8 Cardozo Stud. L. & Literature 15 (1996)
The Public, the Private, and the Sacred: Variations on a Theme of Nomos and Narrative

handle is hein.journals/lal8 and id is 25 raw text is: The Public, the Private,
and the Sacred:
Variations on a Theme of
Nomos and Narrative
Perry Dane
Robert Cover's Nomos and Narrative' has formed my scholarly life. I
first read it in draft, in my first year of teaching, and I was awestruck. I
return to it, as a fundamental landmark, even an obsession, almost every
time I write. I have praised it.2 I have relied on it.' I have wrestled with it,
and even disagreed with it.4 But I cannot leave it behind.
Nomos and Narrative is Bob's brilliant articulation of a vision of law,
and an account of the relation between the state and non-state commu-
nities. Just as important, to my mind, it is a demonstration of the relation
between these two themes, a demonstration that law, as much as it is any-
thing, is a playing out of an act of encounter.
From my first reading of Nomos and Narrative, however, I have always
wrestled most distinctly with one section of it. That section is the last part
of the essay, its punch line. There, Bob directly connected his two themes,
and applied the principles and methods developed throughout' the
piece, to a detailed critique of Bob Jones University v. United States,6 a
much-noted United States Supreme Count decision of the year before.7
In this essay, I want now to honor Bob by grappling with his discus-
sion of Bob Jones. I want to voice some doubts, and, as Bob would have
demanded, put those doubts to productive use.' More important, I want
to try to use Bob Jones as a launching point for a more general effort to
elaborate some aspects of the process of encounter that Nomos and
Narrative describes and inspires.
Robert Cover refused to understand the relation between the state
and non-state communities only in terms of the state's own self-contained
act of legal construction. Instead, he saw it as a genuine meeting, or clash,

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