« Another encouraging report on those released under federal CARES Act | Main | New CCJ commission to examine factors driving veterans' involvement in criminal justice system »

August 22, 2022

"Legal Fiction: Reading Lolita as a Sentencing Memorandum"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing new article authored by Christina Frohock now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

The idea of a legal narrative often focuses on identifying a narrative within the law, for example, the persuasive power of storytelling in a trial court motion or an appellate brief.  The story emerges from the law.  This Article proposes inverting that focus so that we identify the law within a narrative.  Using the example of Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel Lolita, the Article explains how we can read the novel as a prolonged sentencing memorandum.  That memorandum casts the infamous first-person narrator, recounting his crimes under the pseudonym of Humbert Humbert, as a defendant writing pro se.

In Lolita, the law emerges from the story, showing that an entire legal document may be redrawn as a narrative.  The legal document and the narrative are one, with a distinct point of view in favor of the criminal defendant.  This unity between law and narrative illuminates a deep, essential goal shared by both genres: garnering sympathy.  The notion of law without sympathy thus rings hollow.  Finally, this essential link between law and sympathy shines a new light on the law’s role to promote justice.  Justice must be measured at least partly as an expression of sympathy rather than solely as a cold calculation of costs and benefits.

August 22, 2022 at 09:05 PM | Permalink


Positively brilliant made even moreso with Nabokov.

Posted by: Fluffyross | Aug 23, 2022 9:27:07 AM

Lolita was cancelled ffs.

Posted by: whatever | Aug 23, 2022 4:31:29 PM

The book, genius. That's where one finds narrative.

Posted by: Fluffyross | Aug 23, 2022 7:07:56 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB