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Law and Literature

Law and Literature

 It deals with the interdisciplinary connection between law and


literature
 It is derived from two important intellectual historical
developments of Law
1. the growing doubt about whether law in isolation is a source of
value and meaning or whether it must be plugged into a large
cultural or philosophical or social-science context to give it value
and meaning
2. the growing focus on the mutability of meaning in all texts,
whether literary or legal
Law In Literature & Law as Literature
 Law in literature (understanding enduring issues as they are
explored in great literary texts)
 Law as Literature (understanding legal texts by reference to
methods of literary interpretation, analysis, and critique).
 Law and Literature Movements effected the teaching methods,
scholarship and interpretation of legal texts.
 The movement provides a fresh perspective in order to understand
human condition
 It provides a new and dynamic approach to reaching the aims of
providing a just and moral society.
Historical Development of the Movement
 Perhaps first to envision the movement were John Wigmore and Benjamin
Cardozo, who acknowledged "novelists and poets" as the principal teachers
of law in the first half of the 20th century.
 Most scholars, however, credit James Boyd White as the founder of the law
and literature movement
 The Legal Imagination (1973), is often credited with initiating the law and
literature movement.
 The movement began attracting attention in the 1970s and by the 1980s had
gained substantial ground in academia.
 The proponents of the law-in-literature theory, such as Richard
Weisberg and Robert Weisberg, believe that literary works, especially
narratives centered on a legal conflict, will offer lawyers and judges
insight into the "nature of law" that would otherwise go missing in the
traditionally strict study of legal rhetoric.
 In its early stages, the law and literature movement focused strictly on
the law in literature theory;
Law in literature
 the way in which legal situations are presented in literature.
 The literary writers are able to see the law independently.
 lesson to teach legal scholars and lawyers alike about the human
condition, and the law's effect on it.
 authors like Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Herman Melville, Fyodor
Dostoevsky, and Charles Dickens.
 Robert Weisberg believes that the law in literature offers fertile
possibilities.
 literature as a way of critiquing social institutions and legal norms.
 literature serves a purpose that allows for ethical development and
growth within the student.
Law as literature
 Law as literature scholars see value in the techniques employed by
literary scholars.
 legal text as a form of literature thus making literary critique and
analysis of it possible.
 It uses literary tools to interpret legal text; not the theme/subject
matter
 Benjamin N. Cardozo was a proponent of law as literature.
 style could not be separated from substance, Cardozo brought the
Judicial process to life in lucid, eloquent prose sprinkled with humor,
anecdotes, and practical allusions."
James Boyd White
 According to White, Jane Austen's Pride and
Prejudice “is meant to teach the reader how to read
his way into becoming a member of an audience it
defines-into becoming one who understands each
shift of tone, who shares the perceptions and
judgments the text invites him to make, and who
feels the sentiments proper to the circumstances.
Both for its characters and readers, this novel is in a
sense about reading and what reading means”
 Ronald Dworkin also supports the arguments in favor of the
use of literature to improve legal understanding.
 In his article, Law as Interpretation, Dworkin stated, "I
propose that we can improve our understanding of law by
comparing legal interpretation with interpretation in other
fields of knowledge, particularly literature."
Criticisms of law and literature
 Richard Allen Posner:
 Law and Literature: A misunderstood Relationship
 His readings are rather orthodox--even, at times, a bit literal-
minded,
 The book can be seen as a reaction against the writings of
Robin West, who has written substantially against Posner's
economic take on legal interpretation.
 A powerful critic of the writings of White, Weisberg, and
West, Posner sees literature as having no weight in the legal
realm although he does hold the authors in high esteem.
 Posner writes, "Although the writers we value have often put law
into their writings, it does not follow that those writings are
about law in any interesting way that a lawyer might be able to
elucidate.“
 Posner does not believe in the use of literary discourse in
jurisprudential debate.
 He denounced it by saying strong phrase "particularly eccentric.“
 Posner writes that "law is subject matter rather than technique",
and that legal method is the method of choice in legal realms,
not a literary one.
 Literature talks about human condition not of legal setting
 Literary writers create their own world;
 Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic were against White and his
theory of certain famous legal cases in American history and agree
with Posner on several issues.
 the actual impact of contemporary literature on the substance of
judicial opinion-making is limited because judges distinguish legal
texts
 According to Delgado and Stefancic, judges' moral positions are
determined by normative social and political forces rather than by
literature.