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Unpublished Paper
Once Upon a Time in Law: Myth, Metaphor, and Authority
ExpressO (2010)
  • Linda H. Edwards

We have long accepted the role of narrative in fact statements and jury arguments, but in the inner sanctum of analyzing legal authority? Surely not. Yet cases, statutes, rules, and doctrines have stories too. When we talk about legal authority, using all our best formal logic and its bedfellows of analogy and policy, we are actually swimming in a sea of narrative, oblivious to the water around us. As the old Buddhist saying goes, we don’t know who discovered the ocean, but it probably wasn’t a fish.

This article teases out several familiar archetypes hidden in discussions of cases and statutes. In the midst of seemingly routine law talk we find stories of birth and death, battle and betrayal, tricksters and champions. These stories are simultaneously true and false, world-shaping yet always incomplete. Their unnoticed influence over the law’s development can be powerful. But we so seldom question familiar narratives, and these archetypes practically run in our veins. We should learn to recognize and interrogate these stories, attuned to their truths, alert to their limitations, and ready when necessary to seek other more accurate and complete stories for the law.

  • narrative,
  • metaphor,
  • myth,
  • archetype
Publication Date
February 28, 2010
Citation Information
Linda H. Edwards. "Once Upon a Time in Law: Myth, Metaphor, and Authority" ExpressO (2010)
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