Narrative Topoi in the Digital Age
Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Forthcoming)
13 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019
Date Written: November 30, 2018
Decades of thoughtful law and humanities scholarship have made the case for using humanistic texts and methods in the legal classroom. We build on that scholarship by identifying and describing three “narrative topoi” of the twenty-first century – podcasts, twitter and fake news. We use the term “topos” (from the Greek meaning “place”) and its plural, “topoi,” to mean “a literary commonplace” and “general setting for discussion” in the context of literary forms. Like an identifiable genre, narrative topoi are familiar story paths for audiences to travel. These narrative topoi live in contemporary popular culture and are products of digital technology’s capacity to share and shape communication in new ways that draw on older narrative conventions and forms. In a law school, drawing on new narrative topoi can reorient legal analysis through inquiry into twenty-first-century problems of language, narrative form, authenticity, and audiences. Legal educators may also highlight historical continuity between cultural and legal history and today’s forms and experiences, foregrounding issues central to legal skills, such as analogic reasoning, advocacy, counseling, and factual analysis. We address all of these points while exploring particular examples of these narrative topoi of our digital age.
Keywords: Law and humanities, law and literature, narrative, digital storytelling, legal education, legal pedagogy, criminal law, trial practice, social media and law, internet law, communications and media law, first amendment, advertising law, platforms
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