Publication Title

California Law Review Circuit


readers and reading, teaching torts

Document Type



Literature is comparatively under-investigated as an arena for tort pedagogy and for first-year courses in the legal curriculum generally. Where literature tends to appear in law school, it most frequently does so in the form of stand-alone law-and-literature classes, which usually focus heavily on literature.

In teaching a first-year tort law course at the University of Washington School of Law, I have explicitly used literature to aid and amplify legal analysis. The emphasis has been on law, rather than on literature. Nonetheless, literary texts and methods helped my students investigate how the law conceives of, and expresses, duties and losses among parties.

First, I incorporated a central literary text that accompanied more traditional legal materials. Second, I required students to engage in close reading and I helped them theorize the act of reading itself. By emphasizing the textually mediated nature of the cases—both as a function of common law’s system of authority through analogy, and as a function of the casebook editors’ choices—I hope to have made clear to students that this is a new type of reading they are doing in law school, and that they are learning to think in new ways. In growing acculturated to legal analysis, law students are learning not just a new language, but a new awareness of how and why they read the way they do.



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