Narrative in Legal Studies
Nov 23 2022

Narrative approaches to law go beyond the courtroom to examine the history of laws and developments in legal systems: social contract theory, for example, can be understood as the study of the narrative element that allows participants to understand how their legal collective came into being (Tait & Norris 2011). Basic legal narratives legitimize the normative status of a particular legal system by drawing similarities between them and other master plots in a process not unlike what Butler (1990) called performativity. In a recent article describing Brooks, he describes himself as a “restless scholar” who was first drawn to law school in 1990 by his Yale colleague, Paul Gewirtz, a Potter Stewart law professor. “We had lunch every week,” Brooks said. “He knew my interest in narrative analysis, so he fed me lawsuits.” This gave birth to the courses Brooks now teaches at UVA, where he holds a dual position in the law school and English department of the College of Arts & Sciences, teaching comparative literature and literary theory of the 19th century. Brooks has published a number of books, including Reading for the Plot, Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature, and (co-edited with Paul Gewirtz) Law`s Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law. The study of narrative, narrowly understood as the narration of a story, focuses on examining witness statements and prosecution and defense statements, and has focused primarily on accusatory Anglo-American trials. However, this research is also applicable to the codified procedures of the law and civil law system. Jackson (1988a, 1988b, 1990) points out that pragmatics, like the micronarratives that make up a particular case, are told, by whom and under what authority influences the outcome of contradictory processes. Like Brooks (1996), Jackson describes the “competition between competing narratives resolved according to criteria of relative similarity to narrative typification” (1996: 28, emphasis in original).

Narrative typing refers to judgments based on their perceived similarity to prototypical collective images of criminals (1996: 32-3) as well as other organized narrative forms of social knowledge (Jackson, n.d.). Such differentiations allow Jackson to distinguish between micronarratives within a process and the macronarrative of the process itself (1996:33). The perceived completeness of the accounts presented in the trials and their apparent agreement with the standards of legal reasoning determine whether they are considered plausible. In the common law tradition, this includes the principle of stare decisis; In the civil law tradition, plausibility is based on the perceived clarity, uniformity and consistency with which the code is applied. The interpretation of Community law is as varied as the application of codified law in civil law systems. Regulations and directives are issued on the basis of treaties and may be promulgated as laws by national legislators; they are then translated into the twenty-three languages of the Community, rendering obsolete the question of the lexical or “simple” meaning of words (McLoughlin & Gardner 2007:101). Decisions on the scope of EU legislation are taken by comparing the wording of the texts into which a law has been translated, or by referring to its “objective”, the consistency of the law with the EU guiding principles and the achievement of a desired objective (Rösler 2012). It goes on to say that “whenever one of the Member States submits a proposal for new supranational legislation, it inevitably does so out of its own context” (Gaakeer 2012: 259). Recent efforts to homogenize European law and implementing rules are therefore linked to narratological concerns, as methods of interpreting narrative texts may be based differently on intrinsic textual signals, linguistic concerns, extra-textual realities or historical contingencies.

Legal narratives are also the subject of law; In general, civil and mixed legal systems, the reconstruction of what happened to whom or what happened is at the heart of a particular sequence of events that is legally evaluated. The application of an abstract legal norm to a particular case in the civil law tradition requires a process of interpretation that involves the use of methods of narrative analysis, such as distinguishing between the framework of narration, narration and narration, the naming functions of narrative structures, and the identification of types of narrators. Since the advent of “jurisprudence after the cultural turn” (Moran 2012), the law has been seen as narrative and rooted in culture, suggesting the benefits of a narrative approach to legal discourse. Using ideas derived from the conference, the Law and Humanities program will highlight legal issues by comparing them to questions and methods of interpretation in related fields such as literature, philosophy, anthropology, and cultural criticism, and complement instrumental legal teaching with more speculative explorations of language. the rhetoric, presuppositions and cultural rituals associated with law.