds. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Responses to Franco Moretti. Anderson: Parlor Press, 2011. 64-70.

  • Hensley, Nathan K. “Figures of Reading.” Criticism 54.2 (2012): 329-42.

  • Jänicke, Stefan, Greta Franzini, Muhammad Faisal Cheema, Gerik Scheuermann. “On Close and Distant Reading in the Humanities: A Survey and Future Challenges.” The Eurographics Association, 2015.

  • Jin, Jay. “Problems of Scale in ‘Close’ and ‘Distant’ Reading.” Philological Quarterly 96.1 (2017): 105-29.

  • Jockers, Matthew L. Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2013.

  • Lefebvre, Henri. Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. London: Continuum, 2004.

  • Memon, Nasrullah, Jonathan D. Farley, David L. Hicks, Torben Rosenorn, eds. Mathematical Methods in Counterterrorism. Wien: Springer, 2009.

  • Moretti, Franco. Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900. London: Verso, 1998.

  • Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. London: Verso, 2013.

  • Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History. London: Verso, 2005.

  • Newmark, Kevin. “L’absolu littéraire: Friedrich Schlegel and the Myth of Irony.” Modern Language Notes 107 (1992): 905-30.

  • Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Purloined Letter.” In Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Ware: Wordsworth Editions, 1993. 203-27.

  • Ramsay, Stephen. Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2011.

  • Redfield, Marc. “Courses Taught by Paul de Man during the Yale Era.” In Marc Redfield, ed. Legacies of Paul de Man. New York: Fordham UP, 2007. 179-83.

  • Redfield, Marc. “Lucinde’s Obscenity.” In Marc Redfield, The Politics of Aesthetics: Nationalism, Gender, Romanticism. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2003. 125-47.

  • Sandoz, Yves, Christoph Swinarski, Bruno Zimmermann, eds. Commentary on the Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross – Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987.

  • Schlegel, Friedrich. “Fragmente zur Litteratur und Poesie.” In Friedrich Schlegel, Fragmente zur Poesie und Literatur, ed. Hans Eichner. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1981. 83-190.

  • Schmitt, Carl. Theory of the Partisan. Trans. G. L. Ulmen. New York: Telos Press, 2007.

  • Vincent, Nigel, Helen Wallace. “Lost Without Translation: Why Code-breaking Is Not Just a Numbers Game.” British Academy Review 25 (February 2015): <https://www.britac.ac.uk/sites/default/files/BAR25-14-Vincent%2BWallace.pdfBAR25-14-Vincent%2BWallace.pdf>

  • Waters, Lindsay. “Paul de Man: Life and Works.” In Paul de Man, Critical Writings, 1953-1978, ed. Lindsay Waters. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1989. ix-lxxiv.


Journal + Issues