Sitting at the Literary Table

Mark D. White

Accepting a gracious invitation from Warren Emerson, I am now guest-blogging at The Literary Table, a general interest blog with a special focus on law and the humanities (especially literature). Until such time as they kick me out, I plan on doing most of my law-related blogging there, including discussing my forthcoming edited book Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy, as well as my long-promised blog posts on Ethan Leib's book Friend v. Friend: The Transformation of Friendship--and What the Law Has to Do with It (which be split between the Table and my Psychology Today blog).

UPDATE: My first Table post (greetings and introductuon) is here.

Arthur Penn: Innovation and Collaboration

Jonathan B. Wight

Nat Segaloff is the author of the sparkling new biography, Arthur Penn: American Director (University of Kentucky Press, 2011).  Penn (1922-2010) revolutionized Hollywood in classic movies such as The Miracle Worker, Bonnie and Clyde, Alice’s Restaurant, and Little Big Man as well as a score of Broadway hits. 


More than the subject matter of these movies is timely and provocative.  Penn’s directorial approach was innovative, using intuition to bring out hidden meaning from the scripts and nuance from the actors.  To generate creativity, Penn knew that things could not be overly scripted.  If things could not be overly scripted they could not be overly controlled.  If they could not be overly controlled they could not be managed in a hierarchical fashion.  But none of that was deduced, it was discovered through trial and error and happy accident. 

While he wasn’t aware of it, Penn’s managerial style fits the mold of modern stakeholder theory: giving investors a high return, Penn was a generous colleague to actors and made choices for the sake of producing exquisite art.  In many cases Penn took a cut in salary to do a piece his way. 

Most economists—and President Obama—believe that “innovation” is the key to future economic success.  But how many economists understand that innovation is fueled by something other than rational mind?  And that personal sacrifice is often a necessary ingredient?  Creativity can flourish in teams bound by emotional trust.  As on business teams, the emotional connection of actors and director cannot be scripted because it is not mechanical—it is organic.  The economics of innovation is rooted in voluntary cooperation and an ethics of the quest. 

Segaloff developed a close relationship to Penn and his family during the writing of the book.  Consequently, the book provides rich details unavailable from other sources.  The writing is clean and unsentimental, and treats the major experiences of Penn’s life in fascinating essays.

If there is guilt by association, Penn’s career is clouded in some minds by his friendship with Alger Hiss.  But Penn’s life, viewed as a whole, exemplifies that of virtue ethics in the way he treats other people.  Arthur Penn: American Director has rich lessons for the economy of innovation in the 21st century. 

New book: Friend v. Friend: The Transformation of Friendship--and What the Law Has to Do with It

FVF Mark D. White

I recently received Friend v. Friend: The Transformation of Friendship--and What the Law Has to Do with It, the latest book from Oxford University Press by Ethan J. Leib, professor of law at University of California-Hastings and one of the regular bloggers at PrawfsBlawg. It's a book that I'm anticipating enjoying immensely, and which I hope to blog about at Psychology Today when I have time to fully digest it.

More information from the publisher below the fold:

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