Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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Yale school of literary criticism

core definition

The Yale School of Literary Criticism argued that texts are open to multiple readings rather than having a single meaning.

explanatory context

The Yale School of Literary Criticism has probably been the leading centre of literary deconstruction in the United States in the last two decades of the C20th.


The school has been at the forefront of the view that suggests that texts are open to multiple readings. Opposed to traditional scholarship, they have demonstrated that as language, due to the slippage between signifier and signified, has within it the basis for self-critique then any text inevitably undermines any claim it may have to a determinate meaning.


Central figures of the school are Paul de Man (deceased 1983) and J. Hillis Miller. The former was posthumously discovered to have published articles sympathetic to the Nazi cause during the occupation of Belgium.


Deconstruction in general and the Yale School in particular began to lose its dominant position in American literary circles around the mid-1980s (its credibility undermined by the de Man revelations) and was challenged by new historicism for its lack of social contextualisation.

analytical review

Encyclopaedia Britannica (1998):

Yale school, group of literary critics at Yale University, who became known in the 1970s and '80s for their  deconstructionist theories.

The Yale school's skeptical, relativistic brand of criticism drew inspiration from the work of French philosopher  Jacques Derrida. Its most prominent members were  Paul de Man and  J. Hillis Miller. De Man, a professor of comparative literature and author of Blindness & Insight (1971; 2nd ed., rev. 1983) and Allegories of Reading (1979), was closely allied with Derrida and based his theories on a system of rhetorical figures. The writings of English professors Geoffrey H. Hartman and Harold Bloom (both of whom were also at Yale) were frequently critical of the Yale school, while Miller, whose work focused on textual opposites and differences, often defended charges that deconstruction was nihilistic. The only book the members of the Yale school published jointly was Deconstruction and Criticism (1979). The Yale school helped popularize deconstruction in America, but de Man's death in 1983 and Miller's departure in 1986 marked its eclipse. The revelation (in the late 1980s) that de Man published anti-Semitic articles during World War II further affected the school's reputation.

associated issues


related areas

See also

literary criticism

literary theory


Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1998, 'Yale School', available at, accessed 15 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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