Charles Dickens's Bleak House will be used in every class. Course members must read this novel before the course begins. We will explore the uses of literature in understanding the theory and the practice of law. At one level, seminal literary texts that every lawyer should know will provide a proving ground for examining legal norms and professional performance. At another level, we will be using both literature and literary criticism to study the nature of legal language. What are the common rhetorical and linguistic devices that every lawyer employs more-or-less unawares? How do the uses and misuses of these devices produce the stereotypes that control popular understanding of the legal process, and how can we guard ourselves against those stereotypes? How can a heightened appreciation of the artifice in language help to bring success in the advocacy process? At a third level, attention will be given to recent debates in law and literature for what they can tell us about the nature of legal education today.
The course will also aim for a cumulative but still practical sense of legal eloquence and its components. A proper knowledge of context, audience, narrative form, rhetorical strategy, storytelling, point of view, generic awareness, and description will remind students that a good mouthpiece is first and always a careful wordsmith.