Oltman, Johnna L. Graff, Cynthia Wood Maddux (eds.)
Law meets literature : a novel approach for the
& Littlefield, Lanham, Md., 2015, 132 pp.
This text was developed by three experienced English
teachers, who also happen to be lawyers. The law provides a new dimension to
popular literary themes, like justice, fairness and equality. These legal
documents will enhance the discussion in the English/Language Arts classroom.
With the Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on incorporating primary
documents of historical and literary significance, literature teachers have
more opportunity than ever to use case law and other legal documents as texts.
Each thematic unit includes essential questions, familiar fiction andnonfiction
selections with connections to the theme, teaching notes, and relevant cases
with before, during, and after-discussion questions. The text demonstrates not
only the importance of the thoughtful selection of legal documents to meet
state and national standards, but also includes new approaches to classic
texts. With an easily accessible format, teachers will overcome any
intimidation of case law and embrace the use of legal documents to enhance the
literature in a new, insightful way.
Gretchen Oltman, JD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of
Interdisciplinary Leadership at Creighton University. She is a lawyer, author,
and former high school English teacher.
Johnna Graff, JD, is a 2004 graduate of the University of
Nebraska College of Law. She is currently an English department chair and
teacher at Lincoln Southeast High School and adjunct faculty at Nebraska
Cynthia Maddux, JD, is a former practicing attorney and non-profit
executive director. She is currently an English teacher at Lincoln North Star
High School and adjunct faculty at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
I was amazed that these three
English teachers were also practicing attorneys. I was astounded when this
unique trio merged the provocative elements of literature with actual law. Talk
about real and relevant! Literature helps us ask and discuss difficult
questions, and the law addresses what to do when someone makes a mistake. This
textbook bridges the two fields in a fascinating, thought-provoking way that
will enliven secondary classrooms across America. (Joan F. Kaywell, PhD,
Professor of English Education, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL)
Authors Oltman, Graff, and
Maddux have written a masterful guide for English teachers. Law Meets
Literature: A Novel Approach for the English Classroom calls upon the
elements of fiction and non-fiction (character, plot, theme, tone, mood,
diction) through the lens of contemporary legal themes: justice and injustice,
fairness, mental illness, punishment, the concepts of freedom and
reasonability, and others. Although the three authors are trained as lawyers,
all have been teachers in the high-school English classroom; therefore, their
ability to comingle legal cases, non-fiction writings, and traditional
literature (including A Clockwork Orange, The Book Thief, The Bell Jar, A
Raisin in the Sun, Native Son, and others, plus contemporary fare, such as Hunger
Games) is apt and provocative. With a writing style that is direct,
easy-to-follow, and, at the same time, engaging, this book is a compelling
resource for twenty-first century students faced with mass-media visuals of
police-versus-populous unrest.” (Anne M. Cognard, PhD, Recipient of U.S.
year-long Christa McAuliffe fellowship; Nebraska Teacher of the Year; U.S.
State Department Teacher Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia; U.S. Education
Department representative to Japan)
Law Meets Literatureis a
practical and inspiring resource that teachers can put to work immediately in
their classrooms. As a retired litigator and current English teacher, I am
impressed by the thoughtful work they’ve done organizing challenging material
and diverse texts to tackle timeless American dilemmas. As an ELA coach, I am
thrilled to have such deeply nuanced lessons so clearly set forth that I can
confidently give them to any teacher and trust that they’ll be meaningful in
the classroom. (Heather Eastwood, English Teacher, Mt. Eden High School,
Law Meets Literatureis a superb
examination of how one can use the traditional English class structure to
incorporate deep lessons about citizenship and democracy. The primary documents
of democracy and culture found in law also function as dramatic foundations for
the teaching of skills within the English core standards. The questions and
controversies are real and thus more authentic to learners. The approach
advocated and detailed in this book makes the study of English and literature
extremely tangible to teachers as well through suggested themes and a deep pool
of connections and resources for the classroom. It is an important book for
teachers seeking to deepen their lessons, engage learners, or prepare the
citizens who will determine our collective future. (Justin Bathon, J.D., Ph.D.
associate professor, University of Kentucky)