Law and Literature by Posner Richard A

Law and Literature by Posner Richard A

Author:Posner, Richard A. [Posner, Richard A.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Writing
ISBN: 9780674032460
Goodreads: 6402284
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Published: 1988-10-03T00:00:00+00:00

21. Which it never is. Graham Bradshaw, Misrepresentations: Shakespeare and the


radical skepticism would cut the ground out from under the radical critic’s advocacy of social change. His own proposals could be derided as culture-bound, historically contingent, subjective—even as implicated in the repressive discourse that he was attacking, as when Kafka’s writings are treated as authored by Franz Kafka. Just by treating Kafka as an authority, a social prophet, a “genius” who speaks to the social problems of modern America across a cultural and temporal gulf, West is challenging the radical egalitarianism of postmodernists who want to bring the reader level with the author.

Postmodernism oscillates between being revolutionary and being quietistic. When the contingent, constructed character of social and in some versions even physical reality is emphasized,22 radical transformation of society is seen as possible, although writers can’t be appealed to as authorities for the transformation. Much radical feminist thought is of this character, including the idea that sexuality itself is merely a social construct. When instead the ethnocentric, socially constructed character of the self is emphasized, the possibility of objective social criticism is undermined. Such criticism presupposes an external, ecumenical standard, such as “universal rights” or “our common humanity,” that postmodernism denies exists.23

Materialists (1993), points out that cultural materialists, new historicists, and other postmodern literary critics do not relativize their own political and methodological stances but treat them as timeless and true.

Preposterously so in the case of physical reality. For incisive criticism of this most extreme version of postmodernism, see Paul A. Boghossian, “What the Sokal Hoax Ought to Teach Us: The Pernicious Consequences and Internal Contradictions of ‘Postmodernist’ Relativism,” Times Literary Supplement, Dec. 13, 1996, p. 14.

See Sabina Lovibond, “Feminism and Postmodernism,” 178 New Left Review 5 (1989). Balkin, in “Deconstruction’s Legal Career,” note 5 above, at 734–738, acknowledges the quietistic implications of deconstruction. And Binder and Weisberg argue interestingly that deconstruction is at war with participatory democracy. Common sense tells us that speech is the more reliable, in a sense more “basic,” method of communication than writing because it enables meaning to be clarified by inflection and body language and by interrogation of the speaker, and because the speaker knows who his “reader” (that is, listener) is and can fit his words to the listener’s understanding. But deconstruction opposes the privileging of speech— exemplified in radical politics, where new meanings and identities are forged in meetings, rallies, and other communal projects that bring people face to face—over writing. Guyora Binder and Robert Weisberg, Literary Criticisms of Law, ch. 5 (2000).


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