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The dialogue over the role of narrative in the making and interpreting of law and in legal practice is often stalemated by confusion about the complex relationships between narrative and other forms of legal reasoning. Are narrative and rules opposing methods for interpretation and persuasion? Does narrative theory assert that lawyers can win cases by presenting a sympathetic story, without regard for the governing rule of law? If so, it is no wonder that conversations about narrative theory are so difficult.

This article explores the relationship between narrative and other forms of legal interpretation and persuasion. It relies on David Tracy’s concepts of the “analogical” imagination (finding meaning in story and metaphor) and the “dialectic” imagination (approaching story and metaphor with suspicion, preferring instead to find meaning from systematic reasoning). The article examines the roles of narrative in law creation (how judges decide questions of law) and in legal hermeneutics (what lawyers do with rules). The article concludes that poetry and prose (stories and rules) each have an important role to play and must remain in constructive relationship with each other.

Publication Citation

20 Legal Stud. F. 7 (1996).