Fiction and the Languages of Law: Understanding Contemporary Legal Discourse, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Fiction and the Languages of Law

Understanding Contemporary Legal Discourse, 1st Edition

By Karen Petroski


240 pages

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Hardback: 9780815350118
pub: 2018-11-02
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781351163842
pub: 2018-10-10
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Contemporary legal reasoning has more in common with fictional discourse than we tend to realize. Through an examination of the U.S. Supreme Court’s written output during a recent landmark term, this book exposes many of the parallels between these two special kinds of language use. Focusing on linguistic and rhetorical patterns in the dozens of reasoned opinions issued by the Court between October 2014 and June 2015, the book takes nonlawyer readers on a lively tour of contemporary American legal reasoning and acquaints legal readers with some surprising features of their own thinking and writing habits. It analyzes cases addressing a huge variety of issues, ranging from the rights of drivers stopped by the police to the decision-making processes of the Environmental Protection Agency—as well as the term’s best-known case, which recognized a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex as well as different-sex couples. Fiction and the Languages of Law reframes a number of long-running legal debates, identifies other related paradoxes within legal discourse, and traces them all to common sources: judges’ and lawyers’ habit of alternating unselfconsciously between two different attitudes toward the language they use, and a set of professional biases that tends to prevent scrutiny of that habit.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Three Ways of Reading a Term

Chapter 2: Fear of Fiction

Chapter 3: Real People, Fictional Characters, Legal Phantoms

Chapter 4: Big Personalities

Chapter 5: Virtual Realities

Chapter 6: Reading the Layers of Law

About the Author

Dr Karen Petroski, St Louis University School of Law, USA, has been teaching law since 2008 and is trained in both literary analysis and law. She has published several articles and book chapters on legal fictions and the relationship between fictional and legal discourse, including chapters in Legal Fictions in Theory and Practice (ed. Maksymilian Del Mar & William Twining, Springer, 2015) and The Nature of Legal Interpretation: What Jurists Can Learn About Legal Interpretation from Linguistics and Philosophy (ed. Brian Slocum, Univ. of Chicago Press, 2017).

About the Series

Law, Language and Communication

Law, Language and Communication

This series encourages innovative and integrated perspectives within and across the boundaries of law, language and communication, with particular emphasis on issues of communication in specialized socio-legal and professional contexts. It seeks to bring together a range of diverse yet cumulative research traditions related to these fields in order to identify and encourage interdisciplinary research. The series welcomes proposals - both edited collections as well as single authored monographs - emphasizing critical approaches to law, language and communication, identifying and discussing issues, proposing solutions to problems, offering analyses in areas such as legal construction, interpretation, translation and de-codification.

Anne Wagner is Professor of Legal Semiotics and Research Professor at Centre de Recherche Droits & Perspectives du Droit, équipe René Demogue, Lille University, France. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law (Springer) and President of the International Roundtables for the Semiotics of Law. She has been awarded the National Research Grant for her research career. Her main research interests include semiotics, verbal and non-verbal sign system analyses, language and law, legal culture and heritage, legal translation, legal terminology, and legal discourse studies.

Vijay K. Bhatia, formerly Professor of English, City University of Hong Kong, is now Adjunct Professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Visiting Professor at the Hellenic American University, Athens (Greece). He is also the founding President of the Languages for Specific Purposes and Professional Communication Association for Asia-Pacific. His research interests include Critical Genre Analysis, academic and professional discourses in legal, business, newspaper, and promotional contexts; ESP and Professional Communication; simplification of legal and other public documents; intercultural and cross-disciplinary variations in professional genres.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies
LAW / Court Records
LAW / Legal Education
LAW / Legal Writing