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The concept of reading in Paul de Man and the allegory of the effects of government

Attila Gyulai
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Attila Gyulai
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
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Abstract

The paper offers a political interpretation of the literary theory of Paul de Man focusing on his intertwining concepts of reading and allegory. Although, the issue of the political is conspicuous in his writings, the political as functioning is often overlooked either beacuse of the division of labour between literary critics and political scientist (a phenomena referred by him in his reading on Rousseau), or because of the controversies about his wartime journalism. The concept of reading and the political as a relational category, however, are close to each other enough to reread them in order to find new basis for an interpretive method in political science. Obviously, reading Paul de Man as a political scientist would be a misinterpretation of his presuppositions since reading is not able to become a method separated from (or before) the texts on which it is practised. Therefore the paper chooses an empirical point of view and deals with the Siena frescoes on the effects of government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Following the reading by Quentin Skinner the paintings do not reflect the universal values of government but are structured around the contextual meanings of it. However, insofar as the frescoes are allegories on the effects on government they may be reread according to the Paul de Manian concept of allegory. That means that as mirrorings of effects they are not separable from what they reflect, that is, they are not about the government but are already in the functioning of it. Allegories of reading, following Paul de Man, therefore are not about government and politics: they are the governing and the political.