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This article is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

The Survival of Theory 5: Conceptual Houses Raymond Tallis

In the application of post-Saussurean theory to the law (PNR 103), we saw 'Theory' securing its survival and asserting its extra-literary importance by operating on fresh texts. The law is an obvious substrate for deconstructionist operations since its essential substance is verbal judgement and the interpretation and re-interpretation of such judgements. (That judicial sentences go beyond sentences - the judge's pronouncement is a perlocutive utterance that brings about extra-textual events - escapes the text-besotted attention of the theorist.) This makes legal studies more vulnerable to invasion by textualissimi than, say architecture, where the final product is a building which has to stand up in the wind and protect against the rain and is easy to judge by extra-textual functional criteria. However, theorists are not easily deterred and, where the importance, indeed the survival, of theory is at stake, they are willing not merely to sally forth into fresh texts but to go to places which have hitherto been thought to be extra-textual. This is consistent with the fundamental notion (denied as soon as asserted, of course) that there is nothing outside the text. For this notion has a double implication: not only that texts do not refer to an extra-textual reality but that also such a reality does not exist. As Shakespeare most certainly would not have put it, 'all the world's a page'.

In the 1960s, some theorists of architecture became interested in applying structuralist concepts to the description of buildings and of the spaces they ...

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