Visiting Scholar Lecture: James Boyd White

Thursday, February 13, 2020 - 16:00 to 18:00

The xʷθəθiqətəm or Place of Many Trees (formerly the Liu Multipurpose Room)

Topic: Keep Law Alive

In this lecture, building on his recent book of the same name, James Boyd White addresses the question: How should we respond to the fact that law and democracy are under real threat in our world? If we are to keep law alive, he believes, we must understand what law is, how it works at its best, what it requires of us, both as lawyers and as citizens, and what it would mean to lose it.

To that end he describes the decay which he thinks law has suffered in recent years and analyzes examples of the activity of law as it once was practiced, including a model statute prepared by the American Law Institute, judicial opinions by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and his own effort as a critic of the Supreme Court’s work in affirmative action cases. This leads to a fuller articulation of his conception of law as an activity of mind and language, defined in part by the set of structural tensions that are present in every effort to do law, tensions that in turn require the exercise of the art by which they can be managed afresh in every case.

Speaker: James Boyd White, LL.B., University of Michigan

James Boyd White is Hart Wright Professor of Law Emeritus and Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Michigan. His seminal book The Legal Imagination (1973) is widely credited as having founded the field of law and literature. Since then he has published a number of influential books, including When Words Lose their Meaning (1984), Heracles’ Bow (1985), Justice as Translation (1990), Acts of Hope (1994), The Edge of Meaning (2001), and Living Speech (2006). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and former chair of The Michigan Society of Fellows.

View the full Event Poster (PDF).