Is Law Narrative?

47 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2011

See all articles by Jane B. Baron

Jane B. Baron

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Julia Epstein

Independent

Date Written: 1997

Abstract

Is every statement in or about the law a story? Is every explanation of the law a narrative? Is all legal argumentation rhetorical? Maybe, but maybe not. Surely the answer depends on what is meant by the terms "story," "narrative," and "rhetorical." In this article, we argue that terms such as these, and claims that rely on them, require definition and clarification. Questions such as "is law narrative?" or "is law rhetorical?" implicate the tricky business of how meaning is made in law. If that is the issue, we ought to face it directly. That is the aim of this essay.

In Part I we illustrate the narrative character of a traditional law review article. Our point is to show that it is relatively simple to see even the most conventional scholarly writing as containing and comprising a story. In Part II we examine whether our analysis in Part I is "fair" to the article, or whether it distorts in important ways what the article says. Our goal here is to demonstrate the epistemological positions at stake in the controversy over narrative. In Part III, we connect the debates about storytelling to contemporary debates over the possibility of neutrally or objectively discovering and representing facts. These debates have a peculiar valence and poignancy in law, where "finding the facts" has always seemed central to doing justice.

Keywords: storytelling, narrative, legal scholarship, legal rhetoric, neutral principles, legal storytelling

Suggested Citation

Baron, Jane B. and Epstein, Julia, Is Law Narrative? (1997). Buffalo Law Review, Vol. 45, p. 142, 1997, Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1974720

Jane B. Baron (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-8975 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

Julia Epstein

Independent ( email )

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