Wigmore, and the Law and Literature Movement
16 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2006
Date Written: December 14, 2006
John Wigmore's list of Legal Novels - really several lists compiled over the first 30 years or so of the 20th century - helped to generate the modern embodiment of the Law and Literature movement. The bibliographical element, although of course controversial as the Law and Literature canon developed through multiple debates about what should and should not be read and discussed, proved essential in locating a group of stories that lawyers were to live with throughout their professional careers. More than bibliographical, however, Wigmore's accompanying text stressed the democratization through great literature of a legal profession otherwise prone to misunderstanding the human realities with which it was theoretically always concerned. A defined group of fictional narratives - stories about law, lawyers, trials, statutes - was to re-awaken in the legal reader the attachment to democratic values conveyed by literature through its acute awareness of human needs and the failure of great institutions to serve them. This essay marks the 30th anniversary of its author's update of the Wigmore list. I trace the very active debates that have informed Law and Literature since that 1976 Northwestern Law Review article, and I celebrate the expansion to foreign shores of knowledge about Wigmore, as Law and Literature proponents both home and abroad have embraced Wigmore's democratic impulse for law.
Keywords: law and literature
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