Matthew Abraham

The rhetoric of resistance and the resistance to theory: Controversial academic scholarship in the American public sphere (edward said, michael walzer, paul de man, lani guinier, norman g. finkelstein)

Matthew Abraham

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2003 pp: 309
  • Advisor: Plotnitsky, Arkady
  • Source: DAI-A 64/11, p. 4034, May 2004
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Education, Philosophy of (0998)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-496-61253-7
  • UMI Number: AAT 3113760

Abstract:

    • “The Rhetoric of Resistance and the Resistance to Theory: Controversial Academic Scholarship in the American Public Sphere,” builds a reception theory that accounts for the ways in which scholarship that advances the perspectives of marginalized groups is configured and corrupted within our general culture. Through an analysis of the 1993 Lani Guinier nomination controversy, the 1986 Edward Said-Michael Walzer debate over the interpretations of Walzer’s Exodus and Revolution, and the relatively recent attempts to malign Norman G. Finkelstein’s A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth and The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering; I assess the socio-political forces that condition the American public sphere’s understanding of academic work that touches upon sensitive issues concerning the past and present oppression of ethnic minorities. Through the Paul de Man controversy, I assess the political conditions that may have contributed to de Man’s journalistic collaboration, as well as the ways in which figures who contribute critical strategies for minority critiques are often attacked within the American public sphere. Minority critiques often act as violent allergens. Coming to understand the important of these interventions and the “allergenic” reactions these interventions have induced may very well be the first step toward constructing a “rhetoric of dissent” for the twenty-first century. Such a rhetoric of dissent requires a re-visioning of the intellectual mission itself; a task that figures such as Guinier, Said, and Finkelstein have effectively performed. If we are to resist the dawning of a new age of intellectual orthodoxy, it will be important to look to the examples of critical intellectuals who have refused a gregarious and tolerant outlook for the way things are and to understand the strategies of dissent they provide.