Austin Sarat


The invitation to reflect on "changes in law and the humanities over the past decade" provides an opportunity to pause and to take stock, to ask what difference Law and Humanities scholarship has made to our understanding of law or the humanities, and whether that scholarship has lived up to its promise. In this comment, I note three factors that ten years ago, at the founding moment of the Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, seemed likely to shape the trajectory of Law and Humanities scholarship, and I urge three responses that I hope might shape it in the future. I take as my text for this exercise the three "Introductions" contained in the inaugural issue of this Journal. Those Introductions, one by the Editors, one by the then Dean of Yale Law School, Guido Calabresi, and the third by Yale Law Professor Owen Fiss, are instructive in many ways.

First, despite several disclaimers, they remind us that ten years ago some saw Law and Humanities scholarship as a corrective to certain tendencies in law schools and in professional legal education, among them, and most importantly, the rise of value-neutral, technocratic approaches that allegedly undermine the vision of lawyer as "statesman." This view is embodied in Fiss's claim that the turn to the humanities is a response to the hegemonic position of economics in law schools and a resource that might help to free "contemporary law from its own barrenness." In addition, Dean Calabresi suggested that turning to the humanities was important to the degree that it "feeds" law. For him the test of Law and Humanities scholarship would be its impact on the character and conception of lawyers. Thus he recounted how former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black told him, on the second day of his clerkship, that if he had "never read Tacitus... then, you are not a lawyer."