Literary and Critical Theory Geoffrey Hartman
by
Gina MacKenzie
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0039

Introduction

Geoffrey H. Hartman is one of the most important literary critics of the 20th century. His work spans six decades, beginning in the 1950s, and covers a wide range of topics, including romantic theory, literary theory, trauma theory, and Holocaust studies. Along with Paul de Man, Edward W. Said, William V. Spanos, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Daniel T. O’Hara, Lionel Trilling, Harold Bloom, and Northrop Frye, Hartman stands as one of the greatest minds of the great generation. Born on 11 August 1929 in Frankfurt, Hartman’s life began in the tragic horror of Nazi occupation, resulting in refugee status as a Kindertransport child. He arrived in England under those conditions and there was educated for six years before being reunited with his mother in the United States. In the United States, Hartman gained citizenship, attended Queens College, City University of New York, and earned his PhD from Yale University, the institution at which he spent most of his career. There he was named the Sterling Professor of English and Comparative Literature and became a founding member of the Yale School of Deconstruction. His first critical endeavors involved close critical analysis of romantic literature, primarily focused on William Wordsworth’s poetry but branching out to encompass both the British and French romantic movements. His work with French romanticism also led him to extensive study of Maurice Blanchot and André Malraux, helping to introduce both figures to Anglo-American audiences. While Hartman’s work consistently returns to the romantics, from the 1970s onward he was enmeshed in the great debate over the necessity of literary theory, consistently acting to defend theory’s place while advancing his own brand of literary theory (trauma theory), which overlaps with and informs his important work with Holocaust studies, particularly with the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies that he founded at Yale University. Hartman’s work, along with some of the greatest literary thinkers of the middle to late 20th century, helped shape the current landscape of literary theory and defend its necessity in scholarship and culture. Hartman died on 14 March 2016 in Hamden, Connecticut.

General Overviews

Because Hartman’s work examines a range of scholarly interests and approaches, many readers find it necessary to begin with collections that provide an overview of his work in different fields. Hartman 1999 outlines major developments in his critical thought, while Hartman 2009 uses traditional autobiographical techniques to show the merger of his life and work. Hartman and O’Hara 2004 excerpts some of his most important works for study, and O’Hara 1985 reads Hartman’s career itself as a text and shows its invaluable nature. Atkins 2006 gives another overview of Hartman’s work and demonstrates his wide reach as a critic.

  • Atkins, G. Douglas. Geoffrey Hartman: Criticism as Answerable Style. Critics of the Twentieth Century. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    This text presents a thorough and insightful introduction to Hartman’s work, with particular emphasis on his developments in romantic and Judaic studies. It is also one of the few texts that consider the question of theory as the “intellectual property” of the professor, using Hartman as an example.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. A Critic’s Journey: Literary Reflections, 1958–1998. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

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    This text examines the art of criticism in its totality, beginning with his basic autobiography as an example. It explains criticism as an art of frustrating perplexity and looks at the indeterminate as essential to critical thought. It examines the Hebrew Bible, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Alfred Hitchcock, and Sigmund Freud, returning to the idea that words have the power to inflict psychic wounds, creating a link to trauma theory.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. A Scholar’s Tale: Intellectual Journey of a Displaced Child of Europe. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009.

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    This intellectual autobiography explores Hartman’s childhood, and how that laid the groundwork for his early scholarly preference for romantic literature. The book explores his engagement with literary criticism and the dynamic changes to and defense of theory, beginning midway through his career. Hartman also chronicles his engagement with Judaic studies, particularly through the program he began at Yale University.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., and Daniel T. O’Hara, eds. The Geoffrey Hartman Reader. New York: Fordham University Press, 2004.

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    This collection presents the most-important selections of Hartman’s body of work in six sections that highlight his work on poetry, theory, criticism, culture, and memory. The collection includes works both from his traditional literary scholarship and his focus on Judaic studies. O’Hara’s introduction gives a historical overview of Hartman’s career and develops the idea of Hartman’s position as a visionary critic through his own term, “psycho-aesthetics.”

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  • O’Hara, Daniel T. “Afterwords: Geoffrey Hartman on the Critic’s Desire for Representation.” In The Romance of Interpretation: Visionary Criticism from Pater to de Man. By Daniel T. O’Hara, 93–120. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

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    Here, O’Hara rehearses the major moves of Hartman’s career and puts them in a dialogue with each other to show Hartman’s overall project, that of the need for the critic himself to be represented in the field of literary study. It places Hartman’s work among that of the great literary minds of the last several centuries.

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Romantic Theory and Criticism

The main thrust of Hartman’s early career is his critical exploration of romantic literature, with special attention to William Wordsworth. In Hartman 1954, Hartman 1972, Hartman 1983, Hartman 1987, Hartman 1994, and Hartman 2006, British romanticism is explored in great depth. In Hartman 1970 and Thorburn and Hartman 1973, the main focus is French Romanticism. Fulford 2016 (cited under Critical Engagements) offers a fascinating early-21st-century revision of Hartman’s tropes.

  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. The Unmediated Vision: An Interpretation of Wordsworth, Hopkins, Rilke and Valéry. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1954.

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    This is Hartman’s first published critical text. It asserts a desire to find a universal method of conducting criticism and an underlying drive to have unity in approach akin to the experience of a whole literary work. Hartman first approaches each poet and then a representative work and finally puts works in conversation with each other. He defines “the unmediated vision” as the romantic immediacy of subject and object combined. The natural work, spirit, and body are agents of that vision.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Reflections on Romanticism in France.” In Special Issue: The Concept of Romanticism. Studies in Romanticism 9.4 (1970): 233–248.

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    This is a sustained attempt to define romanticism and tries to erase the unnatural distinctions that Hartman identifies between romanticism and modernism.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., ed. New Perspectives on Coleridge and Wordsworth. Papers presented at the conference of the English Institute held in 1970 and 1971 at Columbia University, New York. Selected Papers from the English Institute 1970–1971. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

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    This is a collection of papers from a cosponsored bicentennial conference on Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The essays share both canonical and innovative perspectives, showing Hartman’s preference for critical inclusion. His essay traces romantic consciousness from Mark Akenside to Coleridge, bringing together common themes of music, the sublime, and prophecy.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Reading Aright: Keats’s Ode to Psyche.” In Centre and Labyrinth: Essays in Honour of Northrop Frye. Edited by Eleanor Cook, 210–227. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983.

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    Using Frye’s framework, and characterizing his work as an attempt to justify the genre of romance, Hartman performs a sustained reading of John Keats’s Ode. The article serves as a demonstration of critical method and implies support of the necessity of literary theory.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1787–1814. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.

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    This book, dedicated to Erich Auerbach, explores specific poems and aspects of Wordsworth’s romantic theory, especially the relationship between poetry and the “mind” of the reader, poet, or both. It presents a sustained analysis of Wordsworth’s greatest works, including “The Preface” and “Tinturn Abbey.” In it, Hartman seeks to contextualize the romantics and considers their sources in the Renaissance, using elements of Wordsworth’s critical biography in each chapter.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Reading and Representation: Wordsworth’s ‘Boy of Winander.’” In Special Issue: Philosophies of Genre. European Romantic Review 5.1 (1994): 90–100.

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    The article focuses on Hartman’s analysis of Wordsworth’s complete reenvisioning of the ballad form as poetry created in accord with the reader. The article shows the integration of form and image and also demonstrates the method of close critical reading to which Hartman devotes much of his career.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “The Psycho-aesthetics of Romantic Moonshine: Wordsworth’s Profane Illumination.” In Special Issue: In Honor of Geoffrey Hartman. Wordsworth Circle 37.1 (2006): 8–14.

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    This is a seminal essay in Hartman’s late career. It focuses on the analysis of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads and the inequity in that text of physical reality and emotional affect. The essay leads to the consideration of anxiety and hyperbole as tools in Wordsworth’s poetry, using the famous opening line “strange fits of passion” for close reading, leading to a claim of Wordsworth as a new visionary poet.

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  • Thorburn, David, and Geoffrey H. Hartman, eds. Romanticism: Vistas, Instances, Continuities. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973.

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    This collection includes essays from noted literary critics of the middle to late 20th century, including Cleanth Brooks, W. K. Wimsatt, Paul de Man, and Harold Bloom. It explores British, French, and American romanticism. Hartman’s own work here focuses on belated French romanticism, with attention to Victor Hugo.

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Pre- and Post-romantic Theory

Most early work from Hartman’s bibliography showcases his ability to recognize the importance of non-romantic texts for his primary interest in romanticism. Hartman 1958, Hartman 1964, and Parker and Hartman 1985 analyze pre-romantic texts, while Hartman 1966 explores Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Milton’s Counterplot.” ELH 25.1 (1958): 1–12.

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    In this article, Hartman analyzes John Milton’s construction of counterplot in Paradise Lost via simile, using the Mulciber story as his primary illustration. The article uses close reading, particularly of Satan, to demonstrate duality of images in the text and their ability to create necessary opposites to what we assume are Milton’s main ideas.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Marvell, St. Paul, and the Body of Hope.” ELH 31.2 (1964): 175–194.

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    This is an early example of Hartman relying on religious thought and means of analysis to examine literary works, here focused on Andrew Marvel’s “The Garden” and Mower poems. This article shows Hartman’s range of topic and approach and sets up his future use of Judaic studies and reading practices to consider both historic events and literary documents.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., ed. Hopkins: A Selection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966.

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    This text presents various explorations of Hopkins’s work, through a variety of critical approaches, ensuring Hopkins’s relevance for mid-20th-century readers.

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  • Parker, Patricia, and Geoffrey H. Hartman, eds. Shakespeare and the Question of Theory. New York: Routledge, 1985.

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    In this collection, Hartman and Parker assemble some of the greatest literary thinkers of the 20th century to consider Shakespeare’s work in terms of structuralism, deconstruction, feminist theory, and new historicism, thus rehearsing many of the important schools of critical thought as well as the primary texts. Hartman’s own essay focuses on language and structure in Twelfth Night.

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French Studies

Along with romanticism, Hartman’s early career makes a project of introducing French authors to an American audience. This is true of Hartman 1955, an attempt to expose American readers to the importance of Maurice Blanchot, and in Hartman 1957 and Hartman 1960, the same attempt is made with Andre Malraux. Hart and Hartman 2004 marks a return late in his career to French thinkers. Hartman 1981 examines Jacques Derrida’s work through a European lens, while Hartman 1970 discusses the French romantic movement.

  • Hart, Kevin, and Geoffrey H. Hartman, eds. The Power of Contestation: Perspectives on Maurice Blanchot. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

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    This collection of essays on the work of French writer Blanchot responds to and contextualizes his work in conversation with others, such as Theodor Adorno, Emmanuel Levinas, and Georges Bataille, while exploring “contestation” as a major feature of Blanchot’s writings, which for him is a way to go beyond to discuss German occupation during World War II and its aftermath. The collection also considers motifs of the spiritual and counterspiritual in philosophy and politics.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “The Fulness and Nothingness of Literature.” In Special Issue: Foray through Existentialism. Yale French Studies 16 (1955): 63–78.

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    This very early article is Hartman’s first attempt to introduce Blanchot to an American audience. Hartman explains Blanchot’s unwavering development of his one claim of the “fulness and nothingness” of literature. Blanchot draws the analogue between the writer and language and the mind, time, and space. Hartman’s emphasis on Blanchot’s concept of literary space informs his later development in trauma theory.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “The Taming of History.” In Special Issue: Passion and the Intellect, or: Andre Malraux. Yale French Studies 18 (1957): 114–128.

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    This early article can be seen as the beginning of the development of Hartman’s aesthetic theory. It begins with a gloss of common desire to separate art from history. Hartman analyzes André Malraux’s concept of the relationship between these two forces to develop his own stance that such separation creates a necessary space, which later work will posit is where trauma situates itself.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Camus and Malraux: The Common Ground.” In Special Issue: Albert Camus. Yale French Studies 25 (1960): 104–110.

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    Hartman discusses the relationship between Albert Camus and Malraux on the basis of Camus’s adaption of Days of Contempt. Hartman links these two authors through their anti-Fascist feelings and their uses of writing as a means of resistance. He goes on to outline their differing literary mechanisms for enacting that resistance.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Reflections on Romanticism in France.” In Special Issue: The Concept of Romanticism. Studies in Romanticism 9.4 (1970): 233–248.

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    This article discusses the causes of the belatedness of the French movement, with some attention to historic events and to what Hartman calls the “subjective spirit.”

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Saving the Text: Literature/Derrida/Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.

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    This text is Hartman’s sustained analysis of the irrevocably important role that Derrida plays in literary thought and criticism in the latter part of the 20th century. Using Derrida’s Glas as the primary text for exploration, Hartman shows the difference in Anglo-American and European perspectives on criticism and theory. This both proves Hartman’s midcareer interest in theory and his ability to stand as a middle ground between Anglo and European schools.

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Poetry

Much of Hartman’s work is dependent on the poetry of William Wordsworth. In Hartman 1970, the reader can find many of Hartman’s primary sources. Hartman 1978 is a wonderful exploration of Hartman’s own poetic voice.

  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., ed. William Wordsworth, Selected Poetry and Prose. Signet Classic Poetry. New York: New American Library, 1970.

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    This neat compendium of Wordsworth’s most important works of poetry and prose is necessary for any Hartman scholar. It is readily accessible for a wide readership and is organized chronologically, with a concise introduction that rehearses the major themes of Hartman’s criticism of romanticism, with special attention to the poetry anthologized within it.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Akiba’s Children. Emory, VA: Iron Mountain, 1978.

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    This work of original poetry relies heavily on Judaic tradition, quest themes, and devastation of the past. Influences include romantics and modernists, especially Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot, and the work uses lyric and elegiac forms.

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Trauma Studies

Trauma is a concept that Hartman explores throughout his body of work. However, there are a few texts devoted nearly exclusively to that concept. Hartman 1978 (cited under Psycho-aesthetic Criticism) is a collection of essays that assert Sigmund Freud’s relation to trauma. Caruth and Hartman 1996 offers a discussion of the intersection of romanticism and trauma, and Chare and Hartman 2004 considers trauma linked both to the Holocaust and 9/11. Whitehead 2003 reads the connection that Hartman makes between romanticism and trauma, while Liska 2013 articulates the relationship between trauma and the Holocaust via Hartman’s work. Hartman 2003 makes his version of trauma theory relevant for an early-21st-century American audience.

  • Caruth, Cathy, and Geoffrey H. Hartman. “An Interview with Geoffrey Hartman.” In Special Issue: Essays in Honor of Geoffrey H. Hartman. Studies in Romanticism 35.4 (1996): 630–652.

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    This is a focused interview with Hartman on his concept of trauma studies and its intersection with literature. It covers discussion of the concept of “unmediated vision” as a term to explain the inexplicable experience of trauma. Particular attention is paid to these ideas in British romantic poetry, with some attention given to Hartman’s work on survivor testimony. Available online through purchase or by subscription.

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  • Chare, Nicholas, and Geoffrey H. Hartman. “The Struggle against the Inauthentic: An Interview by Nicholas Chare.” In Special Issue: Witnessing Theory. Parallax 10.1 (2004): 72–77.

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    This interview is a focused discussion of monuments and dates that mark the traumatic scars or wounds about which Hartman theorizes. He explains the significance of Holocaust testimony and 9/11 as “red letter” examples of the scars that should never be forgotten.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “On that Day.” In Trauma at Home: After 9/11. Edited by Judith Greenberg, 5–20. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.

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    In this piece, Hartman applies his trauma theory and his experience with Holocaust studies to the events of 9/11.

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  • Liska, Vivian. “Winged Words and Wounded Voices: Geoffrey Hartman on Midrash and Testimony.” Jewish Quarterly Review 103.2 (2013): 133–140.

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    This article underlines Hartman’s basic claim that we cannot understand the absolute, but that we are driven by human nature to make some sense of that which we cannot know. This article could easily inform an understanding of Hartman’s trauma theory.

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  • Whitehead, Anne. “Geoffrey Hartman and the Ethics of Place: Landscape, Memory, Trauma.” European Journal of English Studies 7.3 (2003): 275–292.

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    This article focuses on Hartman’s trauma theory, placing him as a central figure in the development of this area of critical inquiry. It explains the relationship he develops between trauma and landscape, using William Wordsworth’s “The Prelude” as an illustrative text. It also makes a connection to the Holocaust via trauma theory.

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Defense of Theory

Much of the second half of Hartman’s career is devoted to his advocacy for literary theory. Both Hartman 1966 and Hartman 1985b defend structuralism, just as Bloom, et al. 1995 defends deconstruction. Ben-Naftali 2013 explores Hartman’s relationship to Paul de Man. Many of these works give broad coverage to the idea of theory. There is application and implicit defense of theory in Hartman 1975, Hartman 1980, and Hartman 1985a, whereas Hartman 1991, Hartman 1970, and Ferguson and Goodman 2014 give more-explicit defense of the necessity of literary theory and criticism.

  • Ben-Naftali, Michal. “A Dis-identity Card: Geoffrey Hartman on the Paul de Man Affair, Twenty-Five Years Later.” Jewish Quarterly Review 103.2 (2013): 149–155.

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    This is a fascinating discussion of Hartman’s role in the Paul de Man controversy. It rehearses de Man’s biography as a writer and establishes Hartman’s relationship to him in the United States. The essay mediates on a place where logical and moral judgments intersect or oppose each other, and it ends with a reminder that Hartman finds de Man’s theory inadequate to deal with the very questions raised about de Man’s own early work.

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  • Bloom, Harold, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey H. Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller. Deconstruction and Criticism. New York: Continuum, 1995.

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    This text contains essays by five of the most important deconstructionists of the Yale school. Each theorist advances his own particular interpretation and application of deconstruction, with Hartman taking a middle ground among the more extreme theoretical positions of his contemporaries. The collection displays Hartman’s importance as a critic and showcases the comparisons between him and his fellow scholars. Originally published in 1979.

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  • Ferguson, Frances, and Kevis Goodman, eds. Special Issue: About Geoffrey Hartman: Materials for a Study of Intellectual Influence. Philological Quarterly 93.2 (2014).

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    The articles in this issue defend the expanded role of the critic for early-21st-century scholars, through a term Hartman coined: “the voice of the shuttle.” That term, as deployed here, indicates the critical ability, especially that of Hartman himself, to inhabit a work of literature and explore or excavate it from within by using a variety of critical or theoretical approaches.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Structuralism: The Anglo-American Adventure.” Yale French Studies 36–37 (1966): 148–168.

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    This article begins with a warning that American structuralism is in danger of becoming solely aligned with literary criticism, asserting that structuralism should not be the sole way in which literature and society interact. Hartman uses Aristotle and Northrop Frye as examples of quintessential unified field theorists and goes on to provide intelligent critique of Frye’s methodology. The article ends with a longing for a means to incorporate structuralist tendencies with visionary understanding.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Beyond Formalism: Literary Essays, 1958–1970. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970.

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    This is a widespread collection of essays covering literary criticism and history, as well as various genre studies. Hartman states that his goal is to move beyond formalism to a consideration of the artist and his roles in social and critical inquiry. He stays true to his method of close reading and reliance on text. The essays cover various critical schools and periods.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. The Fate of Reading and Other Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.

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    This text collects the work that shows Hartman’s transition from romantic critic to literary theorist. In it, he explores varies modes of critical inquiry and defends criticism and theory as being necessary to literary study. The text is an excellent example of showing the state of literary study in the early 1970s and Hartman’s importance to it.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Criticism in the Wilderness: The Study of Literature Today. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.

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    In this book, Hartman compares literary study to the experience of the wilderness, calling on his background as a romantic critic. He categorizes the state of literary theory and criticism as that of a wilderness, with a plethora of perspectives, frequently at odds with each other, deployed to explore texts in the 1980s.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Easy Pieces. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985a.

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    Hartman considers these as “fugitive essays” written on demand for a nonacademic audience. They are reflections on contemporary and canonical authors, the Yale School of Criticism, and the act of reading. It is a defense of the act of studying literature.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Meaning, Error, Text.” In Special Issue: The Lesson of Paul de Man. Yale French Studies 69 (1985b): 145–149.

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    Hartman uses the underpinning of structuralist and Lacanian thought on language to discuss the malleability of meaning and history’s ability to produce change.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Minor Prophecies: The Literary Essay in the Culture Wars. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

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    This text questions the difference between the academic scholar and public intellectual, positing the discussion as important in the consideration of the fate of literary studies. In it, Hartman meditates on the “death” of theory and explains the difficulty of sustained analysis in a culture that demands instant gratification. Hartman rehearses his usual tropes and literary figures to model the kind of close critical reading he fears is being abandoned.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “English as Something Else.” In English Inside and Out: The Places of Literary Criticism. Edited by Susan Gubar and Jonathan Kamholtz, 37–46. Essays from the English Institute. New York: Routledge, 1993.

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    This piece is a bit atypical for Hartman, since it addresses the notions of anti-canonical and canonical works for inclusion in literary study, erring in favor of including both, even as representatives from both groups may be socially offensive or politically incorrect. He warns again partisanism and ideological rigidness when undertaking critical inquiry.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. The Fateful Question of Culture. Wellek Library Lecture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

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    In this text, Hartman continues his work on theory and culture, focusing on the concept of culture itself as an agent that helps determine inclusion and exclusion in academic discourse. He examines the roles of nationalism and art in relation to cultural construction and discourse, with attention to the states of language and literature.

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Psycho-aesthetic Criticism

Hartman’s psycho-aesthetic criticism uses elements of psychoanalysis, structuralism, linguistics, and cultural criticism to build a new framework for assessing literature and society. Hartman begins this branch of thinking with his admiration for Sigmund Freud’s work, both theoretically and stylistically. Using Freud as a basis, Hartman refuses the ease of simple application of theory but utilizes Freud and his predecessors to develop a framework for examining the structural and emotive principles of a work of art. Hartman 1978 begins the work on this theory, which culminates in Hartman 2002. In Hartman 2006 the theory is applied specifically to romantic literature, and Goodman 2006 gives an overview of Hartman’s work with the term. In Hartman 2008, he returns to the roots of his theory and demonstrates its basic usage.

  • Goodman, Kevis. “On Geoffrey Hartman’s Psycho-aesthetics.” In Special Issue: In Honor of Geoffrey Hartman. Wordsworth Circle 37.1 (2006): 17–19.

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    This article traces the term “psycho-aesthetics” from Hartman’s first sustained use of it in The Fate of Reading through its evolution in Hartman’s work, ending with The Scars of the Spirit. Goodman wants to break the term free of the ivory tower and put it into use in modern culture and criticism.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., ed. Psychoanalysis and the Question of the Text. Selected Papers from the English Institute, n.s. 2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.

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    This collection of essays is Hartman’s first sustained attempt at the defense and explication of psychoanalytic criticism. His work here leads to his development of his own psycho-aesthetic critical method.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. Scars of the Spirit: The Struggle against Inauthenticity. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    This text examines the desire for authenticity in etymology, aesthetics, ethics, and identity. It combines Hartman’s two main interests—literary criticism and Holocaust studies—and advances trauma theory in literary criticism and works to free “spirit” and “spiritualism” from political (especially fascist) critique. It also explores what is real in terms of aesthetic creation, calling to mind the entire school of mimetic theory. It is possibly Hartman’s most focused text, covering enormous critical ground.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “The Psycho-aesthetics of Romantic Moonshine: Wordsworth’s Profane Illumination.” In Special Issue: In Honor of Geoffrey Hartman. Wordsworth Circle 37.1 (2006): 8–14.

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    Hartman’s work here develops his theory of psycho-aesthetics in relation to romantic literature. Using close textual reading, the article shows how vision and anxiety are tools an author can embed in a text to give it shape and meaning.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “The Interpreter’s Freud.” In Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. 3d ed. Edited by David Lodge and Nigel Wood, 447–459. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008.

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    In this excellent compilation for students, Hartman articulates the basics of psychoanalytic theory, his understanding of it, and its uses for literary criticism as a discipline.

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Holocaust Studies

This area of Hartman’s scholarship stems from his own life experiences and the necessity to witness them both in a personal and scholarly way. Hartman and Budick 1988, Hartman 1994b, Myers 2013, and Liska 2013 examine the role of midrash in Judaic study and Hartman’s ability to bring together Judaic studies and literary criticism. Hartman 1986, Hartman 1988, Hartman 1989, Hartman 1994a, and Hartman 2002a provide attempts to place the Holocaust and reactions to it both into an intellectual and emotional space for reflection and study. In Hartman 2002b, he explores the relationship between Maurice Blanchot’s philosophy and the experience of the Holocaust. Hartman 2013 gives a unique instance of Hartman commenting on the very nature of theology.

  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., ed. Bitburg in Moral and Political Perspective. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

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    This text presents meditations on the controversy over President Ronald Reagan’s visits to Bitburg military cemetery in Germany, where forty-nine SS members are buried, and to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, both around the 40th anniversary of VE Day. The collection considers the impact of memory and memorial in relation to trauma. It emphasizes the complex relationships among political, social, and personal histories and includes many primary-source documents.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Foreword.” In Another Kind of Witness. By Bernard F. Stehle, 1–3. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1988.

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    Here Hartman discusses the importance of using photographic testimony to explain to the world, when words fail, the experience and impact of the Holocaust. This project by Stehle is of particular relevance for Hartman and his work with Yale’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Afterword.” In Lodz Ghetto: Inside a Community Under Siege. Edited by Alan Adelson and Robert Lapides, 511–512. New York: Viking, 1989.

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    This short piece reveals Hartman’s extreme emotional and visceral reaction to the Holocaust, not just as a scholar but as a Jew, who suffered along with his people. It shows the entire scope of his work with the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, proving his investment as an academic and a humanitarian.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Introduction: Darkness Visible.” In Holocaust Remembrance: The Shapes of Memory. Edited by Geoffrey H. Hartman, 1–22. New York: Blackwell, 1994a.

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    Hartman sets the tone for the volume, discussing the deep cultural melancholy that is the result of the Holocaust. He considers the power and necessity of distortion and the use of survivor testimony both to produce and undermine such distortion. The essays Hartman collects cover the many-faceted global and cultural reactions to the Holocaust and the trauma that follows it.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Midrash as Law and Literature.” Journal of Religion 74.3 (1994b): 338–355.

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    This article shows the intersection of Jewish intellectual practice and literary study, as Hartman explains how this ancient practice of critical inquiry models what academics and students of literature should practice.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. The Longest Shadow: In the Aftermath of the Holocaust. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002a.

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    In this book, originally published in 1996 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), Hartman actively fights against the notion that Holocaust wounds can or should be healed. He deploys his trauma theory to show the necessity of continuing memory and discourse as a means to fight the politicization of those very memories. He emphasizes the value of first-person testimony, along with art and artifacts from survivors, to assist in managing the trauma of the event.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Wounded Time: The Holocaust, Jedwabne, and Disaster Writing.” Partisan Review 69.3 (2002b): 367–373.

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    This article begins with Hartman explaining Blanchot’s idea that post-disaster writing must present an “altered state” that merges the objective truth and the subjective experience. Hartman then applies the concept to our understanding of the Jewish massacre at Jedwabne.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H. “Theology and the Imagination.” Jewish Quarterly Review 103.2 (2013): 156–168.

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    This is Hartman’s commentary on his ambivalent relationship with the term “theology”; he prefers imagination as the vehicle through which knowledge of God can be attained. He laments the misuse of the term “theology” to justify abuse or horror in society, and he relies on Emmanuel Levinas’s moral philosophy to inform his argument.

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  • Hartman, Geoffrey H., and Sanford Budick, eds. Midrash and Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

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    In this text, Hartman and Budick assert the necessity of using midrash as a model for literary study, claiming that what is missing from current study is the close reading and critical inquiry that midrash practices. In particular, Hartman uses his methodology to examine the Hebrew Bible, with particular attention to the story of Jacob. Other sections of the text discuss midrash with the aggadah, the Kabbalah, and canonical works of literature.

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  • Liska, Vivian. “Winged Words and Wounded Voices: Geoffrey Hartman on Midrash and Testimony.” Jewish Quarterly Review 103.2 (2013): 133–140.

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    Liska uses Hartman’s work with Holocaust testimony and midrash to explore the desire for knowledge and understanding.

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  • Myers, David N. “Midrash, Testimony, and the Angel of Interpretation: Geoffrey Hartman in Jewish Studies.” Jewish Quarterly Review 103.2 (2013): 129–132.

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    This essay introduces an entire issue of Jewish Quarterly Review devoted to Hartman’s place in Jewish studies, extolling him for his “non-Jewish studies” approach to scholarship of Judaic life and concerns. It rehearses Hartman’s major contributions to literary and Holocaust studies and acts as a concise introduction to Hartman’s body of critical developments.

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Critical Engagements

Since the 1990s, the new generation of literary thinkers has employed the vast body of Hartman’s own scholarship to infuse their own with life, both integrating and interrogating his ideas. The collection of essays edited by Hartman contemporaries, Elam and Ferguson 2005, gives life to new romantic studies with Hartman’s work as the starting point for consideration and revision. Fulford 2016 uses Hartman’s work as the basis for ecocriticism, whereas Vermeulen 2010 and Vermeulen 2011 employ Hartman’s work on romanticism to develop concepts in ecocriticism and new formalism. Newlyn 1996 draws parallels between Hartman’s romantic and psychoanalytic criticisms to posit a new canonical anxiety, and Schatz-Jakobsen 1997 also responds to Hartman’s body of romantic theory, using it to discuss deconstruction and trauma. Hartman’s extensive relationship to the Yale deconstructionist movement is the subject of Redfield 2016, while Balfour 2006 positions his work within the canon of literary tradition. Important for its unique approach to Hartman’s work is Krupnick 2005, which looks at Hartman’s oeuvre and process as a mechanism for understanding the plight of the Jewish intellectual. Overall, the readings in this section display the scope and significance Hartman has for early-21st-century scholars.

  • Balfour, Ian. “Responding to the Call: Hartman between Wordsworth and Hegel.” In Special Issue: In Honor of Geoffrey Hartman. Wordsworth Circle 37.1 (2006): 15–16.

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    This article offers an interesting recontextualization of Hartman’s romantic studies in literary and philosophical traditions.

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  • Elam, Helen Regueiro, and Frances Ferguson, eds. The Wordsworthian Enlightenment: Romantic Poetry and the Ecology of Reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

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    This collection of essays focuses on Hartman’s extensive work on romantic poetry to offer 21st-century interpretations of Wordsworth’s work. It shows the indelible mark Hartman has made on romantic studies and the continued importance of his work on understanding that literary period.

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  • Fulford, Tim. “The Materialization of the Lyric and the Romantic Construction of Place: Bards and Beasts on Dartmoor.” Romanticism: The Journal of Romantic Culture and Criticism 22.1 (2016): 15–32.

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    In this article, Fulford uses Hartman’s early assertion that romantic poetry establishes itself as a poetry that need not be marked to the physical location, but to the state of mind of the poet. Fulford employs a new type of ecocriticism or neo-romanticism to reestablish the value of physical location in romantic poetry.

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  • Krupnick, Mark. Jewish Writing and the Deep Places of the Imagination. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.

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    This text questions how writers merge the spiritual, secular, and intellectual lives of a Jewish artist. In a series of essays, Krupnick interrogates the work of major Jewish American literary figures, including Hartman, Lionel Trilling, and Saul Bellow, to find answers and offer perspective on their work.

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  • Newlyn, Lucy. “‘Reading After’: The Anxiety of the Writing Subject.” In Special Issue: Essays in Honor of Geoffrey H. Hartman. Studies in Romanticism 35.4 (1996): 609–628.

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    This extols Hartman as the preeminent voice of romantic criticism but considers the difficulty this position raises for later readers and critics. It considers issues of the romantic canon as a source of anxiety and also examines the reader’s position in light of Hartman’s theories.

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  • Redfield, Marc. Theory at Yale: The Strange Case of Deconstruction in America. Lit Z. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016.

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    This book documents the deconstructionist movement that took root in post–World War II America. The text examines all major figures of the movement, devoting much time to Hartman’s contributions to theoretical and political developments.

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  • Schatz-Jakobsen, Claus. “The Romanticism(s) of Contemporary Criticism with Hartman and Wordsworth.” Prism(s): Essays in Romanticism 5.1 (1997): 17–39.

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    This article reads Hartman’s relationships to deconstruction and trauma theory through the lens of his work with romanticism.

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  • Vermeulen, Pieter. Geoffrey Hartman’s Romanticism after the Holocaust. London: Continuum, 2010.

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    This book uses Hartman’s theories on romanticism and Holocaust studies to examine early-21st-century theories in literature in literary criticism, especially new mimetic studies and ecocriticism.

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  • Vermeulen, Pieter. “Geoffrey Hartman and the Affective Ecology of Romantic Form.” Literature Compass 8.10 (2011): 757–766.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2011.00836.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Vermeulen uses Hartman’s studies of romanticism and trauma to develop a new response to romanticism that shows the movement’s historical affect. It also explains Hartman’s relationship to “new formalism.”

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