September 2, 2009

Business Law and Narrative

Michigan State University College of Law is hosting a symposium on business law and film called the Business Law and Narrative Symposium. The symposium takes place in East Lansing on September 11. Here's a description.

Narratives are stories.

Narratives both reflect and influence society, from the broadest popular cultural viewpoints down to the private communications between individuals. This dynamic process begins with the narrator, whose technique and viewpoint influence how the story is told. A successful narrative influences the viewpoint of the audience, modifying public perceptions of the subject. These changing public perceptions in turn influence the viewpoint of future narrators. Through this dynamic narrative process, public viewpoints evolve, leading to changes in the cultural, political, and legal landscapes.

Business narratives include the stories told within the legal profession, as well as those communicated to the general public through a vast array of media, including news, books, movies, and the Internet. Recent business narratives include the Bernard Madoff scam, the auto industry woes, bank bailouts, and the subprime mortgage crisis. From Enron and Martha Stewart to the current crises, new villains emerge, forever changing public perceptions of business and the corporate world.

A symposium at the Michigan State University College of Law invites general treatment of the question of how narrative influences the cultural and political understanding of business and how narrative might–or might not–play a role in corporate law.

Recent events bring to the fore a call on narrative as a means of interpreting what has happened, with possibilities for simple explanations that attempt a narrative form. Distinguished corporate law experts and scholars in history, literature, and narrative will present their papers and discuss the challenges narrators face in creating an accessible, widely shared account of business culture, corporate law, or financial events, given the complexity of business and the abstract nature of the corporation. Do such business narratives supply a widely shared consensus comparable to large narrative understandings of other social enterprises? Do cases or scholarship deploy narrative materials? If so, how might they be evaluated as narrative? Does literature constitute a source of insight that informs the social understanding of business realities and personalities? How does gender influence narrative?

MSU Law Professor Mae Kuykendall organized the symposium to further explore the intersection of business law and narrative, as discussed in her 2007 article, "No Imagination: The Marginal Role of Narrative in Corporate Law." Distinguished corporate law experts and scholars in history, literature, and narrative will gather to address these questions on September 11, 2009, at the Michigan State University College of Law. The Michigan State Law Review will publish the papers presented in what promises to be a trenchant discussion of an important topic. We invite you to join us for our discussion of business law and narrative.

Here's a link to the program.

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