Educative friendship - a personal note.

AuthorGaakeer, Jeanne

In 1992, when I started my doctorate research in the interdisciplinary field of Law and Literature, The Legal Imagination was one of the first books I read. To European eyes, it was a most unusual book since in continental legal theory in those days, the Anglo-analytical tradition was predominant, and French deconstruction had for some time been the up-and-coming stream. Fascinated as I became with Professor White's works, I decided to try to get in contact with him in order to ask him about the genesis of his ideas. So much for the dangers of the intentional fallacy Whimsatt and Beardsley warned us against! My supervisor agreed wholeheartedly when I told him about my project, though, with hindsight, probably because he thought the whole enterprise preposterous. After all, from our European perspective then, it would be outrageous to suppose that any famous American professor, and one of the founders of an expanding movement at that, would ever grace such a request with an answer. Nevertheless, write I did, and to my surprise I received a reply, saying, in a letter of September 8, 1992, "It is a great honor to me that you have such an interest in my work." I was elated!

It was not until I arrived in Ann Arbor that I truly experienced what the concept of translation which Professor White elaborated in Justice as Translation really meant. On the day of my arrival, I asked the cleaning lady at my lodgings with the grand name of Oxford House for the way to the law school; I wanted to check the distance to make sure I would be on time for our first interview the next day. She told me that I could not miss it because it was an impressive and very old building. Well, I walked and walked past many buildings, some of them nineteenth-century Oxbridge style, but I did not find the law school. Why? Because it had never occurred to me that the buildings I saw were "very old." With most of the European universities "very old" is late Middle Ages, or early renaissance. There's old for you! And it worked the other way around too, when in a letter of January 10, 1995 Professor White wrote in a postscript, "Could you possibly bring yourself to call me Jim rather than Professor White? I do not want to tax your European sensibilities beyond reason, but I really think that this degree of formality is not necessary." He was right about the European sensibilities, but how could I possibly be the first to suggest to continue on a first-name basis, even in the...

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