Ian Ward's* Response

On Literary Jurisprudence

Legal education is a subject of constant debate and reflection.  This is a good thing.  The past, present, and future of legal education should be a matter of ongoing critical contemplation.1  And it should be controversial, even heated. Teachers of law, and students indeed, should care about legal education.  The prospect of what is commonly termed a ‘liberal’ legal education tends to loom large in these conversations on both sides of the Atlantic.  In this context, the rise of interdisciplinary and contextual legal studies is surely one of the defining characteristics of a modern legal education.  ‘Law and’ courses are everywhere; law and politics, law and economics, law and society, law and history, law and gender, to name but a few of the more common.2  The purpose of this essay is to present a defence of another of these more commonly encountered, consciously interdisciplinary approaches to legal education; and this is ‘law and literature.’  The first part of the essay will provide an overview of ‘law and literature’ scholarship, and its prospective ‘strategies.’3 The second will then focus more closely upon one of these strategies: the ability of the literary text to provide a supplementary chronicle with which we might be better equipped to understand the historical and evolutionary nature of particular disciplines and sub-disciplines of law.


*Ian Ward is Professor of Law at Newcastle University.

1The literature on this contemplation is understandably vast; itself a testament to the vigour of the conversation.  For significant recent statements, see the representative essays collected in Peter Birks (ed.), What are law schools for? (Oxford Univ. Press 1996) and Fiona Cownie (ed.), The Law School: Global Issues, Local Questions (Ashgate Publ. 1999), and also Anthony Bradney, Conversations, Choices and Chances: The Liberal Law School in the Twenty-First Century (Hart Publ. 2003).  Each of these texts reaches across jurisdictions.  For a recent, broadly conceived, review, focusing primarily but not exclusively on the situation in the UK, see Ian Ward, Legal Education and the Democratic Imagination, 3 L. & Human. 2009, particularly at 87-93.

2For an early comment on this intellectual evolution, see Arthur Allen Leff, Law And, 87 Yale L.J. 989, 989-1011 (1978).

3The term ‘strategies’ was deployed by Richard Weisberg in his Poethics, and Other Strategies of Law and Literature (Columbia Univ. Press 1992).

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