Bernadette Meyler, JD ’03, is a scholar of British and American constitutional law and of law and the humanities. She is also a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies. Her research and teaching bring together the sometimes surprisingly divided fields of legal history and law and literature. They also examine the long history of constitutionalism, reaching back into the English common law ancestry of the U.S. Constitution.
Professor Meyler’s books stem from these respective areas of her scholarship. Theaters of Pardoning (Cornell UP, 2019) demonstrates that the representation of pardoning tracks changing conceptions of sovereignty within the plays and politics of seventeenth-century England. In doing so, the book considers how the shared audiences of dramatic and historical tragicomedy—whether Kings, students at the Inns of Court, or potential jurors—brought concepts from the literary into the legal arena and back again. Her current project, Common Law Originalism, shifts to the American context, looking at the multiple eighteenth-century common law meanings—both colonial and English—of various constitutional terms and phrases. Based on this variety, as well as on the practices of common law interpretation with which members of the Founding generation were familiar, the book argues that we should, in large part, reject the pursuit of a singular and determinate original meaning; instead, it contends, we must embrace a more vigorous debate in the present over contested constitutional meanings. Professor Meyler is also the co-editor of several collections of essays in law and the humanities designed to introduce scholars and students to the field, including, with Elizabeth Anker, New Directions in Law and Literature (Oxford UP, 2017) and, with Simon Stern and Maksymilian Del Mar, The Oxford Handbook of Law and the Humanities (Oxford UP, 2020).
After receiving her BA in Literature with a focus on Classics at Harvard University, Professor Meyler obtained her JD from Stanford Law School and completed a PhD in English at UC, Irvine as a Mellon Fellow in Humanistic Studies and a Chancellor’s Fellow. Following law school, Professor Meyler clerked for the Hon. Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Professor Meyler previously taught at Cornell University, where she served, most recently, as Professor of Law and English and Faculty Director of Research at the Cornell Law School. She also visited Princeton University as the inaugural Mellon/LAPA Fellow in Law and the Humanities.