Insights for Legal Reasoning from Studies of Literary Adaptation and Intertextuality

George Raitt


Legal theorists advance conflicting theories to explain judicial reasoning, for example, that judges’ decisions are constrained but not determined by legal materials, that judges do not apply legal principles but make value judgments, and that they make pragmatic judgments based on an assessment of the consequences of their decisions. Like cases should be decided alike, but theorists disagree on the role of analogy in legal reasoning and how one determines which similarities and differences are relevant. Judicial decisions revise and adapt previously decided cases. The concept of fidelity to precedent in legal reasoning can be illuminated by recent research into fidelity to source in adaptation studies. Research into literary adaptations shows that similarity and difference are not mutually exclusive and that an analysis of differences may undermine determinations of relevant similarity. By reading decided cases as intertextually situated adaptations, underlying views of the world that might not otherwise be evident in judicial reasoning can be interrogated.

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