Speaking of Stories and Law
24 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2016
Date Written: 2016
A recurring question in narrative scholarship has been the relationship of narrative to law. Most narrative scholars agree that stories are central to law. As Stephen Paskey recently pointed out, stories are more than a tool for persuasion. They are embedded in law’s very structure. But how does that work? Are rules just stories articulated in a different form?
We have barely begun to explore narrative’s roles, but it is already clear that, in the words of Meryl Streep, “it’s complicated.” A conceptual map of what we’ve learned so far can help us unpack the complexity. Otherwise we may run into two problems: We may be less likely to understand and appreciate each other’s work, and we may have trouble thinking clearly about how law and narrative relate.
This article takes a first run at a conceptual map, one that honors the work of narrative scholars of various stripes and explains how the strands in this rich body of work interrelate. With that proposed structure in mind, the article then offers some thoughts about how stories relate to rules. It argues that rules are not the opposite of stories, nor are they just stories in a different form. Rather, at every level of their creation, justification, interpretation, and application, rules are constructed from multiple narrative influences. Understanding these influences will produce judges better able to make good decisions and lawyers better able to perfect their craft. Much work remains to be done, but as the map demonstrates, we are well on our way.
Keywords: storytelling, rhetoric, narrative scholarship, narrative reasoning
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