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What Hath Star Wars To Do With Originalism?

By Jonathan Keim | April 24th, 2015

Over at The New Rambler, a book review journal sponsored by the University of Chicago, Harvard professor and former Obama administration official Cass R. Sunstein has a piece reviewing How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. The book (which I haven’t read) is about the Star Wars franchise, but somehow Sunstein works his way around to bashing originalism.

The first three movies in the Star Wars franchise were released between 1977 and 1983 and were numbered episodes IV through VI. We had to wait 17 more years for episodes I through III, which were released beginning in 1999.  (After seeing those movies, some of us wish Lucas had kept us waiting indefinitely.) George Lucas apparently claims that he wrote the story for the entire Star Wars series before the first movie was ever made, but the book argues that in fact, Lucas transformed the plot line over time. If so, then Lucas’s post hoc claims to have been carrying out an original intention are all hooey.

Sunstein draws similarities between Lucas’s creative process and Ronald Dworkin’s analogy comparing legal reasoning to the writing of a chain novel. In Dworkin’s analogy, each author is responsible for improving the novel:

Assume that ten people are charged with producing a novel, with each person asked to produce a specified chapter. Jones writes chapter one – say, about a woman, a business traveller, who turns out to seated next to a man on a plane, also a business traveller, on a flight from New York to San Francisco. Smith writes chapter two, and details the conversation between the two. As Smith develops the plot, neither is married, and romantic sparks start to fly between them. Now it is Wilson’s turn. What will her third chapter look like?

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