The Literal and the Law

  • Alan Kennedy


The discussion of values and literature, as we have seen, involves us in kinds of resistance. It seems to become necessary to resist once we have conceived of the possibility of having a set of values which we ourselves hold that may be put to the test, in one way or another, by another set of values held by the work of literature (and the society it represents). We resist, that is to say, in the name of the authority of one set of values or another, although it is not always going to be clear that we can consciously know what the set of values is that we operate by, or that operates us, or that is at work in a text. So we are likely to be involved in at least a double resistance and evaluation: if we resist the values we think we see in a work of literature, and we do so in the name of some set of values we suppose to be free of ideology, we at least owe it to our self-esteem to put our own set of values to the test. To be consistent, then, we have to resist the authority of the very values we pretend to be using to resist another set of values we pretend to be perceiving. So the question of resistance is intimately tied into questions of value and authority, subjects which need to be considered a little more fully before we can proceed.


Minimum Wage Town Council Literary Discourse Interpretative Community Nuclear Disarmament 
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    Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading ( New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979 ) p. 204.Google Scholar
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    John Fraser, ‘Playing for Real: Discourse and Authority’, University of Toronto Quarterly, 56, no. 3 (Spring 1987) 416–34. References will be given parenthetically in the text.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method ( New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1984 ).Google Scholar
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    Jacques Derrida, ‘Signature, Event, Context’, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982 ).Google Scholar
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    See Owen Barfield, Speaker’s Meaning (Letchworth, Herts: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1967 ).Google Scholar
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    See Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alan Kennedy 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Kennedy
    • 1
  1. 1.Dalhousie UniversityCanada

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