The Footnote

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I would have liked to have written an essay about the relationship of law to literature-to deconstruct the opposition between them and, in the process, to say a few words about deconstructive techniques in general. I would have explained that legal writing and literary writing share a common textuality, a semiotic similarity that one could exploit in legal as well as literary contexts. I would have pointed out that the seemingly meaningless and accidental features of a text possess an economy or logic that both troubles and elucidates other features of the text. I would have shown how the processes of signification that we call the "surface features" of the text and those processes of signification that we call the "meaning" or "argument" or "point" of the text are not separable in the way we ordinarily imagine them to be, but that they feed upon and nourish each other in a most uncanny way. In particular, I would have argued that legal writings' reliance on figural language-metaphor, metonymy, and so on-was not adventitious or accidental, something that one could do without. I would have contended that this reliance was as essential to legal as to literary expression, and that it could be exploited by the legal critic-exploited in a way that would show the contingency and limitations of our ways of thinking about legal issues. I had planned to write about all these things, and many more, but as I began to write, I was irresistibly drawn to another problem-different and yet not so different: the problem of the footnote.

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