Narrative and Metaphor in the Law — Stanford, CA

Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School hosts Narrative and Metaphor in the Law Jan. 30, 2016.

Only quite recently have lawyers, judges and legal scholars come to notice that ‘narrative – storytelling – is a central component of legal practice and thinking’ (Peter Brooks). Competing narratives in the courtroom are the most obvious examples; law students are increasingly tutored in how to construct their own persuasive stories and critique those of their adversaries. Scholars and activists have, in addition, explored the narrative/law connection on many other levels, including: case law as narrative, problems about confessional narratives, narrative in promoting minority rights, gender and legal narrative.

Alongside the courses, research groups and conferences on ‘narrative law’ has grown up a parallel set of research initiatives on ‘metaphor and the law,’ focusing not only on the rhetorical use of metaphor in court, but on the conceptual metaphors employed in different cultures to define justice, punishment, and on such specific areas as the use in the media of standard narratives and metaphors around crime. There have been few attempts, however, to look at the ways in which these two ‘primary cognitive instruments’ (Louis Mink), narrative and metaphor, interact with each other in legal contexts.

This one-day symposium brings together scholars in law and related disciplines who have made the most outstanding contributions to the study of narrative or metaphor and the law (rarely the two in combination) for a series of eight conversations meant in part to bridge the narrative-metaphor gap. The eight papers that will serve as the basis for the conversations will be distributed during December 2015 to all who register for the symposium. There are no parallel sessions, so participants will be able to attend all the conversations.

The event is intended for faculty members in law and related disciplines, as well as lawyers, and graduate students in areas like law, rhetoric, psychology, sociology, and communications. It is hoped that the symposium will allow all participants to gain fresh theoretical insights, as well as contributing greatly to the professional skills of practitioners.

About the author

Reference librarian, University of Washington School of Law