AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

The Anthropomorphization of Law: Fictional Judges and Lawyers in Contemporary North American and European Settings

by Stephanie Chieh-Ying Chong

Institution: University of Toronto
Year: 2009
Keywords: (Treatment of) Law; Lawyer; Judge; Law and Literature
Record ID: 1846623
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17457


This dissertation examines the varying roles of lawyers and judges in Canada, the United States, England, France and Germany in a selection of “fictional legal narratives”: novels, movies, television shows and plays that explore legal themes. The study focuses on contemporary works after 1960, and explores the North American fascination with lawyers that saturates the major levels of culture, from the popular (including television shows, movies and novels) to the academic. Fictional images of lawyers and judges not only reflect but arguably also influence our attitudes toward the legal system, and offer a concrete way of conceptualizing abstract legal concepts. However, the vast differences between the Anglo-American adversarial legal system and the continental European inquisitorial legal system spawn very different fictional portraits of lawyers and judges. The differences between fictional legal narratives produced by each country, even those with similarly structured legal systems, are also striking. Chapter One begins by outlining a number of factors that contribute to the proliferation of fictional legal narratives in some countries, and their relative scarcity in other countries. Next, Chapter Two traces the wide range of lawyer images in American fictional legal narratives, which both glamourize and demonize the figure of the lawyer. Turning to anthropomorphizations of law in the United Kingdom, Chapter Three examines the British tendency to perpetuate the idea that, if correctly executed, the fundamental principles of British law would lead to a just and harmonious society. Chapter Four then explores the “anxiety of influence” reflected in Canadian images of law, which are more “soft-boiled” than the fictional legal figures of other countries. Moving to French fictional legal narratives, Chapter Five contemplates the predominance of the juge d’instruction figure and the prevalence of the investigatory mode. The dissertation then discusses the relative scarcity of fictional legal narratives in Germany, and the cynicism in existing German stories about law in Chapter Six. The study concludes by considering the future directions of the law and culture movement, as well as both the challenges and rewards of this interdisciplinary work.