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This interview is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

An Interview with J. Hillis Miller K. M. Newton


J. Hillis Miller, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Yale, is one of the most eminent of American academic critics. His best known work was influenced by phenomenological criticism, particularly the criticism of Georges Poulet. This form of criticism presupposes that all of an author's works form a unity and define a certain relationship between the author's imagination and its objects, since these works are the embodiment in words of how the author's consciousness relates to and experiences the world. In recent years, in company with a group of other critics at Yale, he has become identified with deconstruction, a critical mode much influenced by the post-structuralist philosophy of Jacques Derrida. Deconstructive criticism is particularly concerned with the rhetorical or figural aspect of literature, which, deconstructive critics believe, makes it impossible for a literary text to have a single or assigned meaning. Figurative language is seen as creating an excess of meaning at the level of the signifier that cannot be controlled by any enclosed or embodied meaning at the level of the signified. Deconstructive criticism is thus particularly interested in how the language of literary texts undermines determinacy of meaning. This form of criticism has had an important impact in the United States and seems likely in the future to challenge the dominant critical approaches of the New Criticism, which considers literary texts as autonomous and unified structures and lays little emphasis on historical, cultural, and biographical factors, and historically based criticism. Despite its complexity, ...


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