A Vision of American Law: Judging Law, Literature, and the Stories We Tell

A Vision of American Law: Judging Law, Literature, and the Stories We Tell

A Vision of American Law: Judging Law, Literature, and the Stories We Tell

A Vision of American Law: Judging Law, Literature, and the Stories We Tell

Synopsis

Throughout history, works of literature have helped to shape public discussion of social, legal, and political issues. In this book, Barry R. Schaller draws on examples from American literature in presenting an analysis of the legal aspects of several major problems facing our society. After identifying the key legal relationships in society, the book focuses on problems of violence, loss of authority, diminished faith in the American dream of progress, and the challenges posed by immense social and technological change. The author offers a set of standards to serve as a guide to effective judicial decision making and to assist the public in evaluating the soundness of those decisions.

Excerpt

My purpose is to develop the idea of looking beyond the narrow confines of legal writing into the world of imaginative literature as a way of understanding more fully the role and impact of law in American society. the inspiration for this work came as a result of teaching law and literature to judges from many parts of the United States during the past decade. As I became increasingly aware of the value of using literary texts as a vehicle for discussing legal issues in their broadest sense, I recognized the need for a book that would develop in depth the treatment of legal ideas in important works of American literature. That objective quickly led to others--the discussion of law as an integral part of American culture and the need to preserve our fundamental values while, at the same time, making sure that the benefits of those values are accessible to all our citizens.

As I began to make choices about the ideas to include, I realized even more fully the relevance that works of American literature hold for today's society. Many literary texts illuminate issues that trouble Americans today. Recognizing that each text selected tells a part of the whole story of American culture, I began to search for meanings that would bring coherence and clarity to a story of law and culture. Even though the latter part of this century has seen dramatic changes in the structure and pace of society, literary texts from earlier times still contain useful insights. the forces at work today are rooted in our past. While this book broadly integrates law and literature, along with intellectual historical concepts, it is not meant to be comprehensive in all these areas. Rather, I intend to draw from each area what is necessary for the purpose of making observations and suggestions concerning our current law-related problems. My goal is to bring them together in an effort to make sense of the sometimes disturbing, fragmented world in which we live.

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