Shouting Softly

978-1-58731-797-2; 978-1-58731-798-9
New Books
Hardback $30, E-book $21
6" x 9", 230 pages

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Shouting Softly

Lines on Law, Literature, and Culture

Mendenhall, Allen

In Shouting Softly, literary lawyer and proud Southerner Allen Mendenhall provides valuable insights into perennial questions about the fundamental features of civil society. His expansive commentaries and criticism on law, literature, and culture reveal an abiding commitment to ordered liberty, the decentralization and diffusion of power, bottom-up and localized forms of voluntary governance, time-tested wisdom, and aesthetic sensibility. This vigorous work cautions against hubris and misguided certitude, predicating its arresting arguments on the proposition that human reason, however awesome and inspiring, is limited and fallible. Covering a wide range of issues and historical figures, Mendenhall espouses conservative yet melioristic approaches to complex subjects, rebutting the hollow claims and fashionable theories that captivate ‘purposefully’ leftist law and humanities faculties across the United States. His is the measured voice of a book-loving polymath who appreciates beauty, imagination, humility, clarity, cooperation, and sound argumentation.

The work is given in three parts. The first section on law explores legal minds, rules and commentary on seminal jurisprudence. The second part explores literature and the influence of the writer and the disconcerting truths stories often seek to convey. Thirdly, Mendenhall delves into culture and the more obvious situations wherein we gain insight into our manner of living, and here Mendenhall exudes a Southern accent that in no way compromises his universal bearings. One of the highlights is his echo of Larry Seidentop’s question: “If we in the West do not understand the moral depth of our own tradition, how can we hope to shape the conversation of mankind?” This is all the more meaningful given that Mendenhall is a member of the Millennial generation, and part of the intellectual minority who sees the urgency of “a studied appreciation for nuanced story and linguistic narrative.”


“In this first quarter of the twenty-first century, the most crucial question is whether popular sovereignty and the rule of law can survive in an America riven by partisan politics and dominated by tech oligarchs. Allen Mendenhall is one of our most incisive, brilliant and erudite critics of law and literature. In this wonderful and dazzling survey volume Mendenhall, with mordant wit and Southern brio, does nothing less than seek to salvage not only what is best in our jurisprudence, but also our literary and critical tradition. This meditation on what Mendenhall calls ‘Law and nomocracy’ is worthy of one of his favorite subjects, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. – the only authentic sage of American legal thought – and is an antidote to the pernicious theories now dominant in the academy and on much of the bench.  An invaluable tour-de-force.“

 — Stephen B. Presser, Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus, Northwestern University, and author of Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law (2017).