Paul de Man talked once about the resistance to theory, and his claim could just as well apply to the resistance to theory and history as necessarily coeval dimensions of the same predicament. That theory and history are constantly implicated in one another is a truism whose force lies not only in how much we attempt to practice its implications but also in how much its forgetting structures what we as literary critics and historians do. This forgetting occurs insofar as we undertake our research as if we knew what history and theory meant, instead of deploying each of them as a wager or a question, a more difficult task that by no means lessens the exigency of our encounter with them. Theory and history are interminable wagers that have been the topic of many recent discussions, including those about scale and...

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