I am going to bring together what may seem at first to be two extremely different institutions for the creation of public meaning, namely classical Athenian tragedy and the Supreme Court opinion.1 My object is not so much to draw lines of similarity and distinction between them, as a cultural analyst might do, as to try to capture something of what I believe is centrally at work in both institutions, in fact essential to what each at its best achieves. I can frame it as a question: How is it that the best instances of each genre (for I will be talking only about the best) work to resist the ever-present impulse to trivialize human life and experience—certainly well known in our own era—and instead confer upon the individual, and his or her sufferings and struggles in the world, a kind of dignity? I think that something like this is in fact the core of the most important achievements of both institutions, and that in both cases it is simultaneously imaginative (or literary) and political in nature.
White, James Boyd. "Human Dignity and the Claim of Meaning: Athenian Tragic Drama and Supreme Court Decisions." J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 27, no. 1 (2002): 45-64.