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Just WordsLillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America$
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Alan Ackerman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780300167122

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300167122.001.0001

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Criticism versus Libel

Criticism versus Libel

Chapter:
(p.250) V Criticism versus Libel
Source:
Just Words
Author(s):

Alan Ackerman

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300167122.003.0008

This chapter examines distinctions and connections between defamation and literary criticism. It discusses how questions about deliberate falsehood and damaged reputations alone prove difficult to answer not because it is hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint the author's intentions, but because the intention of the utterance is structurally inseparable from how it is received. The meaning of a defamatory statement is determined from the point of view of the reader. So, in cases of libel, rather than focusing exclusively on the text or attempting to parse the intentions of the author, the Court reads the statement in the way it would have been read by the average person. Under the Court's doctrine, a defendant can be held responsible only if the statement is false and defamatory, the defendant had the requisite state of mind, and it has the requisite effect upon the reader.

Keywords:   defamation, falsehood, damaged reputations

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