The legal storytelling theme that is the focus of this symposium is part of a larger, ongoing intellectual movement. American legal scholarship of the past several decades has revealed deep dissatisfaction with the abstract and collective focus of law and legal discourse. The rebellion against abstraction has, of late, been characterized by a "call to context." One strand of this complex body of thought argues that law should concern itself more with the concrete lives of persons affected by it. One key word in the dialogue is the term "empathy," which appears frequently in the work of critical legal studies, feminist, and "law and literature" writers.

The terms "empathy," "rule of law," and "legal storytelling" require closer scrutiny. Defining these terms is not easy, because many writers use the terms without clarifying their intended meaning, or define the terms differently from other writers. Moreover, the words often are used less as precise descriptions than as symbols of much broader concepts.