Law and Social Inquiry
The satiric novel, as a “message” novel, can provide unvarnished truths about the object of satire. Institutions of higher learning, particularly law schools, and the denizens of those institutions, are prime subjects for satire because they take themselves so seriously. Unfortunately, though, The Socratic Method by Michael Levin takes itself as seriously as the law school it is criticizing.
One of the hazards of the satiric novel is that the message may overwhelm the plot and characterization. Levin, in his zeal to awaken the reader to the torture of the law school, and particularly the torture of the law school variant of the socratic method of pedagogy, has failed to avoid this hazard. All the characters are two-dimensional, and the story line is picked up and laid down seemingly at random.
Still, it is possible to capsulize what Levin believes is wrong with the present structure of the law school based on this novel, and to critique legal education based on the picture Levin creates. Though Levin’s story line and character development suffer for the message he is attempting to convey, he has an excellent point to make about the failure of legal education.
Michael S. Ariens, The Politics of Law (Teaching) (book review), 13 Law and Soc. Inquiry 773 (1988).