October 23, 2006

Chronological Bibliography of Law & Literature Scholarship

With the help of Sam Weisberg, I have created a chronological bibliography of law and literature scholarship from 1982-present. It is certainly not 100% complete, as there are limits to Westlaw searching, but it hopefully will be useful.

It is available here.

Does Reading Literature Give You More Empathy?

The British Psychological Society reports the results of a new study on the effects of reading literature:
The more fiction a person reads, the more empathy they have and the better they perform on tests of social understanding and awareness. By contrast, reading more non-fiction, fact-based books shows the opposite association. That’s according to Raymond Mar and colleagues who say their finding could have implications for educating children and adults about understanding others.

Finding out how much people read is always difficult because it’s socially desirable for people to report that they read a lot. Mar and colleagues avoided this by asking 94 participants to identify the names of fiction and non-fiction authors embedded in a long list of names that also included non-authors. Prior research has shown this test correlates well with how much people actually read. Among the authors listed were Matt Ridley, Naomi Wolf (non-fiction), Toni Morrison and PD James (fiction).

The more authors of fiction that a participant recognised, the higher they tended to score on measures of social awareness and tests of empathy – for example being able to recognise a person’s emotions from a picture showing their eyes only, or being able to take another person’s perspective. Recognising more non-fiction authors showed the opposite association.

The researchers surmised that reading fiction could improve people’s social awareness via at least two routes – by exposing them to concrete social knowledge concerning the way people behave, and by allowing them to practise inferring people’s intentions and monitoring people’s relationships. Non-fiction readers, by contrast, “fail to simulate such experiences, and may accrue a social deficit in social skills as a result of removing themselves from the actual social world”.

However, a weakness of the study is that the direction of causation has not been established – it might simply be that more empathic people prefer reading novels.

The study is by R.A. Mar, K. Oatley, J. Hirsh, J. dela Paz, & J.B. Peterson, Bookworms Versus Nerds: Exposure to Fiction Versus Non-fiction, Divergent Associations with Social Ability, and the Simulation of Fictional Social Worlds, 40 Journal of Research in Personality 694-712 (2006). It is available here, but for a fee.

Hat tip: Ilya Somin.

October 4, 2006

Even More Harry Potter

Ruth Anne Robbins, Rutgers University School of Law, Camden, has published "Harry Potter, Ruby Slippers, and Merlin: Telling the Client's Story Using the Characters and Paradigm of the Archetypal Hero's Journey," in volume 29 of Seattle University Law Review (2006). Here is the abstract.
This article focuses on the relationship of mythology and folklore heroes to everyday lawyering decisions regarding case theory when the audience is a judge or panel of judges rather than a jury. It proposes the thesis that because people respond - instinctively and intuitively - to certain recurring story patterns and character archetypes, lawyers should systematically and deliberately integrate into their storytelling the larger picture of their clients' goals by subtly portraying their individual clients as heroes on a particular life path. This strategy is not merely a device to make the story more interesting but provides a scaffold to influence the judge at the unconscious level by providing a metaphor for universal themes of struggle and growth.
Download the entire paper here.

Crossposted to The Seamless Web.

Call For Proposals: Storytelling Conference in London Next July

A call for proposals for a conference entitled "Once Upon a Legal Time: developing the skills of storytelling in law" to be held at City University  London, UK from July 18 through July 20 of 2007 is going out. Here is a further description of the conference, provided by Ruth-Anne Robbbins, of Rutgers University School of Law, Camden.
Mastery of legal skills – legal analysis, writing, research and clinical skills – has long been part of American legal education. At present, most American law schools have full-time faculty who specialize in teaching in one or more of these areas. Correspondingly in the United States, there has been increasing focus on the importance of studying narrative from the practical standpoint. In recent years, academics from other common law system countries including the UK and Australia, have demonstrated an interest in developing similar legal skills education in their countries. For that reason, this conference seeks to foster collaboration and dialogue about teaching storytelling and other skills to students and practitioners in law.

This conference does not look to impose aspects of American legal education on other common law legal education systems. Rather, it seeks to explore both the role of narrative in legal practice, and curricular strategies that will prepare students to use story and narrative as they enter the practice of law. The conference seeks to bring together academics, practitioners and judges for this purpose.

Potential topics on the role of narrative in the practice of law may include:
-using storytelling in litigation;
-telling stories to clients; -the process of creating compelling legal stories as part of best practices;
-examining current models used to teach storytelling skills in education and/or practice;
-narrative in judicial opinions;
-narrative and negotiation;
-the place of storytelling in legal reasoning;
-storytelling in the legislative process;
-the difference between stories and narratives and which one is better for clients;
-whether storytelling models differ according to legal systems;
-the ethical limits of storytelling.

The conference will include 45-60 minute presentations as well as roundtable discussions. Proposals may indicate a preference for format. We also encourage people to present works in progress.
The deadline for submissions is November 27, 2006. Please submit a several paragraph description of the presentation discussing the goals for the presentation and the methodologies. All submissions should be sent, preferably electronically, to either:

Professor Steve Johansen
Lewis and Clark Northwestern School of Law
10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219

Dr. Erika Rackley
Department of Law
Durham University
50 North Bailey
Durham * DH1 3ET

Again, the deadline for proposal submissions is November 27, 2006.

When and Where: The conference will take place from Wednesday, July 18 (opening reception) to Friday, July 20, 2007 at City University Inns of Court Law School in London, UK. The Law School is in the historic Gray’s Inn, one of London’s four Inns of Court in existence since the 16th century. The building itself is steeped in royal history.

Costs to Participants: Because travel costs will be high for non-U.K. participants, we hope to keep conference fees low. We anticipate conference fee to be approximately $300.

Housing: We have reserved blocks of rooms at the Grange Holborn (GBP 195/night), and at the Clarendon Hotel (GBP 139/night). Both hotels are within easy walking distance of Gray’s Inn, the conference site, and are also within walking distance of many popular sites in London including the British Museum, Old Bailey, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. For more details about both hotels visit the Grange website: http://www.grangehotels.com.

The sponsors of the Conference are the City University, London, and the Legal Writing Institute. Please contact Professor Johansen, Professor Rackley, or Professor Robbins for more information.
Cross posted to the Seamless Web.