Cover image for Legally speaking : contemporary American culture and the law
Legally speaking : contemporary American culture and the law
Porsdam, Helle, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 269 pages ; 23 cm
Reading Level:
1490 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF385 .P645 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Since the founding of the republic, the law has come to make itself felt at every level of American society. Indeed, as Helle Porsdam argues, in a country with no monarchy or hereditary aristocracy and no established church, the law has become America's "civil religion, " helping to form a collective national identity.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Legally Speaking brings the unusual perspective of a Danish scholar to the analysis of American legal culture. From this "foreign" vantage point Porsdam reaches a conclusion that will surprise few, namely that Americans retain a great deal of faith in law, turn to law to resolve disputes confident that law will treat them fairly, and look to law to provide the glue that holds together America's pluralistic society. The book draws on an unusually eclectic but intriguing array of materials to make this case, from Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) to the television program The People's Court. The readings and interpretations of these materials are well supported throughout, though seldom surprising. Nevertheless, the combination of sources discussed is both bracing and instructive. In the end, Porsdam argues that despite the anxiety of some scholars that postmodern conditions will weaken our attachment to law, analysis of the texts of literature and popular culture suggests that we are in no such danger. For law professors, cultural critics, and advanced graduate students this will be an engaging read. A. D. Sarat; Amherst College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. I
I "They Came to Lawyers, You Know, What Can You Do?": American Exceptionalism and Judicial Activismp. 13
II Of Human Vanity, Multiculturalism, and American Legalization: Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanitiesp. 39
III The Education of Scott Turow: An Analysis of One L, Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof, and Pleading Guiltyp. 59
IV Law as Soap Opera and Game Show: The Case of The People's Courtp. 89
V Race and Law: Promising Alchemical Reaction or Dangerous Trap?p. 107
VI "Embedding Rights within Relationships": Gender, Law, and Sara Paretskyp. 133
VII Of Control, Absolutes, and Handmaids: The Late-Twentieth-Century Abortion Debatep. 163
VIII American Law and the Search for Cultural Redemption: A Discussion of William Gaddis's A Frolic of His Ownp. 193
IX To Have or Not to Have "a Project": The Law and Literature Movementp. 217
Conclusionp. 251
Works Cited or Referred Top. 257
Indexp. 265