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The violent illiteracies of the graffiti, the clenched silence of the adolescent, the nonsense cries from the stage-happening, are resolutely strategic. The insurgent and the freak-out have broken off discourse with a cultural system which they despise as a cruel, antiquated fraud. They will not bandy words with it. Accept, even momentarily, the conventions of literate linguistic exchange, and you are caught in the net of the old values, of the grammars that can condescend or enslave.

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A bit about George Steiner ...

(Francis) George Steiner, prominent literary critic (who has not used the name Francis since his undergraduate days), was born in Paris, France, on April 23, 1929; the son of Dr Frederick George and Mrs Else Steiner. He was educated first at the Lyce in Paris and then at the French Lyce in New York after the family moved to America in 1940. He gained a BA from the University of Chicago, an MA from Harvard and a DPhil from Oxford (Balliol College, of which he became an Honorary Fellow in 1995). From 1953 to 1955 Steiner taught at Williams College in Massachusetts. In 1955 he married Zara Shakow, to whom he had been introduced by friends in 1952. They have one son (David, Dean of the School of Education at Hunter College) and one daughter (Deborah, Professor of Classics at Columbia).

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