Presentation Title

Recalling Two Schools of Literary Criticism to Illustrate the Complexity of Constitutional Interpretation

Faculty Mentor

Joan Wines

Start Date

17-11-2018 3:00 PM

End Date

17-11-2018 5:00 PM

Location

CREVELING 86

Session

POSTER 3

Type of Presentation

Poster

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

In a Congressional Research Service report, Attorney Brandon Murill identified eight modes of constitutional interpretation: textualism, original meaning, judicial precedent, pragmatism, moral reasoning, national identity, structuralism and historical practices. Two methods of interpretation, original meaning and judicial precedent, recall two dissimilar schools of literary criticism. The differences between the approaches of these two schools to interpreting literature has helped me understand problems that arise in the processes of constitutional interpretation. Murill defines the interpretive mode of original meaning as one that seeks an “objectively identifiable meaning” of constitutional text. He differentiates this from the interpretive mode of judicial precedent, which relies on “prior decisions of law.” The school of literary criticism most in common with Murill’s original meaning mode is New Criticism, the preferred method of literary interpretation in the middle decades of the 20th century. Many New Criticism adherents interpreted literary texts with the presumption that it had an objectively identifiable meaning that could be discovered through close examination of a text’s formal structure. Newer theories of literary interpretation, like reader-response theory, give greater interpretive weight to the reader’s construction of a text. The reader becomes an active participant in formulating its meaning. Often that formulation relies on the past interpretations of other readers—similar to the way in which Murill’s judicial precedent mode relies on prior interpretive legal decisions. When confronted with questions regarding how we should interpret constitutional text, it would be beneficial not only to be aware of internal bias and interpretive skill, but also determine whether a given interpretation assumes a “correct” objective original meaning or is, rather, chiefly dependent on individual and/or previously determined interpretations of others. Individual interpretive differences can be and usually are numerous and widely diverse. It therefore seems especially important to identify and analyze the potential limitations of individual interpretations of the Constitution and to always analyze them in conjunction with a persistent search for the original intentions of its authors.

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Nov 17th, 3:00 PM Nov 17th, 5:00 PM

Recalling Two Schools of Literary Criticism to Illustrate the Complexity of Constitutional Interpretation

CREVELING 86

In a Congressional Research Service report, Attorney Brandon Murill identified eight modes of constitutional interpretation: textualism, original meaning, judicial precedent, pragmatism, moral reasoning, national identity, structuralism and historical practices. Two methods of interpretation, original meaning and judicial precedent, recall two dissimilar schools of literary criticism. The differences between the approaches of these two schools to interpreting literature has helped me understand problems that arise in the processes of constitutional interpretation. Murill defines the interpretive mode of original meaning as one that seeks an “objectively identifiable meaning” of constitutional text. He differentiates this from the interpretive mode of judicial precedent, which relies on “prior decisions of law.” The school of literary criticism most in common with Murill’s original meaning mode is New Criticism, the preferred method of literary interpretation in the middle decades of the 20th century. Many New Criticism adherents interpreted literary texts with the presumption that it had an objectively identifiable meaning that could be discovered through close examination of a text’s formal structure. Newer theories of literary interpretation, like reader-response theory, give greater interpretive weight to the reader’s construction of a text. The reader becomes an active participant in formulating its meaning. Often that formulation relies on the past interpretations of other readers—similar to the way in which Murill’s judicial precedent mode relies on prior interpretive legal decisions. When confronted with questions regarding how we should interpret constitutional text, it would be beneficial not only to be aware of internal bias and interpretive skill, but also determine whether a given interpretation assumes a “correct” objective original meaning or is, rather, chiefly dependent on individual and/or previously determined interpretations of others. Individual interpretive differences can be and usually are numerous and widely diverse. It therefore seems especially important to identify and analyze the potential limitations of individual interpretations of the Constitution and to always analyze them in conjunction with a persistent search for the original intentions of its authors.