Beyond Text Conference, 21-22 June, day one

by Paul Maharg on 23/06/2009

We re-convened for the final session of this project in the David Hume Tower, Edinburgh University (see here for posting on one of the early sessions last year).  Zen and Maks introduced the two-day conference, then their key papers were briefly summarized and commented upon by Julian Webb and Tony Bradney. Interesting comments on fine papers.  Wished there had been more time for this part of the conference.  Zen referred to his earlier work on parable, and I had a déjà vu moment, for almost exactly 30 years ago in the DHT as a doctoral student I attended an inspirational seminar on parable by the (then) Yale literary critic, J. Hillis Miller.  It was only when I mentioned this at the start of my session that, astonishingly, it turned out that one of the Beyond Text conference participants, Anne Pirrie, had attended the same seminar, and told Zen about it, starting his own work on the topic.

Randy Gordon’s paper, on ‘Truth in Context: Sketching a (New) Historicist Legal Pedagogy’ did just that.  I wondered at the time (but forgot to ask at questions) whether his paper had anything to give to the New Legal Realist debate in the US.  After lunch, Alan Lerner’s paper ‘When Parallel Lines Meet: Emotion and Cognition in Law and Legal Education’, was an excellent blend of guidelines on using emotion in legal education, and participation.  He got us all to listen to a simple narrative, then apportion culpability to the characters in the story.  The ensuing discussion was absorbing, quite revealing about the ways in which, without formal rules regarding definition of culpability, concepts of morality and culpability overlapped in creative and interesting ways. 

I was next up, with a paper entitled ‘The Permeable Web: Community, Value and Ethics in Legal Education’.  Slides here, and draft paper here.  Next was Nancy Rapoport on ‘Recapturing the Appreciation of Skills Outside So-called Skills Courses’, with pertinent points that focused on the differences between elite law schools and modal law schools.  This was followed by a fascinating performance demonstration from a group called Steps Drama, who gave examples of the late Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.  They put on simple scenarios, one-on-one, then at a point in the scene one player would turn to the audience for response, or advice, or simply to vent.  The facilitation was excellent, the audience thoroughly engaged by them.  The Steps team were introduced by Jim Moser, who uses their services for training in Dundas & Wilson.  Jim and I talked about this session beforehand, and I’m so glad that he managed to get the team to perform – I learned a lot watching and participating.


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