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The Legal Imagination: 45th Anniversary Edition

  • James Boyd  White 
Teaching Materials

Revered for pioneering the law and literature movement, The Legal Imagination celebrates its 45th year of inspiring students and readers around the world. In this special Anniversary Edition, introduced with a new Foreword by author James Boyd White, the original, unabridged text has been carefully reproduced to challenge a new generation of readers to understand the language of the law through the prism of literature. The topics covered in The Legal Imagination are as eclectic as its readership, juxtaposing examples of legal writing alongside poetry, philosophy, and literary criticism. White frames thought-provoking discussions on topics that intersect both legal and non-legal discourse, like reading Edmund Burke’s rhetoric alongside the homicidal persuasion of Lady Macbeth, or comparing elegiac poetry with the terminology of a final will and testament.

White asks his readers not only to analyze legal and non-legal literature, but to consider the power of language, and how it can be reimagined. Excerpted authors include Fyodor Dostoevsky, Benjamin Cardozo, Albert Camus, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Emily Dickinson.

First published in 1973, The Legal Imagination broke convention and urged students to understand the law beyond memorization, encouraging readers “to trust and follow their own curiosity” and to come to terms with the nature and potential limits of legal language. It should be read not only by people of the law, but by anyone with an interest in language and power, and in writing as a way of thinking and creating.

The book has a timeless quality. James Boyd White writes in the Foreword, “I think in fact that it may be of wider relevance now than when it was first published, for its central concern is with integrity—integrity of the law, of language, of the individual person—at a time when integrity itself sometimes seems to be threatened as a value.”

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