To the extent that they are not repressed, my memories of law school as a student are of a world of progressive disappointment. My unexceptional emotional trajectory from aspiration to estrangement and from optimism to fear reflected in part the privilege of my background and in part the intellectual paucity of 'school law' in England.1 Law school stole my hopes of change and robbed me of any surviving sense of the relevance of my inner world, of poetry, desire or dream, to the life of the institution. My experience of law school was of the denial of the relevance of my experience of law school. The irony of that paradox, of the experience of repression as a mode of knowing, of the embodiment of denial as a mode of being, is the secret of the school's success as a rite of reproduction: an institutionally managed trauma gives birth to a conforming or believing soul.2
To the extent that they are repressed, my memories of law school are repeated, often in inverted forms, in my practice as a teacher of law. It is a repetition which, unsurprisingly, has its origins in my student experiences of law school but which has its most intense and prolonged expression in my academic life: it is lived out obscurely in personal forms of non-communication and in institutional forms of non-relationship. This repetition can be formulated in the dual terms of the trauma and the insignificance of school law. The trauma has been well documented in novels, dramas and films as well as in academic and most usually self-consciously 'critical' legal self- reflection. The trauma is mundane and concerns the isolation and impersonality, the elitism and relentless competitiveness, the objectivity and homosociality of law school. The trauma produces 'the reasonable man', the 'black-letter' lawyer, the dull white face with one less thought each year. The insignificance concerns the self-effacement of the scholar within an institution which does not prize thought but rather prestige, publication, the circulation of texts and the manipulative repetition of standard argumentative forms. The insignificance of scholarship to the law school expresses the predominant epistemic form of law: it is a knowledge which is rigorously separated from any being that knows-- in this sense the persona of judge or professor or lawyer is mystical, a status rather than a being--and it is a knowledge which denies the significance of thought and thereby allows for the reproduction, the repetition, of established legal forms.
The repetition of forms, or to borrow from Maitland, the forms of action which rule us from the grave, repress through on estrangement or distance which denies both the subject's prior experience and the passion or desire that paves the subject's entry to law. In more psychoanalytic terms, the mechanism of repetition institutes repression and does not necessarily distinguish between traditional and radical, black-letter and critical, expositors of law.3 The critics who live (and relive) the trauma of school law in the self-conscious form of subversion, rebellion or resistance to the norms of an externally defined law are likely to be as authoritarian, competitive, status conscious, elitist and existentially and politically lost in relation to their critical knowledges of law as are their traditional counterparts in relation to the more____________________