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Once Upon a Time in Law: Myth, Metaphor, and Authority


Linda H. Edwards


University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law


Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 77, p. 883, 2010
UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-02

Abstract:     
We have long accepted the role of narrative in fact statements and jury arguments, but in the inner sanctum of analyzing legal authority? Surely not. Yet cases, statutes, rules, and doctrines all have stories of their own. When we talk about legal authority, using our best formal logic, we are actually swimming in a sea of narrative, oblivious to the water around us. As the old Buddhist saying goes, "We don’t know who discovered the ocean, but it probably wasn't a fish."

This article teases out several familiar archetypes hidden in discussions of cases and statutes. In the midst of seemingly routine law talk are stories of birth and death, battle and betrayal, tricksters and champions. These stories are simultaneously true and false, world-shaping yet always incomplete. Their unnoticed influence over the law's development can be powerful. But we so seldom question familiar narratives, and these archetypes practically run in our veins. We should learn to recognize and interrogate these stories, attuned to their truths, alert to their limitations, and ready when necessary to seek other more accurate and complete stories for the law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: myth, metaphor, archetype, narrative

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Date posted: August 27, 2009 ; Last revised: February 6, 2011

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Linda H., Once Upon a Time in Law: Myth, Metaphor, and Authority. Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 77, p. 883, 2010; UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-02. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1462570

Contact Information

Linda H. Edwards (Contact Author)
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )
4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States
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