Neither Dead nor Dangerous: Postmodernism and the Teaching of Legal Writing
Adam G. Todd
University of Dayton School of Law
April 4, 2006
This article explores postmodernism and its relation to the teaching of legal writing. Postmodernism is an undeniably important theory in literary criticism, composition, and rhetoric and has provoked much debate in areas of legal scholarship, but it has seldom been addressed directly by legal writing scholars.
Legal writing has been greatly affected by postmodernism and can be characterized as a "postmodern" class in what is otherwise a modernist academy. Legal writing teachers generally teach in a modernist paradigm which seeks to normalize the law and create unitary meaning from the morass of texts and ideas which is considered "the law". They have, however, simultaneously, a rather benignant postmodernist bent when it comes to teaching writing and have to engage a number of postmodern paradoxes as part of their profession. It is the postmodern components of their work that provide strength to the profession and help prepare law students for both the "modern" and "postmodern" world. This article directly contradicts legal scholars who claim postmodernism is dead, dangerous, or irrelevant to the law and has no place in the legal academy.
The article begins by defining postmodernism and its contribution to the legal academy in general. The article continues by examining how postmodernism has affected the teaching of legal writing specifically. Postmodernism underlies the theories of process and post-process writing pedagogy, deconstruction, and story-telling, which can all be found in many legal writing classrooms. In addition, the legal writing class embodies certain postmodern attributes or characteristics not found in much of the other, more modernist, parts of the legal academy. The article concludes by arguing that the postmodern components of legal writing classes are a source of legal writing's strength, growth and relevance in and outside of law schools. Postmodernism, in this context, is neither dead nor dangerous but rather vital and relevant to legal education.
The topic of this article was competitively selected to be awarded a grant from the Association of Legal Writing Directors and parts of the article were presented at the Third Annual Rocky Mountain Region and the 2005 Central States Legal Writing Conferences.
Keywords: legal writing, postmodernism, legal education
JEL Classification: K19, K49working papers series
Date posted: April 17, 2006
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