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1 Law & Human. v (2007)

handle is hein.journals/lawhuman1 and id is 1 raw text is: Editorial
Paul Raffield and Gary Watt
Reading texts composed by other minds in other worlds can help us see more clearly (what is
otherwise nearly invisible) the force and meaning of the habits of mind and language in which we
shall in all likelihood remain unconscious unless led to perceive or imagine other worlds.1
The influences over the development of any legal system are not confined to social and
political pressures; cultural influences (broadly defined as the humanities) play a central
role in shaping the law and its perception in the public sphere. Indeed, a fundamental
tenet of the law and literature movement is that law (and the teaching of law) concerns
culture rather than rules, and that consequently legal scholarship should embrace
interdisciplinarity, rather than aspiring to maintain an aloof discreteness from the taint
of external influence.2 Further analysis of the relationship between law and literature is
only one strand of the law and humanities project, albeit one that Law and Humanities
will endeavour to encourage. If it is accepted that language is central to the creation of
community: that it is, in Heidegger's words, 'the house of being', then it must also be
accepted that language is the essential medium for social change. But it is not only through
the use of language in literary fiction that we are able to imagine other people and the
socio-political structures that affect their lives: the study of classics, figurative art, history,
music, philosophy and theology has provided a fruitful source of informed opinion as to
the form and content of law in a just, democratic society. The relationship between law
and aesthetics is of especial relevance in the context of the English legal system and the
common law tradition: absence of a codified legal structure implies the existence of
alternative means through which the unwritten constitution may be recognised as the
legitimate source of English law. The idea of a poetics or aesthetics of law should not be
confined to the representation of law in literature (as, for example, Kafka's The Trial and
Dickens' Bleak House), valuable though such representations are; nor should it be
restricted to the study of law as literature, whereby literary criticism is applied to the legal
text. The other humanities disciplines have a great deal to say on the subject of law,
precisely because legal specialists are not the only thinkers subject to the law.
1 James Boyd White,'What Can a Lawyer Learn from Literature?' (1989) 102 Harvard Law Review2014,2022
(book review). We are most grateful to Professor White for his kind words of support for this journal set out
at the beginning of this issue.
2 See Ian Ward, Law and Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1995).


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