"Law's Stories" by Peter Brooks

Law's Stories Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law Peter Brooks, Paul Gewirtz

Publication date:
30 Mar 1998
Yale University Press
298 pages: 235 x 156mm

The law is full of stories, ranging from the competing narratives presented at trials to the Olympian historical narratives set forth in Supreme Court opinions. How those stories are told and listened to makes a crucial difference to those whose lives are reworked in legal storytelling. The public at large has increasingly been drawn to law as an area where vivid human stories are played out with distinctively high stakes. And scholars in several fields have recently come to recognize that law's stories need to be studied critically.

This notable volume—inspired by a symposium held at Yale Law School—brings together an exceptional group of well-known figures in law and literary studies to take a probing look at how and why stories are told in the law and how they are constructed and made effective. Why is it that some stories—confessions, victim impact statements—can be excluded from decisionmakers' hearing? How do judges claim the authority by which they impose certain stories on reality?

Law's Stories opens new perspectives on the law, as narrative exchange, performance, explanation. It provides a compelling encounter of law and literature, seen as two wary but necessary interlocutors.


J. M. Balkin

Peter Brooks

Harlon L. Dalton

Alan M. Dershowitz

Daniel A. Farber

Robert A. Ferguson

Paul Gewirtz

John Hollander

Anthony Kronman

Pierre N. Leval

Sanford Levinson

Catharine MacKinnon

Janet Malcolm

Martha Minow

David N. Rosen

Elaine Scarry

Louis Michael Seidman

Suzanna Sherry

Reva B. Siegel

Robert Weisberg

"A splendidly readable collection of essays. Anyone who derives satisfaction from watching the Court TV Channel would find it fascinating, for most of it is written without technicalities in the language that a reasonably intelligent jury (or judge) might not only understand but also stay awake to hear."?Clarence Brown, Trenton Times

"Law's Stories is a worthy attempt to fulfill the editors' hope to encourage more research on stories in and about the law and to expand the audience for it beyond the legal community. Those who are unfamiliar or untutored in narrative and rhetoric will find the contributions accessible and provocative. Those who are more experienced will enjoy sorting out the disagreements among the contributors and acquire a clearer sense of what is at stake here."?Ira L. Strauber, Law and Politics Book Review

"The volume is useful for anyone wanting an overview of this new field, and is indispensable to anyone interested in legal reasoning."?Choice

"Law's Stories offers an unusually rich perspective on the developing scholarship of narrative and rhetoric in the law. . . [The book] succeeds in bringing to the forefront of 'law as literature' studies a very crucial aspect of investigation and will undoubtedly become one of the touchstones of law and literature scholarship."?Wendy Chon, New York Law Journal

"Well edited and highly readable."?Judge Richard A. Posner, University of Chicago Law Review

"Each contribution is impressively individualistic, and the grateful reader can hardly avoid being drawn into strong-minded, largely unresolvable, controversy."?Thomas Morawetz, Connecticut Law Review

"This collection of essays does not disappoint. It explores the vast array of legal stories and offers trenchant and engaging analyses of those narratives. Indeed, many of the essays are fascinating examples of rhetorical criticism from scholars not likely to identify themselves as rhetorical critics and thus may enlighten and enhance the work of rhetorical critics concerned with the relationship between rhetoric and law. . . . Law's Stories offers challenging theoretical examinations of law's narrativity and insightful critical engagements with a range of legal storytelling. It will be a collection that provokes, teaches, and motivates those who try to understand the powerful and evolving relationship between rhetoric and the law."?Marouf A. Hasian, Jr. and Trevor Parry-Giles, Quarterly Journal of Speech