criminal law, and much of tort lawnbesides, can be viewed as a civilizednsubstitute for what would otherwise benthe irrepressible impulse to avengenwrongful injuries.” Moving nimblynthrough a critical analysis of revenge asn”an extremely clumsy method of maintainingnorder,” he concludes “that lawnchannels rather than eliminatesnrevenge — replaces it as system but notnas feeling.”nThis “feeling” has played not only ancentral part in the development of lawnbut has also staked a large claim in thenWestern literary tradition — a fact thatnis often curiously overlooked by “literarynlawyers.” Posner traces the prominencen(varying, to be sure) of thenrevenge motif from the Greeksnthrough the Elizabethans to the present,nadducing the Iliad, ]ulius Caesar,nHamlet, and Heinrich von Kleist’s MichaelnKohlhaas, among other works, asnevidence of the enduring literary preoccupationnwith vengeful passion.nMoreover, Posner’s interpretations ofnthese masterpieces are exceptional inntheir clarity and concision, and henpauses along the way to refute easily angreat deal of the critical quackery—nNietzschean, Freudian, etc. — that hasncluttered our understanding and appreciationnof Hamlet.nPosner’s approach to literature isnavowedly New Critical; this method isnthe reason for the cogency of his ownninterpretations, based solidly on evidencenfound (or not found) in thenworks themselves. Posner marks off thencritical territory well: “Intentionalismnassigns primacy in the creation of thenmeaning of the work of literature to thenauthor, reader-response criticism to thencritic or other reader. New Criticism tonthe work itself.” But he finds the NewnCritical method inappropriate whennreading statutes and the Constitution:nlegal texts demand that one be attentivento the intentions of the “authors.”nPosner defends those divergent approachesnto law and literature withnastonishing rigor, and he is worth quotingnat length on this crucial distinction:nA poet tries to create a work ofnart, a thing of beauty andnpleasure. He either succeeds ornfails. If he succeeds, we do notncare how banal his intentionsnwere, and if he fails, we do notncare how elevated they were. Anlegislature, however, is trying tongive commands to its subordinatesnin our governmentnsystem, the judges who applynlegislation in specific cases. Ancommand is designed to set upna direct channel between thenissuer’s mind and the recipient’s;nit is a communication, to bendecoded in accordance with thensender’s intentions. If a messagenis garbled is transmission, younask the sender to repeat it; thatnis intentionalism in practice. Ifnyou cannot reach the sender,nyou try to glean from everythingnyou know about him and thencircumstances of the failednmessage what he might havenmeant; again the correct analysisnis an intentionalist one.nLaw and Literature is not entirelynconcerned with correcting excesses.nPosner, for example, finds “the literarynanalysis of [judicial] opinion is — highlynpromising.” Naturally, he turns tonHolmes’s dissent in Lochner and, afternan astute exegesis, declares it “a rhetoricalnmasterpiece” but logically flaccid.n(Posner’s analyses of other judicialnstyles are equally illuminating.) Furthermore,nhe avers that literature cannoffer judges guidance in “craft values”n— that is to say, impartiality, scrupulousness,nand concreteness. (OnenWHY JOHNNY CAN’TnNUTHIN’nA growing number of people recognizenthat the school systems of the UnitednStates constitute a monopoly with all thencharacteristic arrogance and inefiiciencynwe expect. But while Pacific Bell or thenpower companies have to provide anservice whose effectiveness can be easilynmeasured, schools deal in intangibles:nintellectual and moral development.nEveryone knows the schools are a mess,nbut most of the proposed solutions—nmerit pay for teachers, longer hours,ncurriculum reform, etc.—will do littlenmore than legitimate the wasteful tyrannynexercised by teachers’ unions, centralnoffices, and state school superintendents.nMyron Lieberman is one of the fewncritics of the system with suflRcient intelligencenand candor to explode the mythnREVISIONSnnnshould note that Posner’s own disciplinednprose possesses all these virtues.)nSuch “aesthetic integrity,” as henterms it, is especially needed todaynwhen “The avoidance of the concretenis ubiquitous in legal prose.” Literaturencan also assist in clarifying nebulousnlegal categories like defamation andnobscenity. Interestingly, he favors ancurtailment of copyright law for thensolidly anti-Romantic reason that “literarynimagination is not a volcano ofnpure inspiration but a weaving of thenauthor’s experience of life into annexisting literary tradition,” and thus annauthor must be able to use the traditionnwith some latitude if it is to thrive.nWhat animates Posner’s oppositionnto much of the law and Hteraturenmovement is his obvious respect fornthe rule of law and the genius of ournliterary tradition. Yet one suspects thatnPosner’s plea for recognizing law andnliterature as overlapping but essentiallyndiscrete disciplines will go largely unheeded.nAfter all, to declare oneself anliterary New Critic and a legalnintentionalist is to consign oneself tonthe dustbin that contemporary academicnfashion has marked “reactionary.”nWhich is one reason Lawnand Literature deserves our closestnattention.nGregory J. Sullivan writes fromnTrenton, New Jersey.nof” school reform. In his latest book,nPrivatization and Public Choice (NewnYork: St. Martin’s Press; 400 pp., $35),nhe calls for approaches that are bothnradical and eminently practical.nLieberman proposes to begin thenbreak-up by two sets of measures:nprivatization and increased publicn(which typically means parental)nchoice. Privatization includes such stepsnas contracting out services, selling governmentnproperty and subsidies to nongovernmentalnsuppliers. Choice is notnrestricted to choice among governmentownednoptions, but a real choice amongnall the possibilities, including religiousnschools and home schools.nLieberman is not an optimist, and hisnpurpose is not to provide a blueprint fornsuccess. What he does claim is that thenvariety of measures he outlines standnthe best chance of making headwaynagainst the establishment. (TF)nSEPTEMBER 1989/39n