Communities, Texts, and Law: Reflections on the Law and Literature Movement

29 Pages Posted: 25 May 2011

See all articles by Robin L. West

Robin L. West

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 1988


How do we form communities? How might we form better ones? What is the role of law in that process? In a recent series of books and articles, James Boyd White, arguably the modern law and literature movement's founder, has put forward distinctively literary answers to these questions. Perhaps because of the fluidity of the humanities, White's account of the nature of community is not nearly as axiomatic to the law and literature movement as is Posner's depiction of the "individual" to legal economists. Nevertheless, White's conception is increasingly representative of the literary-legalist's world view. Furthermore, with the exception of Richard Weisberg, White has very little competition within the movement itself. This article explores and criticizes that vision. Second, it puts forward an alternative account of how we form communities, how we might form better ones, and how law would function within them.

Keywords: textual community, iterative community, legal theory, literary-legalist, James Boyd Wright, Ronald Dworkin, Owen Fiss, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Bakke v. University of California, 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, slavery, marital rape

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K11, K19

Suggested Citation

West, Robin L., Communities, Texts, and Law: Reflections on the Law and Literature Movement (1988). Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Vol. 1, 1988, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-63, Available at SSRN:

Robin L. West (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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