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An estimated 11-minute read
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Gradus Ad Parnassum. This Latin phrase means “Steps to Paranassum” (one of the loftiest mountains of Central Greece). The term is often used to seek the gradual progress in literature, language or music.
Literature does resemble Paranassum now. 
Literature has lately been a compulsory subject in CBSEs and ISCs, nothing more. If more, it has taken form of Chetan Bhagat, some stupid Indian love novels and Amish. What a waste!
The classic literature is long forgotten. O. Henry, Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare are all elusive. People rather prefer chat rooms and internet over classics. The hustle and bustle of the metro cities and hep and happening life of a college student are the core reasons behind the disinterest in literature.
Technology is at its peak. It has evolved from Bada to Java to Android to Windows and lot more. The perpetual buzz of ice cream sandwich and jelly bean apps are hovering over every other thing in a Homo sapiens life today. People don’t get enough of angry birds, subway surfer and jetpack joyride.
Who has got time for book? (A few maybe)
I’m not being exponent but, a literature-lover as I am, it feels bad to see all the geniuses getting vanquished over by a pile of mobile applications. Haunting at times. 
My basic idea in this post is to show the importance of literature in a common man’s way-too-happening life, more importantly in the sphere of Law.
 “Literature always anticipates life. It doesn't copy it but moulds it to its purpose.”
– Oscar Wilde.
"It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression."

- Alfred North Whitehead
These are probably the two best adages that show the importance of literature in this fast track world of gadgets and gizmos. Media’s grand foray in our lives has left reading at a pillion position occupying a perpetual driving position. Literature can do wonders in a person’s life. Not everyone realizes that.
Literature is a term used to describe written or spoken material. Broadly, Literature describes anything and everything from creative writing to scientific articles, imagination and fiction to poetry, drama and novels. Framing a proper definition of Literature is not child’s play! Literature is beyond any definition.
It might be Greek to some but this is how it is friends. It’s true!
One very obvious question that arises in every mind while appearing for their board exams or any other competitive examination is, “Why? Why, literature man?”
At this juncture everyone thinks what sense does literature make when I have unbelievably bigger and more grilling subjects to beat! A ‘Wren & Martin’ till class VIII wasn’t enough? We know English anyway! What’s the whole point of making it a part of curriculum? :/
People who are already working might find a big question mark or a blank mark at their faces on being asked if they read. “I’m earning well, a cabin of my own, got a luxury car with four entwined circles at its bonnet. Why do I need to read Wordsworth or Coelho?”
You don’t.
I am not asking you to leave your favorite pastime or forgo things you love to do. I am not asking you to make reading books a daily unforgettable ritual. An hour or two for those beautiful words imbibed on those not-so-beautiful printed pages, if that’s not too much to ask. 
Bill Clinton said, “Children can’t be expected to live a life they can’t imagine.”
Literature carries you to another world. A world, that exists within you, but is possibly unexplored and unexplained. Literature ignites that fire of imagining things and shaping your desires into a dream and then into a reality. Imagination on the other hand helps you build your intellectual and emotional quotient.
Enough nagging on reading for now! :P
Let’s see how literature also connects with Law.
You reckon it does? (You’re right. It actually does.)


It is a known fact that everything that happened in the past cannot be extracted. Anthropology, Radio Carbon Dating, Excavations and other processes have worked way beyond human expectations. A C-14 Carbon isotope can detect a lot of things but cannot narrate the story of the past. Literature on the other hand can do a lot-

  • ·        Give us a glimpse of primitive society.
  • ·        Show us the existing customs then.
  • ·        Describe the code of law used then.
  • ·        Punishments that were given on commission of crimes.
  • ·        Tell about the religion and deities of the time.
  • ·        Show the political scenario.
  • ·        Classical languages used.
  • ·        Tools of writing.

And lot more…



Ø Law Professors always use Literature

Law professors have from time immemorial been using literature to narrate the stories of law. Novels, memoirs, short stories, essays, articles etc. are used by students and professors together to dissect situations that are generally not discussed in the traditional legal scenario. Anne Coughlin says it over and over—there are certain legal spaces where it’s very hard to get information about what’s taking place. To get into those legal spaces, she asserts, “Lawyers and law professors almost have to turn to narratives to understand how our system is functioning.”

Ø Why read the “classic books” and “western cannons”?

When we read stories about things that happen to other people, we feel as though they have written about sequences of our life, changing only the name of the characters. Sometimes it is helpful to know that there are other people who feel the way you do about something, but, more importantly, it is good to know that they are willing to write about it.
To kill a mocking bird
A novel by Harper Lee published in 1960 is one of the classic of the American modern literature. It is one of the finest legal classics ever written. This novel written in “tactile brilliance” was remarked as a southern romantic regionalism as well as "the spirit-corroding shame of the civilized white Southerner in the treatment of the Negro". The Mockingbird is the symbol of innocence in the novel. "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" is in itself an allegory for this message. The mockingbird in the play is Tom Robinson. 
Atticus Finch, the soul of the novel, became the personification of the exemplary lawyer in serving the legal needs of the poor. Scholar Alice Petry explains, "Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person."
The Merchant of Venice
Underneath the literary richness of this play by Shakespeare, lies a message about legal culture, legal history, role of law and lawyers; interpretation of the words as a lawyer does. The play has also another motif of highlighting the then existing animosity between the Christians and the Jews. Shylock, Portia, Bassanio and Antonio bring life to the legal literature. The world-famous plea of Shylock is a plea of humanity:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
Portia stands for mercy and also has an ugly and cunning side. It is witnessed in the play that how ornament and beauty can deceive. She interprets words of the bond using her wit and thereby rendering justice to Antonio.
Snow falling on Cedars
This novel by David Guterson has number of themes like the American dream, the experience of separation, prejudice, cultural differences and love, linked fates, choices, snowstorm and the trees, earth and the seas, face reading and the moral judgement. This is one such book that makes you feel the extent of expressions. The concept of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” permeates the novel.
The Trial
This book deals with Kafka’s vision of law. A law is expected to be fair and just. And if it is not, it is expected that we work in unison to overturn and rectify that law. But Kafka’s vision is: Law is abstract. Law talks about equality and justice. But does a country exist where this concept is absolutely followed? Kafka’s views throughout this novel make it allegory as it does not point towards a specific law, but THE LAW in general. The novel also shows the corruption and lust of the judges in Courts.
The list doesn’t end here. There is so much to write and so much to appreciate but I leave the rest to my readers. To explore. To follow. To READ. (else what is the whole point of me writing this article.) :p
There are two views in the web of law and literature. One is the ‘Law in Literature’ and the other is ‘Law as Literature’. These terms originated by the LAW AND LITERATURE movement. It grew to prominence in USA in 1970s. It focuses on interdisciplinary connection between law and literature.
Law in Literature
This view is specifically based on the use of law in literature. This concept is all about the views of the writers. The writers use their “independent” thought on law, not sticking to or using plagiarism in their writings. It is about how the writers see the law in respect to situations and incidents. This method is very useful in highlighting the fertile possibilities. It places value in literature for stimulating critical thought and theory. These writings help the students to achieve a human understanding of the law. This more or less brings out the concept of ‘Judicial adventurism’ through writings.
"Poethics in its attention to legal communication and to the plight of those who are 'other', seeks to revitalize the ethical component of the law."
-         Weisberg
Law as Literature
This discipline is not like the previous one. The scholars of law as literature see law as a literature, unlike interpreting law from literature. They do not see the fertile possibilities but rather see only what is possible from the current scenario of law. Benjamin Cardozo, James White and Ronald Dworkin are all of the view that law should be treated as literature. Literature should be used to improve legal understanding. Legal interpretation should be done as a literary interpretation covering all other fields of knowledge.
James White proposes that it "is meant to teach the reader how to read his way into becoming a member of an audience it defines-into becoming one who understands each shift of tone, who shares the perceptions and judgments the text invites him to make, and who feels the sentiments proper to the circumstances. Both for its characters and readers, this novel is in a sense about reading and what reading means".

Ø Obscene Literary Classics

The Supreme Court codified in Miller v. California (1972) the rule of obscenity for literature. It was said that a work would not be classified as obscene until "taken as a whole, (it) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." 
In that very time countless writers and publishers were prosecuted for obscenity. The irony is those very works are now literary classics such as The Ulysses, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The God of Small Things, Tropic of Cancer etc.

Ø Ancient Indian Literature

Indian literature includes all that is called ‘Literature’. Take it from The Mahabharata to The Ramayana, The Manusmritis to The Vedas, Hammurabi’s code of Law to Epic of Gilgamesh, all of these works are so important in a human’s life. Be it custom, law, ritual, emotions, truths, spirituality – they have it all. These texts are mythical in nature, they have symbolic and multiple meaning. The theologian, the preacher, the law-maker all find what they are searching for in these divine texts. There is a vital living relationship among all these literary works.
To conclude I’d say that no literature is complete in itself, no study of these can do justice to these works neither to the writers who grow in an unknown ambience. Reading, interpreting, fluidity, sharing, translations, forms, concerns, direction and movements is what it keeps them dynamically alive.
To Literature.
Cheers! :)
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