Last updated: June 10, 2003

[Narrative Psychology]

 Narrative in Other Disciplines

Law, Legal Process, and Criminal Justice



Background  ||  Internet  ||  Bibliographical  ||  Theorists


Background Issues

This page deals with narrative as it relates to the law and the legal profession, courtroom procedures and argumentation, evidence and testimony, and criminal justice.

Theorists*Key Figures


Internet Resouces

Jurist: The Law Professors' Network™ [Bernard J. Hibberts, U Pittsburgh School of Law] A vast compendium of web-based resources relating to law and jurisprudence. Searchable database.

FindLaw: Comprehensive general database of law-related materials on the Net.

The Virtual Chase™: Research Site for Legal Professionals [Genie Tyburski, Resesach Librarian, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP]

Legal Theory [Deborah Charles Publications]

Legal Information Institute [Cornell University]

Prof. James R. Elkins Homepage [Law School; West Virginia University] Provides an extensive set of web-based resources for understanding law and the teaching of law in a contemporary context.

Bibliographical Resources

Legal storyelling [Special issue]. (1980). Michigan Law Review, 87 (8).

Amsterdam, A. G., & Bruner, J. (2000). Minding the law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

An exploration of legal practice and decisionmaking -- particularly at the Supreme Court level -- and the components which enter into this process, that is, categorizing, narrative, and rhetoric. Amsterdam has taught with Bruner over the decade of the 1990s at the New York University Law School.

Barry, A. K. (1991). Narrative style and witness testimony. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 1, 281-293.

Bennett, W. I., & Feldman, M. S. (1981). Reconstructing reality in the courtroom: Justice and judgement in American culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Bottoms, B. L., & Goodman, G. S. (Eds.). (1996). International perspectives on child abuse and children's testimony. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Brooks, P., & Gerwitz, P. D. (Eds.). (1996). Law's stories: Narrative and rhetoric in the law. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

An important collection of essays in which both legal and literary scholars converge to discuss the question of the place of story in the adversarial realm of law.

Bruner, J. (1992). Psychology, morality, and the law. In D. N. Robinson (Ed.), Social discourse and moral judgment (pp. 99-112). San Diego, CA, US: Academic Press.

Bruner, J. (2002). Making stories: Law, literature, life. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Bruner, J. (2002). The legal and the literary. Yale Review, 90, 42-61.

Conley, J. M., & O'Barr, W. M. (1990). Rules versus relationships: The ethnography of legal discourse. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Ewick, P., & Silbey, S. S. (1995). Subversive stories and hegemonic tales: Toward a sociology of narrative. Law & Society Review, 29(2), 197-226.

Ewick, P., & Silbey, S. S. (1998). The common place of law: Stories from everyday life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

In examining the accounts of the interactions of more than 400 people with the legal system, these authors propose three basic "narratives" to explain the diversity of engagement with the law: (1) the law as "magisterial and remote;" (2) the law as a game with pliable rules; and, (3) the law as "arbitrary power" which must be resisted. (from publisher's description)

Fulero, S. M., & Penrod, S. D. (1990). Attorney jury selection folklore: What do they think and how can psychologists help? Forensic Reports, 3, 233-259.

Geiselman, R. E., Saywitz, K.-J., & Bornstein, G.-K. (1993). Effects of cognitive questioning techniques on children's recall performance. In G. S. Goodman, & B. L. Bottoms (Eds.), Child victims, child witnesses: Understanding and improving testimony (pp. 71-93). New York: Guilford Press.

Goldzwig, S.-R., & Cody, M.-J. (1990). Legal communication: An introduction to rhetorical and communication theory perspectives. In G. L. Krebs & D. O'Hair, Eds, (Ed.), Applied communication theory and research. Communication textbook series: Applied communication (pp. 245-267). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [P91.A66 1990]

Goodman, G. S., Bottoms, B. L., Schwartz Kenney, B. M., & Rudy, L. (1991). Children's testimony about a stressful event: Improving children's reports. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 1, 69-99.

Jackson, B. S. (1988a). Law, fact, and narrative coherence. Merseyside, UK: Deborah Charles Publications. [table of contents]

Jackson, B. S. (1988b). Narratives models in legal proof. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 1, 225-246.

Jackson, B. S. (1990). Narrative theories and legal discourse. In C. Nash (Ed.), Narrative in culture (pp. 23-50). London: Routledge.

Jackson, B. S. (1995). Making sense in law: Linguistic, psychological, and semiotic perspectives. Liverpool, UK: Deborah Charles Publications.

Jackson, B. S. (1996a). 'Anchored narratives' and the interface of law, psychology and semiotics. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 1, 17-45.

The author compares the application of three theories of narrative drawn from psychology and semiotics to the problem of fact finding in criminal law cases: the approaches of Bennett & Feldman (1981), Wagenaar (1995), and his own (Jackson, 1988). A case study based on a 1991 English murder trial illustrates the differences among the approaches.

Jackson, B. S. (1996b). Making sense in jurisprudence. Liverpool, UK: Deborah Charles Publications.

+Lind, E. A., Erickson, B. E., Conley, J., & O'Barr, W. M. (1978). Social attributions and conversation style in trial testimony. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 1558-1567.

Malcolm, J. (1999). The crime of Sheila McGough. New York: Knopf.

The author tells the story of a lawyer, Sheila McGough, who was convicted as an accessory to the fraud of one of her clients, a now-deceased con man. In reviewing the case, Malcolm provides compelling evidence that McGough was, in fact, innocent. Yet, the defendant's presentational approach and rhetoric -- a sort of naive realism -- lacked the compelling narrative thrust of the prosecution's theory of the case. Malcolm argues that, in the end, McGough may have gone to jail because she could only tell an inferior (although true) story.

Maruna, S. (1997). Going straight: Desistance from crime and life narratives of reform. In A. Lieblich and R. Josselson (Eds.), The narrative study of lives (Vol. 5; pp. 59-93). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Maynard, D. W. (1988). Narratives and narrative structure in plea bargaining. Law & Society Review, 22, 449-481.

Miller, B. (1994). Give them back their lives: Recognizing client narrative in case theory. Michigan Law Review, 93, 485-576.

Moen, S. P. (1995). Consequences of the therapist's claim "I'm not a detective." Journal of Psychiatry and Law, 23, 477-484.

Morley, I. E. (1996). Narratives, anchored narratives and the interface between law and psychology: A commentary on Jackson (1996). Legal & Criminological Psychology, 1 (Part 2), 271-286.

Sarat, A. (1993). Speaking of death: Narratives of violence in capital trials. Law & Society Review, 27, 19-58.

Sipe, B., & Hall, E. J. (1996). I am not your victim: Anatomy of domestic violence. Sage series on violence against women, Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Sipe recounts her story which led to the taking of the life of her sadistically-abusive husband. Hall, her therapist and second author of this volume, provides a commentary on Sipe's story; others in the therapeutic, medical, and legal professions also provide commentary on this case.

Wagenaar, W.-A., van-Koppen, P.-J., & Crombag, H.-F. M. (1993). Anchored narratives: The psychology of criminal evidence. New York, NY: St Martin's Press.

+White, J. B. (1984). When words lose their meanings: Constitutions and reconstitutions of language, character, and community. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. [P106.W574 1984]

Williams, P. J. (1991). The alchemy of race and rights: Diary of a law professor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univesity Press.


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Hevern, V. W. (2003, June). Law, legal process, and criminal justice. Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved [enter date] from the Le Moyne College Web site:

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