During his all too brief stay in town last week, Tom Morawetz kindly presented me with his brand new (the ink is barely dry) Aspen Publishers' book "Literature and the Law," a carefully constructed collection of fictional works and scholarly essays relating to law, with particular emphasis on criminal law. Tom has supplemented his lively selections with typically elegant and erudite expositions of some of law's most vexing problems: including methods of interpreting texts, the pros and cons of paternalism, the relationship between law and morality. and the paradox that the free speech case for tolerance creates when turned on speech that itself is scarily intolerant. In every case, Tom has provided in a few well-crafted pages, summaries that could only be penned by someone who had spent a lifetime coming to grips with the underlying issues. Surely, this is what Karl Llewellyn meant when he spoke of "the simple via the deep."
As for the book's underlying theme, Tom is more eloquent on this than it would be fair to ask of me. As he puts it "The most important job, the essential job that law and literature courses play is to refocus legal education on the inescapable truth that law is about individuals -- their needs, goals, vulnerabilities and unique characters. The attorney or judge who understands herself as an individual with a special history, trajectory and set of values is, to that extent, a better attorney or judge. The lawyer who reads statutes and judicial decisions with an eye toward their effects on the interests of individuals is, to that extent, a preceptive interpreter. And, the practitioner who sees his client as more than a disgruntled stockholder, or party to a divorce, or defaulting debtor is likely, to that extent to offer better representation.
Literature -- all literature -- is at once about individuals and about generalizable bits of experience. Captain Ahab, Hamlet, and Elizabeth Bennett are individuals, and they are also symbols. However much or little we see ourselves in them, we extend our experience and our sense of human nature by participating in their lives. Literature is overtly about individuals and about their commonalities. Law covertly has the same two dimensions. Literature can be the vital corrective in a legal education that allows us to see all of law's facets."
Tom, this is beautifully stated and should be enough to entice anyone to dig deeply into the pages that follow. You have done us all proud. CONGRATULATIONS!