Department of Sociology and Political Science
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
7491 Trondheim, Norway
Phone: + 47 73 59 17 75
Despite the fact that the social scientist may experience the production of his study in an artistic mode, that is as an unstructured progression made of lucky intellectual encounters, instinctive and aesthetics choices as well as irregular waves of inspiration, none of these phenomena are expected to show in the text through which his study will enter into and exist within the sphere of public scientific life; at least if it is to be considered as scientific (Bourdieu 2004: 21). In this, it appears that the status of the social scientist as scientist, and by extension the status of social science as science, relies on an act of dissimulation comparable to the one through which, according to Pierre Bourdieu, the Kabyle man used to obtain and preserve his status and honour as a Kabyle man (2000).
By using Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of the Kabyle society as an interpretative framework, I shall in the following pages attempt to show how the practice of science is shaped by its existential need to obtain and preserve its status as science. This analysis will lead us and find its end where it has begun, on the border separating art from science; a border which in the light of our interpretative framework will appear to be nothing more nor less than a mirror.
If the Kabyle society and social science understood as a practice are comparable, it is to the extent that both may be seen as the product of a particular community: the Kabyle community on the one hand, the scientific community on the other. To those who may think that by drawing a parallel between a community that one may consider pre-modern and a community which tends to be conceived as the spearhead of modernity, our aim is to join Latour on the claim that we have never been modern (2003), we have to say that it is not.
Our aim is to show that whether it is pre-modern or modern – a distinction that we shall not question – a community is a community. By this we mean that its existence depends on the social recognition of its identity, and that its products and organization – which itself may be considered as one of its products - are shaped by the existential need to create and reproduce the conditions of this recognition. Such propositions and their use in the social study of science are not original. Others have attempted to set light on how a dynamics of community, which is none other than a dynamics of social recognition and misrecognition, may shape the practice of science and its products (e.g. Merton, 1973; Latour, 1987; Bourdieu 2004). Nonetheless, the way in which we shall articulate them may represent something new.
According to Bourdieu’s analysis of the Algerian Kabyle society of the 1960’s, the status and the honour of the Kabyle man as a Kabyle man was dependent on his ability to defend a sacred of the right: the Nif, by hiding and preventing a sacred of the left: the Haram, from being revealed (2000)1. As sacred of the right, the Nif existed as masculinity, virility, men as the possessor of beneficial and protective power, the right, the straight, protection, fences and clothes. In opposition, the Haram, sacred of the left, existed as feminity, women as possessors of malefic and impure powers, the left, the bend, vulnerability and nudity.
Based upon the defence of the Nif through the dissimulation of the Haram, the obtaining and the preservation of the status and of the honour of the Kabyle man appeared to organize the Kabyle society by defining an inside where the Haram was dissimulated and an outside where the Nif was defended. The inside was both the domain of women – house and garden – and the closed world of the secret of intimate life – alimentation and sexuality - while the outside was both the domain of men - council, mosque and field – and the open world of the public life, of social and political activities and of exchanges (Bourdieu, 2000 : 52).2
Besides defining all things in the Kabyle society, from daily practices, to the way they were carried out and who carried them out, the obtaining and the preservation of the status and of the honour of the Kabyle man was also ritualised through games of challenge and riposte. These games were regulated by a set of basic rules that Bourdieu described more or less explicitly, but that we could sum up as such:
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Let us now transform the analysis of Pierre Bourdieu into an interpretative framework which will help us to see how the practice of social science is shaped by its existential need to obtain and preserve its status of science. We shall do so by considering that as the Kabyle man, the status and the honour of the social scientist as a scientist will depend on his3 ability to defend a sacred of the right, by hiding and preventing a sacred of the left from being revealed. We shall identify the sacred of the right of social science, and by extension of science, as the object, while its sacred of the left as the subject. We shall see the object, sacred of the right of science, as logic, theoretical coherence, empirical proofs, public relevancy, the right, the straight, conformity, the mechanic, transcendence, order, knowledge, beneficial and protective power, protection. In opposition, we shall see the subject, sacred of the left of science, as randomness, intuition, inspiration, the left, the bended, creativity, the organic, immanence, chaos, idea, malefic and impure powers, vulnerability, nudity.
We shall then consider that based upon the defence of the object through the dissimulation of the subject, the obtaining and the preservation of the status and of the honour of the social scientist as scientist will appear to organize the practice of social science by defining an inside, where the subject is dissimulated, and an outside, where the object is defended. We shall conceive the inside of social science as being both the domain of the subject – fieldwork and office - and the closed world of the secret and intimacy of scientific production, and its outside as being both the domain of the object - scientific texts, conferences and seminars – and the open world of the public scientific life, of the diffusion of knowledge .
Similarly to what Bourdieu observed in the Kabyle society, we shall consider that besides partly defining the practice of social science, the obtaining and the preservation of the status and of the honour of the social scientist as a scientist is also ritualised through games of challenge and riposte; these games being regulated by the same set of basic rules that we have summed up above.
Our interpretative framework being now in place, let us proceed with our analysis.
Stuck upon the last sentence of my introduction, I left my office to walk around the university with a cup of coffee in my hand, so as to figure out how I would continue my argument. As I silently considered my possibilities without being able to point out which was the best, a professor in political science noticed me. Probably intrigued by seeing me roaming in a maze of empty corridors, he came to me and asked: ‘how is it going with your work?’ ‘It’s hard’ I replied. ‘As you see me I am searching for inspiration everywhere’. He burst into laughter and said: ‘Don’t worry. It happens to all of us’. As this acknowledged social scientist suggested, he, as all of his peers, seem used to seeing their organic and subjective nature interfering with their work. Indeed, which social scientist did not experience sitting hours in front of the same three sentences wondering how to write the fourth? Which one did not surrender to an instinctive writing to only consider afterwards which fragments of text to keep, and which to throw away? Which social scientist did not see the shape of the research that he was carrying out completely transformed by a book fortunately found on the shelves of a library? Which one did not see his research benefit from the inspirational comments of others, or did not experience that it was only after having written 80 pages that he was able to formulate a clear research question and fully understand its relevance? Which social scientist did not figure out the solution to a theoretical question as he was walking down a lively street or down the quiet alleys of a park?
Although all the experiences named above are only a sample of how the organic and subjective nature of the social scientist may interfere with his work, those seem spread among social scientists. Nevertheless, it appears that they are never accounted for in the texts through which scientific studies enter and exist within the open world of the public scientific life. The only place where the existence of such experiences may be sensed on the outside of social science is the page of acknowledgements usually preceding the scientific text. Indeed, little attention to these pages is enough to notice that beside thanking the institutions having financially supported their research, social scientists tend to thank the persons who inspired them, although they might take care to do so not as explicitly as to use the substantive ‘inspiration’ or the verb ‘inspire’. Furthermore, they also appear to express their gratitude to the persons who helped them to dissimulate the subject involved in their work so as to give to their study a chance to be recognized as scientific on the outside. In his acknowledgement of the revised edition of his three tomes work, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Manuel Castells thanks for example his wife for having kept him ‘focused on substance rather than on image-making’, in other words for having helped him to tame his creativity (2000: xix). He also thanks his copy-editor ‘whose contribution has been essential in bringing order and clarity to this book’ (Castells, 2000: xix), that is for having helped him to organize unstructured developments into a logical progression.
The production of a scientific study is constituted both by the subjective experiences in which the subject finds its expression as well as by the efforts made by the social scientist to dissimulate them. As the examples we took from Castells’ acknowledgements show us, it seems that the dissimulation of the subject is acknowledged and valued among social scientists. Yet not as an act of dissimulation, but rather as an honourable attempt to restore order, coherence, and logic to one’s work; that is to give it the appearance of a scientific work. In the jargon of the Norwegian academy, the dissimulation of the subject is known as ‘to gather the strings’, that is to tighten up the argument, to present it as a logical progression from a research question to an answer. It is also said that we should ‘make the red thread apparent’. This red thread is nothing less than a deterritorialisation4 of the thread given by Ariane to Theseus in order to help him find his way out of the Minothor’s maze. It is a thread that the social scientist has to find, hold tight and follow in order to find his way out of the maze of his ideas and thoughts and avoid getting indefinitely lost within them. It is also the thread which, once in his possession, the social scientist has to make apparent to the reader, to put in his hand, so that discharged of the need to choose a path, the latter will read the scientific text without even realizing that he is making his way through a maze. Reterritorialised in the scientific study, the red thread dissimulates therefore the subject: the maze of the social scientist’s subjectivity.
In this sense, the dissimulation of the subject is itself dissimulated as a restoration of order which itself only appears to be acknowledged in the margins of the scientific text. Indeed, in order to hide the subject, the social scientist has also to hide its dissimulation.5
It could be objected to this proposal, that it is not accurate; that under the impacts of the phenomenological sociology of Shultz and the symbolic interactionism of Mead in the 1930s and 1940s as well as of the Marxist, feminist, poststructuralist and postmodernist theories of the 1960s and 1970s, social science no longer dissimulates the subject; that today the social scientist dares to put words on his subjectivity and on the subjective experience of his research. We may for example think here of the reflexive sociology of Pierre Bourdieu (1992, 2004), the ‘strong reflexivity’ of Sandra Harding (1995), and of what has come to be known as post-methodology (Tormey et al., 1995).
This may be true, but one should keep in sight that this public recognition of the social scientist’s subjectivity is only possible, made and allowed to the extent that it does not put in jeopardy the scientific status of social science and that it presents itself as an act of defence of the object.
Indeed, it appears that the public acknowledgement of the social scientist’s subjectivity only became possible when social science was well established in its status of science. It would have been out of place for example for a sociologist like Durkheim, who struggled to see sociology recognized as a science, to acknowledge a place for subjectivity in the production of a sociological work. Instead, he employed, as in Suicide, methods – schemes of reference, typology and statistical methods - which by their mechanical character seemed to protect his results from such a thing as subjectivity (Durkheim, 1951 ). Furthermore, it may be doubted that the schools of thought that one roughly gathers under the term of constructionism, and which, if nothing else, share in common the public acknowledgement of the social scientist’s subjectivity, would have made their entrance in social science the way they did in the 1970’s, if social scientists such as Lazarfeld, Parsons and Merton, who often have been the object of their criticisms, did not secure by their work the public recognition of social science as science (Lemert, 2005: 84). In other words, it appears that it is only when the danger of being seen as something other than as scientists no longer seemed to be immediate, that social scientists have allowed themselves and their peers to remove partially and cautiously the veil that they had placed on the subject.
Furthermore, one may observe that, when made, public acknowledgements of the social scientist’s subjectivity are usually made in a mode through which the secrecy of the subject which constitutes itself in relation to the outside finds its expression. They are indeed usually made in the mode of the confession: the revelation of a secret, of an intimacy.
Finally, these confessions only appear to be authorized in the open world of the public scientific life when they are presented either as a means to achieve a greater objectivity – by guiding the assessment of the objectivity of a result - or as a means to achieve a better understanding of the social world.
Becoming a social scientist is first to penetrate the secret of social science, to discover that it has a secret. It is first to understand that a scientific text is not produced as it is read, that is as a logical progression from a research question to an answer. It is to understand that the production of a scientific study develops as an unstructured progression dependent on randomness, intuition and irregular waves of inspiration that one will have to dissimulate under the veil of public relevancy, logic, theoretical coherence and empirical proofs, once it has given its fruit. It is thus not only to penetrate the secret of social science but also to accept playing the game of its dissimulation. To prove this, one will have to produce a scientific study through which one should show that one has penetrated the secret of social science, that one has accepted playing the game of its dissimulation and that one plays it well. This work will be assessed by a jury of acknowledged social scientists which, acting on the behalf of social science, will decide whether or not to recognize the aspirant social scientist as a social scientist, and with which honour. The grade will be the mark of this honour (e.g. A, B, C, etc…). This assessment made, it will occasion a rite of passage, the disputas or defence, where the honour recognized to the aspirant social scientist as a social scientist will be staked in a game of oral challenge and riposte where the jury will challenge the latter to defend the objectivity of his work. If the aspirant social scientist manages to riposte to this challenge, that is to dissimulate on the spot, without the benefice of a time of reflection, the inside of his work under the veil of public relevancy, logic, theoretical coherence and empirical proofs, he will have demonstrated that he has internalized the game of the dissimulation of the subject, that is that he possesses a habitus of social scientist. Doing so, he will have successfully defended his honour of social scientist and even possibly increased it. On the contrary, if the aspirant social scientist, still imprisoned by the mystery of those intuitions, inspirations and turns of luck which gave way to his study, does not manage to riposte to the challenge of the jury, but rather stays silently disoriented or deplores that he is misunderstood, he would have shown that he did not internalize the game of the dissimulation of the subject, and thereby that he does not possess a habitus of social scientist. Doing so, he would then lose his honour of social scientist.
Once acknowledged as such, the social scientist will continue to defend and increase his honour through the submission and the acceptance of his work for publication. The numbers of these publications and the institutional titles that they will allow him to gain – post doc, associate professor, professor – will then become the mark of his honour as a social scientist. It is this honour that the social scientist will put at stake during rites of confirmation commonly known within the open world of public scientific life as paper presentations.
These rites of confirmation are the central activity around which social scientists from different horizons will meet in smaller or great gatherings, seminars or conferences, which will allow them to experience themselves as a community, to develop new bonds and reassert old ones.
The social scientist putting at stake his honour of social scientist in such a rite will do so by orally presenting his work in front of an audience of peers who, though equal in their status of social scientist, may differ in honour. As at the disputas, the paper presentation will consist in a game of challenge and riposte, where an audience of peers will challenge the presenter to defend the objectivity of his work by pointing to its flaws in public relevancy, logic, theoretical coherence and empirical proofs. As in the disputas, the presenter will have to riposte to these challenges in order to defend his honour. However, it appears that in such a rite of confirmation the becoming of the presenter’s honour not only depends on his ability to riposte to the challenges of his audience. It appears also to depend on the honour of the social scientists present in his audience, on whether or not he is challenged by his audience, and on the honour of the social scientists challenging him.
It seems indeed that the presence of a social scientist of great renown at the rite of confirmation of a social scientist of lesser renown may do honour to the latter. It may even be for this sole purpose, that is to honour one of his peers in status, that a social scientist of great renown may attend a paper presentation as a member of the audience. By opposition, the presenter of a paper may feel dishonoured if he discovers that all the social scientists attending his presentation are of lesser honour than himself.
Besides, it seems that the social scientist presenting a paper may be dishonoured if in the aftermath of his presentation none of the social scientists composing his audience challenges him. For indeed, as Bourdieu remark in his study of the Kabyle society, to be challenged is to be worthy of a challenge and thereby is in itself an honour (2000 : 25). Not being challenged, that is not being worthy of challenge is therefore a dishonour.
Nevertheless, even when there is challenge, it appears that the honour that this challenge may bring to the challenged may depend on the honour of the challenger. Indeed, a challenge may bring more honour to the challenged if it is made by a social scientist of greater renown than himself than by a social scientist of lesser honour. This last case may even constitute for the challenged a dishonour to which he may react by refusing to riposte, not by default of being able to riposte, but by contempt, as a way to transfer the dishonour to his challenger. Thereby, it appears that to challenge the honour of a social scientist in a rite of confirmation is also to put one’s honour as social scientist at stake. The honour recognized to the challenger will on the one hand depend on the quality of his challenge - which explains why some do not dare to ask question, since doubting of the quality of their challenge they are afraid to be taken for fools, that is to be dishonoured. On the other hand, it will also depend on the way the challenged will react to this challenge, a riposte from the challenged making honour to the challenger, the refusal of making a riposte bringing dishonour to the challenger, and the absence of a riposte bringing dishonour to the challenger for having brought dishonour to the challenged. For indeed, although the dishonour of a social scientist is the possible outcome of this game of honour, game of challenge and riposte that the rite of confirmation is, the dishonour of a social scientist is not the goal of this rite and is not even desirable. The goal of this rite is on the contrary to confirm the social scientist in his status and honour as a social scientist.
It is thus to the extent that both the challenged and his challengers will be able to bracket their status and honour of social scientist, that is to put it aside, that an exchange of ideas, i.e. an exchange of subjectivities, may occur between them and that they may immanently and collectively experience the sacred of the left of their practice, namely the subject. As expression of the subject, this possible exchange of ideas may therefore have to be dissimulated on the outside as an act of diffusion of knowledge – presupposedly objective – which itself will legitimize, by its adequacy with the sacred of the right, the organization of seminars and conferences, and protect the rite of confirmation from being recognized as such.
Interestingly enough, it seems therefore that the social scientist obtains and preserves his status and honour as a social scientist, and by extension social science its status and honour as science, in the same way that, according to the account of Pierre Bourdieu, the Kabyle man obtained and preserved his status and honour as a Kabyle man in the Algerian Kabilya of the 1960s: that is, by the defence of a sacred of the right through the dissimulation of a sacred of the left which defines practices (place and activities of Kabyle men and woman/ production of a scientific study) and which is ritualized through games of challenge and riposte.
Nonetheless, while the obtaining and preservation of the status and the honour of the Kabyle man—through the dissimulation of the Haram as defence of the Nif—defines all things in the Kabyle society, from practices, to the way they are carried out and who carry them out, social science and science more generally is only a particular practice (namely the production of objective knowledge) among others within a wider society. Therefore the dissimulation of the subject as defence of the object, which defines the practice of science as science, does not impose itself to the whole society within which this practice exists, but only to the professional community which constitutes itself around it. In the practice of art, i.e. the transmission of percepts and affects, the particular relationship between the object and the subject which characterizes the practice of science appears even to be inverted in such a way that it is the object which constitutes a sacred of the left and the subject a sacred of the right. Without entering into an analysis of the practice of art comparable in its scope to the ones carried out by Bourdieu (1996) and Becker (1982), it appears that paying closer attention to this inversion may yet shed some light on the nature of the affiliation existing between science and art that the social scientist may occasionally experience.
As they are to science, the practice of art recognizes the object and the subject as two opposite sacreds. However, as the man looking into a mirror may observe that his right arm has become the left arm of his reflection and so forth, the relationship between the object and the subject in art differs from the one defining science in the sense that it is inverted, the subject existing as sacred of the right and the object as sacred of the left.
Indeed, it appears that the artist will construct his status of artist, and thereby art its status of art, by describing his work and his life as the product of an inspiration, of an intuition, an idea or a randomness; denying, that is dissimulating, that it is also the product of a knowledge, of a savoir-faire, and of a coherence and logic, in other words of an order which answers to established norms. However, and paradoxically enough, it seems that it is only by mastering this knowledge, this savoir-faire, coherence and logic, which all together constitute a science of representation, that the artist may manage to make it disappear behind the sensations conveyed by his work, and thereby be acknowledged as an artist. The great artist, the Van Gogh, the Vermeer, the Hemingway, the Hugo is indeed the one who by his mastery of the lines, of the colours, of the proportions or of the structure of the narration will manage to make those disappear behind the percepts and the affects conveyed by his work. In so doing, the artist constructs his status of artist by dissimulating his art as object, product of a labour, behind his art as subject, that is a compound of percept and affect referring to a subjective and immanent experience of the world at a particular place and at particular time (Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F., 1991: 155-188).
It is thus upon this inverted relationship of the object and the subject as sacred, which defines art as a reflection of science, that the practice of art will see itself structured by an inside and an outside finding their physical expression in the relationship of the atelier, the rehearsal room, the writing room - places where the objective production of the work of art is dissimulated - to the gallery, the stage, the book - places of the transmission of percept and affect through the work of art.
This dissimulation of the objective production of the work of art also becomes apparent through the difference of judgement that an outsider, to whom art should be a mystery in order to exist as art, and an insider, who knows the secret of this practice, will have of the same work of art.
Indeed, it appears that the outsider will make of a work of art a work of art by dissimulating to his judgement the question of its objective production – an act of tact shown to the dissimulation initiated by the artist himself. Thereby, according to whether he is touched or not by a work, the outsider may content himself to say: ‘Oh, it’s wonderful, the artist really did manage to catch an emotion there’ or ‘it’s boring’. Frustrated by being left untouched by a work of art, the outsider may nonetheless be tempted to dismiss this work from its status of work of art. To do so, he will tend to bring the objective condition of its production into the scope of his judgement, saying for example that ‘a four year old child could have done the same’ or, speaking of a movie, that ‘it is a Hollywood production’.
Differently, the insider to whom art has no secret, or so few, may not dissociate the capacity of a work of art to convey percepts and affects from the objective condition of its production. Thus, according to whether he is touched or not by a work, the insider will praise the technique of the artist or criticize its mediocrity.
From here, we can easily assume that peers and outsiders may constitute the favourite audience of an artist since it is they who give to art its status of art, and to the artist his status of artist, by being inclined to play the game on which this status relies, i.e. the dissimulation of the object. This game of dissimulation even appears to shape the way the inside of art is presented on the outside. In cinema for instance, the novelist is rarely represented as working hard on editing his writings, he is rather shown as an addict of inspiration, desperate when it is absent, and writing a book at a stretch, in a trance-like state, when it is present. It is through these types of representation masking the reality of the artist, and that one may call romantic, that art becomes a mystery which reciprocally defines art as art.
By corollary, the artist may show antagonism towards these insiders that we commonly call critics. Being neither credulous outsider, nor artists interested in the dissimulation of the secret of art, yet knowing it well, the status of critics of these scientists of art appears indeed to depend on their ability to destruct art as art by measuring its quality against the quality of its objective production, thereby demystifying it, that is revealing the mystery upon which its status relies. However, one may observe that the professional critic is caught in a dilemma created by the paradox existing between his need to demystify art in order to preserve his status and honour as critic, and his need to preserve the practice which gives sense and means to his existence, namely art.
To the artist himself, however, who knows the tensions between the subject and the object inherent to the production of a work of art, the great artist may be the one who does not let his science of representation subdue his visions, thoughts, ideas and inspiration, in other words his subjectivity, but who on the contrary has the strength to force his subjectivity upon the former. From this perspective, it is not difficult to understand why a book such as Moby-Dick is today acknowledged by some as the greatest novel ever written in English.7 For in this book, Herman Melville shows such a strength, by defying the rules and the structure of literary narration to make of his narrative the launching pad on which his thoughts take their impulse to leap in the air, and fall back several pages, even several chapters later.
In the light of this analysis, it appears that art and science are the products of a dialectical process of differentiation, about which we can assume that it has begun with the partial destruction of an immanence that can still be found in archaic cosmologies as well as in mystical religions, and according to which the world exists within men, as men exist within the world. The cause of this partial destruction may have been the apparition of transcendendal monotheism. Transcendental monotheism indeed separates God and the world from men and makes them exist as a truth independent of human’s subjectivity, that is as an object which defines itself in opposition to a subject, men. It seems to be within this transcendental monotheism that science and art matured as autonomous practices. On the one hand, science made of the object its sacred of the right, and tried to find its objective meaning by rejecting men’s subjective experience of it as delusive. On the other hand, art made of the subject its sacred of the right, taking upon itself to account for men’s subjective experience of the world, which implies a return towards the conception of an immanent world, which in turn implies the negation of the object. Once grown up as two autonomous practices, art and science finally left transcendendal monotheism, the shared cocoon of their childhood, to an existence of empty shell.
Although art obtains and preserves its status of art through an expressed rejection of the object and science its status of science through an expressed rejection of the subject, these two practices involve a combination of both object and subject. Indeed, we have seen that under the cover of rejection, it is in fact by an act of dissimulation, dissimulation of the object for art and dissimulation of the subject for science, that these practices obtain and preserve their respective statuses. If from a moralistic viewpoint, this act of dissimulation may not be reprehensible for art which, by taking upon itself to account of men’s subjective experience of the world, never committed itself to telling the truth, we know the story to be different for science. But let us keep all this secret.
1 This description is based upon two of the three studies carried out by Pierre Bourdieu on the Kabyle society: “Le sens de l’honneur” and “La maison ou le monde renversé” (2000: 18-82).
2 According to Bourdieu, the relationship of the Kabyle society to the Haram and the Nif defined also the relationship that the Kabyle people had with nature: water and the humide, as natural expressions of the Haram, being opposed to fire and the dry as natural expressions of the Nif.
3 Apart from when I refer to the Kabyle man, the personal pronouns ‘he’ and ‘his’ that I shall use throughout this paper can be replaced at will by ‘she’ and ‘her’.
4 ‘Deterritorialisation’ is a term borrowed from the terminology of Deleuze and Guattari (1980, 1991), that we understand as the withdrawal of an object from all social contexts.
5 I would like to thank my colleague Jon Hovland and my supervisor Professor Ann Rudinow Sætnan for their useful comments.
6 The place of honour in the practice of science has also been discussed by Nye (1997).
7 See the introduction to Moby-Dick written by Andrew Delbanco (Melville, 2003 ).
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