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‘As Rude As You Like – Honest’: Theatre Criticism and the Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 October 2003


In 2001, when David Soul sued the Daily Mirror for printing a defamatory review of his West End show, The Dead Monkey, questions surfaced about the critic's rights and responsibilities under the law. There have been numerous accounts in recent years of the relationships between law and literature, and the general assumption is that critics can claim the defence of ‘fair comment’. However, very little work has been done on the history, rationale, and implications of that defence, or on the actions before Soul's in which aggrieved theatre people have attempted to bring critics to account. David Roberts evaluates individual cases from legal history in which the critic's rights have been tested, and considers what they have to tell us about the way our society conceptualizes critical activity. Bourdieu's history of taste is invoked, but modified to show how the law's concern with formalism in its own processes has endorsed a matching version of the critical process. David Roberts is Head of English at the University of Central England, Birmingham.

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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