This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.
I think it is fair to say that Contracting Law was the first (and it may be the only) critical race feminist Contracts casebook. It is also the only Contracts casebook that I know of that attempts to engage the humanities. It is filled with poems and excerpts of novels, in addition to law review articles from a variety of viewpoints. It didn't even look like other casebooks. It was bigger and heavier and the typeface was large enough to read easily. My students hated it.
They hated that it was different. They hated that there were things in it that were "not law." They hated that it appeared to have a perspective. And they hated every time our class appeared to depart from "black letter" law. The literary excerpts elicited not empathy but derision. When assigned O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," and John Elemans' "The Gift Economy," they did not probe deeper into the bargain-gift distinction. Assigned a chapter from The Grapes of Wrath, they did not make the connection between farmers in the Great Depression and the plaintiffs in a promissory estoppel case, Standish v. Curry. Reading bell hooks' "Homeplace: A Site of Resistance," and Denise Chavez's "The Wedding" did not make them think more carefully about the emotional distress arising from contract breach and the exclusion of emotional distress damages. Student evaluations said things like, "I didn't pay $35,000 a year to read poetry." Clearly, I was doing something wrong. My ambition to integrate a humanities approach to introductory legal studies had obviously fallen flat.