Law and Literature / Edition 3

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Hailed in its first edition as an “outstanding work, as stimulating as it is intellectually distinguished” (New York Times), Law and Literature has handily lived up to the Washington Post’s prediction that the book would “remain essential reading for many years to come.” This third edition, extensively revised and enlarged, is the only comprehensive book-length treatment of the field. It continues to emphasize the essential differences between law and literature, which are rooted in the different social functions of legal and literary texts. But it also explores areas of mutual illumination and expands its range to include new topics such as the cruel and unusual punishments clause of the Constitution, illegal immigration, surveillance, global warming and bioterrorism, and plagiarism.

In this edition, literary works from classics by Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dostoevsky, Melville, Kafka, and Camus to contemporary fiction by Tom Wolfe, Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, and Joyce Carol Oates come under Richard Posner’s scrutiny, as does the film The Matrix.

The book remains the most clear, acute account of the intersection of law and literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Weekly Standard

[Posner] has written and rewritten the most comprehensive study of the connections between law and literature.
— James Seaton

Sanford V. Levinson
With his usual astonishing range of interests, Richard Posner treats facets of 'law and literature' ranging from popular culture to copyright to whether reading great literature necessarily contributes to one's moral growth (and more besides). Every reader will be provoked, challenged, and illuminated by Posner's insights and arguments.
Denis Dutton
This complex, superbly argued book remains a remarkable achievement and is made even more useful in this new edition. Richard Posner knows how much legal thinking can profit from the study of literary traditions and classic works of fiction. He also is acutely aware of the limits on the application of literary practice to the law. The bracing manner in which he debunks the sentimental notion that literature and--worse--literary theory are law's salvation is a pleasure to read.
Weekly Standard - James Seaton
[Posner] has written and rewritten the most comprehensive study of the connections between law and literature.
Wall Street Journal
"A wonderfully original and instructive study of what literature has to teach us about the law, the methods of legal argument, and hte interpretation of statutes and the Constition."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674032460
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2009
  • Edition description: Third Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 782,688
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard A. Posner is Circuit Judge, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.
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Table of Contents

  • Contents

  • Preface
  • Critical Introduction

  • Part I. Literary Texts as Legal Texts
  1. Reflections of Law in Literature

    Theoretical Considerations

    The American Legal Novel

    The Law in Popular Culture

    Camus and Stendhal

    Farcical Trials

  2. Law’s Beginnings: Revenge as Legal Prototype and Literary Genre

    The Logic of Revenge

    Revenge Literature

    The Iliad and Hamlet

  3. Antinomies of Legal Theory

    Jurisprudential Drama from Sophocles to Shelley

    Has Law Gender?

  4. The Limits of Literary Jurisprudence



    Wallace Stevens

  5. Literary Indictments of Legal Injustice

    Law and Ressentiment

    Romantic Values in Literature and Law

    Billy Budd, The Brothers Karamazov, and Law’s Limits

  6. Two Legal Perspectives on Kafka

    On Reading Kafka Politically

    In Defense of Classical Liberalism

    The Grand Inquisitor and Other Social Theorists

  7. Penal Theory in Paradise Lost

    The Punishment of Satan and His Followers

    The Punishment of Man

    The Punishment of the Animals

Part II. Legal Texts as Literary Texts
  1. Interpreting Contracts, Statutes, and Constitutions

    Interpretation Theorized

    What Can Law Learn from Literary Criticism?

    Chain Novels and Black Ink

    Interpretation as Translation

  2. Judicial Opinions as Literature

    Meaning, Style, and Rhetoric

    Aesthetic Integrity and the “Pure” versus the “Impure” Style

    Two Cultures

Part III. How Else Might Literature Help Law?
  1. Literature as a Source of Background Knowledge for Law

    Arch of Triumph

    From Huxley to The Matrix

  2. Improving Trial and Appellate Advocacy

    Sherlock Holmes to the Rescue?

    Legal Narratology

    Fictional Depictions of Lawyers

    The Funeral Orations in Julius Caesar

  3. But Can Literature Humanize Law?

    Aesthetic versus Moralistic Literary Criticism

    Then Why Read Literature?

Part IV. The Regulation of Literature
  1. Protecting Nonwriters

    Pornographic Fiction

    Defamation by Fiction

  2. Protecting (Other) Writers

    What Is an “Author”?

    Copyright, Plagiarism, and Creativity


  • Conclusion. Law and Literature: A Manifesto
  • Index

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