Lawyers and Literature
James R. Elkins
Guide to Reading Stories in the Education of a Lawyer
I expect students to have questions about the stories (and poetry) we read—why are we doing this kind of reading in law school?—and I expect you will have questions about why we read the stories the way (the several ways) we will try to read them. To put these questions in the context of the course, I have tried in Stories in the Education of Lawyers, to put myself in your shoes and ask: what are we doing here? what is this Lawyers and Literature course of reading all about?
Table of Contents
Stories in the Education of Lawyers
I have organized the chapters in Stories in the Education of Lawyers in a way that fits my eye, and my thinking about the course. The chapters could, without ill-effect, be organized much differently. The chapters are linked (and sometimes overlapping) but they would, I think, make perfectly good sense if you set about to read the chapters in random order.
For a basic orientation and law school context for the study of stories in your education as a lawyer: Chapter1: Claiming Law School as a Place of Stories.
In the first several weeks of the course, we will be reading stories by Lowell Komie. Students interested in my writing about the Komie stories, should read: Chapter2: The Law World Gets Real; Chapter3: Meditations on the Fictions We Live; Chapter4: A Letter to My Friend, Lowell Komie
If you are interested in something akin to a syllabus, something that doesn't look like or read like a syllabus, see: Chapter5: Stories Take Center Stage and Chapter8: Endnotes and Detours: Rewinding
the Lawyers and Literature Course
I should forewarn you that Lawyers and Literature is not a traditional Law and Literature course. The most obvious difference is that our focus is on lawyers and the world in which we live our lives as lawyers, and not on law and justice, a common theme in Law and Literature courses. Lawyers and Literature is, in some broader context, a "law and literature" course, but the course is most definitely not a traditional Law and Literature course. On the fundamental difference in making this shift in perspective from law to lawyers, see William Domnarski, Law and Literature, 27 Legal Stud. F. 109 (2003) [excerpts from the Domnarski essay]
As a novice law student—day one, One L—you learn that reading judicial opinions (the primary texts assigned to read in law school) requires some experience and, for many, a new strategy of reading. You may find that in reading stories, you again, must rethink how you read and begin to focus on how you are going to read stories. I have tried to get at this problem of reading and the work we do in the course, in: Chapter8: Endnotes and Detours: Rewinding the Lawyers and Literature Course.
Lawyers and Literature pretends to offer a "literary course of reading." This may, for some, mean little more than the fact that we are not reading "legal thrillers" by John Grisham. For me, and I assume, for some of you, the idea of literary reading is that we may well read for the pleasure of reading but we are also reading for what we can learn about ourselves and about the world we inhabit with others (strange creatures as they so often turn out to be). I have tried, in a rather diffuse way, to provide further context on this idea of literary reading, by turning to the work of others and reporting on what I have found. For my report, see: With infinite patience, or, having developed an inordinate curiosity about the course, you decide to continue your about the course reading, you may find the "compilation" of ideas and perspectives in Chapter 8 of interest.
Lawyers and Literature is a reading course, and, properly conceived and fully executed, it would be a writing course. Reading stories is one thing, writing about and writing with stories is a different proposition. For a teacher's conversations about writing the course, see: Chapter9: Talking with Rebecca and Clara about Their Encounter with Fictional Lawyers
Beginning a book, even a "little book" of the kind I have presented to you here, is a daunting task. I might say the same about bringing these "chapters" to a close. Knowing that I have failed in the task, I present: Epilogue: An Autobiographical Postscript