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New Directions in Law and Literature$
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Elizabeth S. Anker and Bernadette Meyler

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190456368

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190456368.001.0001

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Retrospective Prophecies

Retrospective Prophecies

Legal Narrative Constructions

(p.92) Chapter 5 Retrospective Prophecies
New Directions in Law and Literature

Peter Brooks

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that stories are not events in the world, but the way we tell events, a crucial distinction sometimes unrecognized in legal opinions. This issue is studied through the Sherlock Holmes detective story model, and then through historian Carlo Ginzburg’s reflections on the “huntsman’s paradigm” and the workings of “retrospective prophecy.” The chapter then turns more closely to the analysis of narrative, particularly the end-determined nature of narrative meaning, and to the one Supreme Court case that discusses narrative in an analytic way: Justice Souter’s opinion in Old Chief v. U.S. Further examples are drawn from rape adjudication (Rusk v. Maryland) and postconviction petitions for relief (Mickens v. Taylor). If narrative, telling the facts, plays so important a role in law, shouldn’t the law arm itself with more tools in the analysis of narrative?

Keywords:   legal narrative, storytelling, retrospective prophecy, huntsman’s paradigm, law and literature, narrative integrity, narrative construction of reality

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