Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kath Kerr-Koch romances fascism

Dr Kathleen Kerr-Koch's Romancing Fascism: Modernity and Allegory in Benjamin, de Man, Shelley is to be published by Bloomsbury in spring 2013. In her monograph Kath takes a wide-ranging approach to the analysis of allegory as it is treated by three controversial writers whose works flank the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the middle and late periods of what we call modernity—Walter Benjamin, Paul de Man and Percy Bysshe Shelley. In the course of her study she argues that intellectual responsibility can only be safeguarded if criticism is mobilised both as a poetic and as a critically enlightened endeavour.

'Kathleen Kerr-Koch has here devised an original and highly revealing constellation of three writers – Shelley, Benjamin, and de Man – whose work she shows, through careful and perceptive close-reading, to speak very directly to crucial issues in present-day literary and cultural theory. Above all she brings out their critical power, when conjoined in this way, to focus and refine our thinking about the reception-history of poetic and philosophical texts and, beyond that, their potential impact on the course of historical events. This involves a subtly inflected understanding of the structure and workings of allegory as theorised and exemplified in the work of her chosen authors. Kerr-Koch also demonstrates how wide of the mark, na├»ve and ideologically suspect are those other, less scrupulous readings that take for granted a simplified model of intellectual history and a grossly reductive or distorting view of the ‘influences’ active in current (usually deprecated) movements of thought. This book is a fine achievement and should remind us what is politically at stake when well-placed conservative antagonists of ‘theory’ – and of deconstruction in particular – take it as their stalking-horse for an overt or covert attack on the project and values of enlightened critique.' Christopher Norris, Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy, Cardiff University, UK.

'If allegory is ‘the yoking together by force’ of the heterogeneous, then Walter Benjamin, Percy Shelley and Paul de Man seem excellent candidates for a book on allegory. Kath Kerr-Koch’s thoroughly researched and densely argued study analyses the uses of allegory in these three (apparently) disparate writers. Kerr-Koch boldly attempts the rehabilitation of de Man, so drastically fallen from critical-theoretical favour, in the context of an examination of the positive resistant potential of allegory in the contemporary world.' Patrick Williams, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, Nottingham Trent University, UK.

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