Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2011

Abstract

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, it offers a complementary reading of Franz Kafka’s writings on the law and Lawrence Joseph’s novel Lawyerland. This reading focuses on the distinct perspectives offered by these authors. Whereas Kafka approaches the law from the perspective of the litigant or accused, Joseph’s perspective, through the eyes of his lawyers and judges, is that of the consummate insider. The importance of perspective rests with the fact that although law might constitute an objective system, its experience is inevitably subjective. The absurd malevolence of law in Kafka can thus be rationalized by the system of law depicted by Joseph.

The second builds on the conclusions of the first by interpreting this complementary reading to constitute a coherent literary jurisprudence. The works of Kafka and Joseph point away from the narrow confines of academic jurisprudence and current constitutional scholarship by placing legal authority at the basic levels of legal practice. It is in the trenches of contemporary legal practice, rather than in the Supreme Court or elite law schools, where the most important decisions on the law are taken and the nature of legal reality fully explored. By recognizing this fact, the jurisprudence of Kafka and Joseph takes a relational approach to how law is conceived — law takes form only insomuch as it is utilized and applied in the course of resolving legal problems. The possibilities of such jurisprudential literature will only become more important as legal practice continues to evolve along a relational path into the twenty-first century, and law and literature should accordingly focus on these possibilities as it itself continues to evolve.

Publication Citation

21 S. Cal. Interdisc. L.J. 47-94 (2011)