Common Law is a collection of poetry that explores twenty-first century survival methods, vis-à-vis the rule of law and nature, the role of language in law and nature, and the volatility of power dynamics embedded in law, language, and nature. Common Law closely examines, criticizes, and challenges legal precedents from which such boundaries (or lack thereof) are formed through the lenses of socioeconomic status, animal hierarchies, gender, expectations of family, society, and self, as well as the mounting pressure to meet expectations as the speaker fast approaches her thirties. Common Law is grounded in three foundational faculties of legal common law, which have survived over the course of centuries, and have been adapted to span across the globe in widely varying cultures/civilization. These three broad, simple rules—property, contracts, and tort—govern ordinary human activity. In the case of this thesis, these rules form the typography of the collection, with each doctrine governing a group of poems that belong to a particular perspective or emotion belonging to the speaker, to wit: Novus Actus Intereveniens [tort]; Nemo Iudex in Causua Sua Doctrine [tort]; Obiter Dictum [contract, tort, property]; Mental Anguish [tort, contract in terms of marital law]; and Substantial Truth Doctrine [contract, tort]. Common Law was written with an emphasis on the malleability of language itself to underscore the importance of self-governance, as well as the dangers of being too self-critical. By contrasting legal and figurative language relative to the construction of law, which governs human nature in civil societies, common ground was discovered: language as possibilities; language as a potential antidote to the underlying perpetual turmoil associated with the human experience. To reach this conclusion about language as the link between law and human nature, as well as legal terminology and figurative language, I conducted research on common law doctrines and the precedents established by the Supreme Court of Florida, which have since been abolished, and cross-referenced same to the doctrines and/or laws which have since taken their place. I compared the concept of common law to that of common knowledge, and how significantly language in law has morphed over a broad period of time (1884-present) and shorter periods (1950-1980). I then compared human nature to that of nature generally, which, I concluded, is not vastly different with regard to the fundamentals of survival. This determination required extensive research, conducted on specific mating rituals, predator and prey dynamics, and the unique tactics employed by various animals in the wild to survive. This was then employed in to emphasize what the speaker in Common Law is willing to do to survive, or what she believes she must and/or had do to survive—thus, commences research related to the volatility of power dynamics and fragility of socioeconomic status. The first twenty poems or so were specifically generated by personal experience and/or observations, and substantial research as to types of prey that hunt other prey, predators that hunt predators, and prey that are able to successfully fend off predators in the wild. Legal terminology is periodically used in a figurative manner, which was researched based on my current position as a paralegal in family law, and which was utilized to blur the boundaries of said terminology. The poems thereafter were based on reflection/introspection and are centric to the speaker's struggle for control and acceptance of herself after she acts contrary to that of who she believes her character is, was, and should be, and/or for control of her environment.


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Graduation Date





Thaxton, Terry


Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program

Creative Writing




CFE0009455; DP0027178





Release Date

November 2027

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)

Restricted to the UCF community until November 2027; it will then be open access.