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Black Letters: An Ethnography of a Beginning Legal Writing Course (Randy Cauthen)

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Code: 1-57273-775-1

Title: Black Letters
Sub-title: An Ethnography of a Beginning Legal Writing Course
Author(s): Randy Cauthen, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Publish Date: February 2010
Pages: 288
Format: Paper
This detailed ethnographic study of the issues of power, interpretation, and identity involved in becoming a lawyer follows six students through a year-long legal writing course. Using Bakhtinian theoretical concepts about narratives and intertextuality as well as theories of feminist thinkers whose work is becoming more prominent in the law as women become more accepted in the profession, this book examines how language issues reflect the relationships that these first-year law students build between themselves and both the legal texts they are taught and the clients they will represent. The data considered include all of the legal memos and briefs the students produced for the course, their teacher’s commentary on these texts, and extensive interview data from both the students and the teacher.

Contents: THE VACUUM BOUNDARY. Damascus Road. Bakhtin and the Dialogic. Critical Legal Studies, Feminist Jurisprudence, and the Human Corporation. Law and Moral Boundaries. METHODS AND PRETEXTS. The Persistence of Legalese. The Skeletonization of Fact. The Bible. Male as a Second Language. Studying Up and Moving About. Uncertainty Principles. Physical and Curricular Contexts. Data Gathering. Data Analysis. HUMAN SUBJECTS. Sara: Pieces of the Puzzle. Will: Santa Claus to Shoe Leather. Leslie: “Hard but Not Impossible”. Christopher: “No Matter What Happens Here”. Alesha: Law as a Fifth Language. Sharon: “Res Ipse Loquitur”. North. CANONS OF CONSTRICTION. The Mating Call. The Tale of the Tubbses. A New Way of Thinking. FACT PATTERNS: THE ZIPP CASE. Changes of Venue. “You Just Go Through and Sometimes Look at it Like a Story”: Narrative Synthesis in Sara’s First Memo. BINDING AUTHORITY: THE EWING CASE. Will’s Literary and Legal Styles: The Dirt Shit Simple Mot Juste. Naked Citations: Invisible Blue. Interlude: Changes of Venue II. “THEY TALK ABOUT THE OTHER”: THE BRADY CASE. Standing. “Intention to Abjure from Deciding”. THE VOICES OF THE LAW. Moral Boundaries. The Growing Disjunction. Justice as Translation. Appendices. Works Cited. Author Index. Subject Index.

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