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When Law Goes Pop

The Vanishing Line between Law and Popular Culture

The past few decades have seen the legal system entering American popular culture like never before, from the media blitzes surrounding high-profile trials to the countless television programs in which judges rule on everyday disputes. What, if anything, does this mean for the legal system itself? According to Richard K. Sherwin, it is a dangerous development—one that threatens to turn law into spectacle, undermining public confidence as legal style and logic begin to resemble advertising and public relations.

"Sherwin offers insightful, intriguing analyses of movies and other cultural products. His examination of legal discourse and popular culture will inform, enlighten, and even entertain."—William Halton, The Law and Politics Book Review

"[Sherwin’s] knowledge of how media culture affects the courtroom is valuable, as is his rigorous examination. Can we prevent America’s legal system from going ’pop’—losing its legitimacy by becoming just another part of popular culture? Given America’s courtroom obsession . . . it’s about time someone did some explaining."—Julie Scelfo, Brill’s Content

"[A] brilliant analysis of the jury system in our media-saturated age. . . . [D]iscerning readers will see a truly integrative intelligence at work, proposing possible solutions rather than simply bemoaning problems."—Publishers Weekly

332 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2000

Culture Studies

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Law in the Age of Images
2. Screening Reality: The Vanishing Line between Law and Popular Culture
3. Legal Storytelling: Culture’s Tools for Making Meaning
4. The Law of Desire: Cultural History and the Notorious Case
5. The Postmodern Challenge: A Case Study
6. The Jurisprudence of Appearances: Law as Commodity
7. When Law Goes Pop: Strange Forces, Trauma, and Catharsis
8. Law’s Need for Enchantment: Perils and Possibilities
9. Conclusion: Redrawing the Line between Belief and Suspicion


Popular Culture Association: Ray and Pat Browne Award

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