Loneliness and the Law: Solitude, Action, and Power in Law and Literature

35 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2007 Last revised: 5 Feb 2013

See all articles by Marc Lane Roark

Marc Lane Roark

University of Pretoria, S.A.; Southern University Law Center; The Savannah Law School

Date Written: June 11, 2007


The law is filled with empty spaces - what is not written; what is not said but meant; what is unsayable or unprintable. This article describes the spaces that such emptiness creates in both individual lawyers and in the law. The article begins by considering the elements of the legal idea: the action, needed to move the idea into consciousness, and the power conveying the idea's strength to the community. Proceeding from this framework, part one focuses on the loneliness that fosters legal ideas. Describing four types of loneliness: Indeterminacy, Resentment, Contemplation, and Exile, the article considers how these types of loneliness are revealed in the jurisprudence surrounding the African-American (Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education) and the Asian American (Yick Wo and Korematsu) equality lines of cases. The article argues that the silent spaces of these opinions reveal as much as the written opinions.

Part 2 considers the action of the idea - both the movement of the idea from the consciousness to the material world, and the realization every lawyer comes to that his work is mere repetition. Focusing on the same line of cases, this part demonstrates how even the cases that suppose a positive change in the law, are repetitious in some ways of the past. The article suggests that the recognition of this repetition, is not only necessary but unavoidable for the lawyer-scholar to define himself.

Finally, Part 3 describes the power of the idea, lifting it out of the constraints of the material and into the spaces of the normative. Utilizing the description of place and space, the article captures the essence of grounding normative ideas into materiality and vice versa. The article however contains a cautionary tale in that certain ideas, when they become normative, can leave manifestations already materialized left to wither alone and with no normative identity (or an identity long passed). Utilizing the analogy of law as liturgy, the Article suggests that the silent spaces both tell us what the law is and what the law is not - revealing the true character of the material manifestation.

Keywords: idea, place, space, imagination, holmes, emerson, transcendentalism, Auden, Plessy, civil rights cases, Brown v. Board of Education, Yick Wo, Korematsu, James Boyd White, Empire of Force, living speech

Suggested Citation

Roark, Marc L. and Roark, Marc L., Loneliness and the Law: Solitude, Action, and Power in Law and Literature (June 11, 2007). Loyola Law Review, New Orleans, Vol. 55, No. 45, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=993139 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.993139

Marc L. Roark (Contact Author)

University of Pretoria, S.A. ( email )

Private Bag X20
Hatfield 0028
South Africa

Southern University Law Center ( email )

2 Roosevelt Steptoe Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70813
United States

The Savannah Law School

516 Drayton Street
Savannah, GA 31401
United States

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