"I Am Better at Narrative Than Analytic History": Schlegel's Version of Intellectual History
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
It has been a stimulating and exhausting task to reread much of John Henry Schlegel's efforts, over several decades, to work out his approach to doing history generally and intellectual history in particular. That topic by no means captures all of Schlegel's scholarly pursuits-he has written an astonishing amount on a variety of subjects since entering the legal academy in the 1970s-but I believe it to be central to his search for a scholarly identity. All of us in the academy engage in such searches, and among the goals of the searches is figuring out one's strengths and weaknesses as a scholar and matching them up with topics whose pursuit serves to maximize strengths. So I have tried to follow Schlegel along as he came to the conclusion that he was "better at narrative than analytic history." Sometimes I found following him inspiring, and sometimes mentally tiring, and those reactions were often connected. I am seeking to pursue two inquiries in this meditation on Schlegel. One is to try to figure out why he settled, fairly soon after concluding that he was attracted to legal history, on a particular conception of history in general, and of intellectual history in particular, that he continued to defend after others pointed out obvious difficulties with it. The other is to analyze one of Schlegel's most successful applications, in my view, of his methodology, his 1984 article on the formation of the Critical Legal Studies movement in the late 1970s. After pursuing those inquiries, I will close with some general observations about Schlegel's contributions as a scholar.