Anthony Julius, the British barrister best known for representing Princess Diana, is also the author of a handful of books that have been described as “clever ... in a sort of abstract Cambridge-graduate way”. His forays into literary criticism, art history and cultural studies tend to echo the themes of his work as a litigator, where he specialises in defamation and media law. A central question in Julius’s work is thus what constitutes an acceptable or at least tolerable speech act (verbal, visual, textual or otherwise) in legal and ethical terms. What do we do with art that offends? There is TS Eliot’s antisemitism, for instance — offensive, Julius insists, but also integral to the poetry, which is “animated” by it and thus benefits from it. If you want to read Eliot, goes the argument, you have to accept and even appreciate his bigotry. Yet elsewhere Julius bemoans the ways in which “transgressive” contemporary art “celebrates and practises cruelty”. Somewhere between Marcel Duc...

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