Robert C. Holub critically investigates the histories of reception theory, poststructuralism, and deconstruction in postwar Germany and the United States. He looks at how imported theories assume a place in the political discourse of a country, and how indigenous intellectual traditions and prejudices affect, modify, or even distort foreign theories.
Holub addresses many timely questions: Why did reception theory, so prominent in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s, fail to have an impact on American academics until the 1980s? Why did postructuralism, and specifically the writings of Michel Foucault, fail to find a home in German academia while becoming an important theoretical voice in the United States? How did deconstruction, originally considered by American scholars as merely a sophisticated tool for analysis, get taken up by leftists who argued for an affinity between the critique of language and the critique of capitalism? And finally, how have American intellectuals responded to revelations of fascism in the pasts of Paul de Man and Martin Heidegger?
Crossing Borders effectively demonstrates the extent to which theoretical work needs to be understood in cultural, intellectual, and institutional contexts. Holub argues that the praxis of theories is determined not only by their content and style, but also by the environment in which they must function. The success of a transplanted theory, he contends, is due less to its inherent merits than to the hospitability of the environment on to which it is grafted.