Document Type



Final publication at 13 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 95 (2001)


Those of us who labor in academia—either in law or in the humanities—are, at a very basic level, storytellers. Both in my scholarly writing and in the classroom, I find that most of my effort is focused on constructing narratives of meaning from the complicated and multifaceted material that makes up our lived reality. Philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey wrote that “reality only exists for us in the facts of consciousness given by inner experience.” But for every experience there is a wide range of possible meanings that can be assigned. And for every possible meaning there is a range of stories we can tell. As anthropologist Edward Bruner has pointed out, “If we write or tell about the French Revolution, for example, we must decide where to begin and where to end, which is not so easy, so that by our arbitrary construction of beginnings and endings we establish limits, frame the experience, and thereby construct it.” On this view, “Every telling is an arbitrary imposition of meaning on the flow of memory . . . every telling is interpretive.” Thus, although we may not always be conscious of it, scholars are constantly engaged in the process of articulating a vision both of our culture and of the nature and shape of reality itself.

Date of Authorship for this Version

January 2001