Joseph Hillis Miller (1928- ): Biography, Famous Books and Influences

Joseph Hillis Miller is an American literary critic and scholar. He was born on March 5, 1928, in Newport News, Virginia. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the field of literary theory and criticism. Miller’s career has spanned several decades, during which he has made significant contributions to the study of literature, critical theory, and literary criticism.

Miller received his undergraduate education at Oberlin College and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1952. He began his academic career as a professor of English at Johns Hopkins University and later held positions at institutions such as Yale University and the University of California, Irvine. Throughout his career, Miller has been associated with various literary movements, including structuralism, deconstruction, and poststructuralism.

Famous Works by J. Hillis Miller:

“The Disappearance of God: Five Nineteenth-Century Writers” (1963): In this influential work, Miller explores the writings of five prominent 19th-century authors – Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and Samuel Beckett to examine the theme of the disappearance of God in literature.

“The Critic as Host” (1975): This essay is one of Miller’s notable contributions to the field of literary criticism and addresses the relationship between the critic and the text. It explores the idea of the critic as a host who welcomes multiple interpretations and readings of a text.

“The Ethics of Reading” (1987): In this book, Miller delves into the ethical implications of literary interpretation. He discusses how readers engage with texts and the ethical responsibilities that come with interpretation.

“Versions of Pygmalion” (1990): This work focuses on the myth of Pygmalion and its various iterations in literature and art. Miller explores how this myth has been used to explore themes of creation, transformation, and desire.

“On Literature” (2002): Here, Miller provides a comprehensive overview of his thoughts on literature, literary theory, and the act of reading. He engages with various critical theories and thinkers, making it a valuable resource for students and scholars of literature.

“For Derrida” (2009): Miller reflects on his personal and intellectual relationship with the philosopher Jacques Derrida in this memoir. He offers insights into the development of deconstruction as a critical approach and its impact on literary studies.

“The Conflagration of Community: Fiction before and after Auschwitz” (2011): In this work, Miller explores how literature grapples with the ethical and moral challenges posed by historical events like the Holocaust. He examines the role of literature in representing and responding to such traumas.

J. Hillis Miller’s contributions to literary criticism and theory have had a profound impact on the field, and his work continues to be influential for scholars and students studying literature, critical theory, and philosophy. His engagement with complex topics such as ethics, interpretation, and the relationship between literature and society has left a lasting legacy in the world of literary studies.

Also read: Erving Goffman (1922- 1982): Biography, Famous Books and Influences