Satire & Profanity

The Late George Apley cover artJ.P Marquard’s Pulitzer Prize winning satire, published in 1937, presented a different view of Boston and ultimately Harvard Law School.  Although light in direct reference to the law school, the novel presents a caricature of the stereotypical student – embodied by the protagonist’s son.  In 1944 it was adapted as a Broadway play, and in 1947, it was made into a feature film.

The Late George Apley back cover art

Upon reading an early copy of the work, Upton Sinclair wrote to Marquard's publisher: "I started to read it and it appeared to me to be an exact and very detailed picture of a Boston aristocrat, and as I am not especially interested in this type, I began to wonder why you had sent it to me. But finally I began to catch what I thought was a twinkle in the author's eye ... One can never be sure about Boston, and I hope I am not mistaken in my idea that the author is kidding the Boston idea. It is very subtle and clever, and I am not sure that Boston will get it.” December (1936).

Published in 2000, Vaughn A. Carney’s Straw Man: A Profane Fable of the Harvard Law School, also depicts the law school in the late 1960s through the eyes of Thomas Galligan, a native of the Pacific Northwest who takes up residence in Hastings Hall with the mysterious and eccentric Phillip Anchorage.  Peppered with colorful description of the law school and its surroundings, the novel lives up to its “profane” subtitle, documenting the social (and often illegal) activities of the students, despite a quote from the Dean in his convocation speech noting “there are no glee clubs at the Harvard Law School.” 

In 1989, Luke Cole and Keith Aoki, both Harvard Law School students, published a comic entitled Casual Legal Studies.  The bound comic features a forward by Professor Duncan Kennedy and caricatures of several other well-known Harvard faculty members including: “Phil Donahue Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz,” “the ever-lucid Louis Kaplow,” “Mort ‘The Tort’ Horwitz” and others.  Tragically, both authors have since passed away, but not before making substantial impacts on the legal profession.

Lauren Willig, a 2006 graduate of Harvard Law School, got started on her publishing career before graduation, completing the first three installments of her "Pink Carnation" series of Napoleonic-set novels while still a student.  Willig signed her first book contract during her first month of law school, “finished writing Pink Carnation during her 1L year, scribbled Black Tulip her 2L year, and struggled through Emerald Ring as a weary and jaded 3L,” according to her biography.  While these books do not fit the mold of legal fiction, there are elements of the law peppered throughout.  In 2011, Willig also made a satirical homage to Scott Turow in publishing Two L, a novel about the life of a second-year law student at Harvard Law School.  The novel is rich with details about the campus, as well as the curricular (and extra-curricular) activities of the students.