One last time, to see the “value of the speech” as only from the reader’s perspective is just to say that you’re not interested in whether it is language at all, and thus cannot be interested in it as “speech.” But the fact that the linchpin of Robotica’s argument turns out to be the precedent of commercial advertising is entirely fitting, albeit beyond what I can develop here. Long before Citizens United and Robotica, late nineteenth and early twentieth-century jurisprudence and legal theory on corporations began to understand commercial speech fundamentally as money, and had to formulate a degraded theory of language to support it. Their degraded theory was committed to the materiality of signs—a commitment that became known, to literary scholars, as a fundamental premise of deconstruction or what Knapp and Michaels call “theory.” This is part of a much longer story, one I develop in Modernism and the Meaning of Corporate Persons.32 We are still living with legal scholars’ solutions from over a century ago, as they tried to resolve the difficulty in living with and interpreting the writing of collective corporate persons of which it was frequently difficult or impossible to figure out an intention. That Collins and Skover find so much support for their position in the literary theories of the 1980s is, from that perspective, just an unhappy accident.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor