Abstract of "The Law of Signatures" (1992)
- In criticizing J. L. Austin's theory of speech acts, Jacques Derrida
and Jonathan Culler have argued, in part, that Austin misunderstands how
signatures function. They claim that he ignores the essentially formal
and "iterable" structure of a signature--a structure that betrays
the absence of any subjective consciousness on the part of the signer.
I argue that their concept of iterability does not apply to this case.
Rather, legal practice in the England and the United States, as also in
France, countenances a wide range of variation for signatures, variation
that is consistent with and legitimized by Austinian assumptions about
personal agency. Such variability has literary as well as legal implications.
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Department of English, University of Minnesota
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Created February 1995
Last revised 17 September 1996