For example, Mendenhall calls Geoffrey’s work “a history of the rise of law,” arguing that Geoffrey responded to the factional nature of the British legal system in the generations following the Norman Conquest of 1066 by crafting a narrative in which the establishing of a unified legal system plays the central role.
In a good example of applying libertarian insights to literary texts, Mendenhall shows how Geoffrey’s use of symbols and images to establish law’s authority (and thus the authority of the king) tracks with libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard’s discussion of the methods by which the state legitimizes itself.
He writes, “A person gets used to the smell of his own house; sometimes it takes a rude guest to point out when the house smells funny.” What smells funny?
“I have heard professors in the classroom present critiques of capitalism that have no basis in economic research or reality ...
Literary criticism is a field that mystifies many people.
Although its goal of evaluating and commenting on works of literature is straightforward enough, the theories that inform the work of many critics often muddy the waters.It also pushes back against the erroneous belief of Marxist critics that all human motives are economic as well as the belief of many conservative critics that economic motives are somehow separate from other motives of human life.Moreover, it recognizes that economic activity such as the setting of prices in the marketplace is a much more bottom-up affair than Marxists tend to recognize or appreciate.(Rothbard wrote in his prominent essay “Anatomy of the State” that the state relies on intellectuals to create an ideology according to which the state’s rule is seen as preferable to all existing alternatives.)Another chapter focusing on the connection between law and literature is the second, “Liberty and Shakespeare.” In fact, this chapter provides a survey-in-miniature of the entire subfield of “Law and Literature.” Mendenhall shows how attorneys, some of whom who are not career academics, have made meaningful contributions to the study of Shakespeare.He even holds out the possibility that in the future most important literary scholarship might originate outside of universities’ English departments, which too often have gotten bogged down in outmoded Marxist criticism.Literary theory is a description of the underlying principles, one might say the tools, by which we attempt to understand literature.All literary interpretation draws on a basis in theory but can serve as a justification for very different kinds of critical activity.Christians and others who reject the materialist assumptions undergirding Marxism need different ways to approach literature.In , Allen Mendenhall presents libertarianism as an alternative lens through which to view works of literature as a means of understanding them better.(I recall one of my conventionally liberal history professor’s stating around the year 2000 that “Marxism is dead everywhere except in English departments.”) The Marxist critic views works of literature, as well as those works’ forms and meanings, as products of particular social institutions that reflect a particular ideology.The Marxist critic evaluates these works according to how “progressive” they are.