Literature and Legal Cases

During the summer of 2015, I had taken on my first legal internship! While other students were decompressing from the Fall and Spring semesters, I decided it was a good idea to NOT give myself a single solitary break.

For my internship, I worked under the former supreme court justice of New York state, Judge Joseph Gerace. He specialized in tax and real estate cases,  needless to say a challenging and sometimes dry area of law.

The internship gave me the opportunity to read more critically than I ever had before, as the judge assigned me cases he had already resolved. Only he withheld his judgments of the cases, and had me come up with my own conclusions. This forced me to sift through files upon files of documents, comparing different appraisals of properties made by several people.

By the end of the internship I had done this with various cases, and came very close to the judge’s decision each time. This week I was reminded of my internship, in that I had to compare The Bacchae and Cane, drawing the best conclusions possible using textual evidence. I feel my legal experience has a give-and-take relationship with this intertextual literature course, in that it prepared me for reading intertextually. But also literature courses have done so to the same effect.

Not only does comparing the two texts force me to read critically, but also do research, a necessity in my future legal career, and something I practiced during my internship. As I read and then re-read part one of Cane, I underlined certain words that were reminiscent of The Bacchae. It was this that led me to my analysis of Jean Toomer’s poem Face, as I recalled something about “vines” in The Bacchae, but was unsure how to approach finding the similarities in the text as a whole. So I searched “The Bacchae vines”, and sure enough found an e-text. I clicked on the cached version, so “vines” would be highlighted, and quickly drew the similarities between Semele’s tomb being overgrown with grape vines at the hands of Dionysos, and Toomer’s mention of grape vines in Face. This led to my surprising “Eureka!” moment.

In Moran’s Interdisciplinarity,  it is stated that “Although literary critics have often sought to claim textual interpretation as an activity that marks out the discrete disciplinarity of their subject, this claim is clearly questionable.” I wholeheartedly agree that there is a relationship between legal studies and literature. With that said, I feel I could not have chosen a better pre-law undergraduate major to prepare me for the reading load, textual interpretation, and research that will be essential to my success in law school. Not to mention that English majors usually perform fairly well on the LSAT’s, not to suggest any correlation of course.

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