Det finns vissa strider som är eviga. Striden mellan grupp och enskild, mellan struktur och individualism, mellan determinism och självförverkligande. Och så finns det striden om fotnoten, en strid fullt i klass med den om semikolonet. Jag är en varm vän av långa resonerande fotnoter. Alla är inte lika tagna. Det finns en hel del skrivet, för och emot.
Min favorit i genren är Balkins artikel The Footnote. Den inleds så här:
4I would have liked to have written an essay about the relationship of law to literature — to deconstruct the opposition between them and, in the process, to say a few words about deconstructive techniques in general. I would have explained that legal writing and literary writing share a common textuality, a semiotic similarity that one could exploit in legal as well as literary contexts. I would have pointed out that the seemingly meaningless and accidental features of a text possess an economy or logic that both troubles and elucidates other features of the text. I would have shown how the processes of signification that we call the ”surface features” of the text and those processes of signification that we call the ”meaning” or ”argument” or ”point” of the text are not separable in the way we ordinarily imagine them to be, but that they feed upon and nourish each other in a most uncanny way. In particular, I would have argued that legal writings’ reliance on figural language — metaphor, metonymy, and so on — was not adventitious or accidental, something that one could do without. I would have contended that this reliance was as essential to legal as to literary expression, and that it could be exploited by the legal critic — exploited in a way that would show the contingency and limitations of our ways of thinking about legal issues. I had planned to write about all these things, and many more, but as I began to write, I was irresistibly drawn to another problem — different and yet not so different: the problem of the footnote.
Det finns mycket att säga om fotnoten. Balkin säger en hel del. Hela artikeln är för övrigt införd i en fotnot. I den sista fotnoten står följande: ”105. [Note to the editors of the Law Review — place the entire text of this Article (including this footnote with these instructions) in this footnote. If this causes a problem of infinite regress, improvise].”