The Substance of Poetic Procedure: Law & Humanity in the Work of Lawrence Joseph

Posted: 5 Feb 2021

See all articles by Frank Pasquale

Frank Pasquale

Cornell Law School; Cornell Tech

Date Written: February 4, 2021


There are elective affinities between poetic expression and legal thought. Well-turned verse can do something more than delight the ear or express emotions. It can also depict social reality in a particularly compelling, value-laden way. Similarly, the lawyer is not simply a technical expert on the drafting or application of rules. Long experience at such work should give a sense of the ultimate function, purpose, and meaning of such rules. Each realization suggests a more ambitious role for the humanities (including law) in social understanding. The quintessential lawyer-poet is not only on a Stevens-ian quest for “ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.” He or she may also discern the substance behind the forms of social reality: to give us a sense of deep structures in human action via particularly evocative accounts of critical events. That thick description of reality can disclose as much or more truth than any quantitative model. The humanities provide a mode of understanding that offers insights irreducible to algorithms, metrics, or even propositions.

Suggested Citation

Pasquale, Frank A., The Substance of Poetic Procedure: Law & Humanity in the Work of Lawrence Joseph (February 4, 2021). Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 663, Available at SSRN:

Frank A. Pasquale (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853

Cornell Tech ( email )

111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States

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