Daniel J. Kornstein, Kill All the Lawyers? Shakespeare's Legal Appeal. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. Pp. xvii, 274. $24.95.
Ian Ward, Law and Literature: Possibilities and Perspectives. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Pp. xi, 264. $49.95.
The law and literature project continues to expand in two directions. First, some scholars pursue the detailed study of specific texts and authors for the light they shed on the nature of law and its impact on our lives. Second, some engage in the systematic introspection required for the application of critical theory - to both fiction about legal issues and to the interpretation of legal texts as a form of literature - in an attempt to make a place for the law and literature movement within, or as a continuation of, modern and postmodern intellectual history.' Daniel Kornstein's Kill All the Lawyers? reflects the first trend, and Ian Ward's collection of essays, Law and Literature, combines both approaches, seeking to frame its textual analysis within an overview of several schools of critical theory. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and while each of these excellent new books contributes to the development of the field, each also shows the limitations of an analysis that puts too much emphasis on a single approach. The "good" in the title of this Review reflects their focus on classical and modern texts that demonstrate to lawyers and lay readers alike how well literature and literary theory can illuminate the place of law in society. What is arguably "bad" is Kornstein's inability to focus on a few major themes, leaving the reader overwhelmed by detail, and Ward's recurrent reliance on tightly summarized theoretical arguments of others, overburdening the reader anxious to get to the heart of the literary text and its implications for our understanding of law. The "ironic" can be seen in many of the characterizations of lawyers and the law in both books - starting with Kornstein's title and including Ward's detailed discussion of Johnathan Swift's view of the law - and in the narrative methods deployed in the texts they examine. Irony is also apparent in Ward's clearly expressed doubts about the point of all the theory he has so thoroughly explicated.
Rockwood, Bruce L.
"The Good, the Bad, and the Ironic: Two Views on Law and Literature,"
Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities: Vol. 8
, Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol8/iss2/9