Speaking of Stories and Law

24 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2016

See all articles by Linda H. Edwards

Linda H. Edwards

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

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Linda H., Speaking of Stories and Law (2016). Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 13, 2016; UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2870122

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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