Judge, professor, chronicler of fairyland: James campbell’s legal imaginary

Nicolette I. Bruner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines a little-known archive of illustrated children’s stories written by a nineteenth-century Michigan jurist, James Valentine Campbell. Despite his public reputation as a sober-minded judge and law professor who resisted interjecting his personal views into his decisions, Campbell’s domestic life as an author and performer of children’s stories served as an outlet for criticizing the excesses of the legal profession and proposing alternative methods of dispute resolution. His tales urged children to avoid laws and lawyers and instead to cultivate their own ethical and imaginative capacities for solving problems. His public and private activities intersected in his work as a founding professor at the University of Michigan Law School, training students to remain participants in the democratic process and resist mindlessly applying the law without understanding the deeper social and historical contexts of their work. This case study demonstrates the complexity of American legal subjectivity in the nineteenth century and the importance of considering archives beyond the published legal record.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-424
Number of pages21
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood
  • Classical legal thought
  • Community formation
  • Fantasy
  • Gender
  • Law
  • Legal education
  • Literary studies
  • Public/private

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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