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Abstract

What, in the context of law, does "reasoning from literature" mean? Depending on the inflection, the phrase might suggest that literature can set in motion a process of reasoning - rather than imagining, or emoting, or simply appreciating. Although this reasoning could take a number of forms - analogizing, distinguishing, and extrapolating, among others-it would, presumably, have consequences for law. With another emphasis, the expression might imply that the lawyer or legal scholar should bring her ordinary tools of analysis to bear in relation to another object, that of literature. Taking the activity of reasoning as a paradigmatic feature of legal practice, "reasoning from literature" would then indicate the application of the lawyer's method outside its usual field of inquiry. In both cases, the phrase proposes a juxtaposition of approach with subject matter that counters everyday conceptions of the relationship between the fields of law and of literature. In both cases too, the phrase gives the impression that reasoning from literature might have consequences for law.

The associations upon which this interpretation rests might themselves be subject to critique: are scholars in the humanities not always "reasoning from literature," and do legal materials themselves not often employ rhetoric in a way that contravenes reason? Along these lines, Peter Brooks's contribution to the Symposium elegantly turns the logic of the assignment around, indicating how techniques of interpretive reasoning derived from literature can serve as a resource for identifying illogic in law. Rather than questioning the terms of the categories, this Article instead investigates whose reasoning is involved in the reference to reasoning from literature. The dynamics of reasoning from literature, I contend, vary according to historical period, and they are significantly affected by the composition of the audiences of both literature and law.

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