Teresa Godwin Phelps

Director of Legal Rhetoric
Professor of Law

Office: Room 316
Phone: 202-274-4284
E-mail: vCard


Teresa Godwin Phelps joined the faculty at Washington College of Law in 2006 as Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Rhetoric Program. Before that, she was on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame Law School where she taught and directed legal writing since 1980. She holds three degrees from Notre Dame, including a Ph.D. in English and one degree from Yale Law School. At Notre Dame she was also a Fellow of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Professor Phelps teaches Legal Rhetoric and has published widely in the field, including a seminal article, “The New Legal Rhetoric” in 1986 that helped to establish a new legal writing pedagogy. She was a founding member of the Legal Writing Institute and served on its Board of Directors, and she is a member of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) and serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. Her other teaching and academic interests include law and literature, international truth commissions, women and the law, and human rights, and she has published over thirty articles and three books, most recently Shattered Voices: Language, Violence, and the Work of Truth Commissions (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, paper 2006). She has lectured internationally on women’s rights and on truth commission reports. She often gives presentations and seminars on improving legal writing to other legal writing teachers, practicing attorneys, and judges.

Professor Phelps won a Lilly Foundation Grant in 1988, and in 1999 won the Grenville Clark Award, which honors members of the University of Notre Dame community whose voluntary activities and public service advance the cause of peace and human rights. She was awarded the Legal Writing Institute’s Courage Award for 2011.



Currently Teaching



Degrees & Universities

  • M.S.L., Yale Law School 1989
  • Ph.D., University of Notre Dame 1980
  • M.A., University of Notre Dame 1975
  • B.A., University of Notre Dame 1973

  • Selected Publications

    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, The Ethics of Narrative: A Nation’s Role in Victim/Survivor Storytelling, 18 Ethical Persp. 169 (2011).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Feminist Legal Theory in the Context of International Conflict, 39 Balt. L. Forum Feminist Symposim (2009).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Truth Commissions, in Encyclopedia of Human Rights (David F. Forsythe, ed., Oxford U. Press 2009).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, "Reading As If for Life:" Law and Literature in More Important Than Ever, 43 Stud. L. Pol. & Socy., Special Issue, Law and Literatur, Austin Sarat, ed. (2008).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Narrative Capability: Telling Stories in a Search for Justice, in Transforming Unjust Structures: The Capability Approach (Springer 2006).
  • + Selected Presentations

    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Keynote Speaker, The Ethics of Narrative (Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, Mar. 26, 2011).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Presentation, Prophetic Litigation (American Society for Law, Culture & the Humanities Annual Conference, Las Vegas, Nev., Mar. 12, 2011).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Plenary Address, Discipline, Tradition, and Creativity: Pushing the Boundaries of Legal Rhetoric Instruction (,” Capital Area Legal Writing Conference, George Washington University Law School, D.C., Feb. 25, 2011).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Presentation, The Alien Tort Statute and Corporate Liability (International Law in Review Session, American Association of Law Schools Annual Meeting, Jan. 6, 2011).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Presetnation, The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative and Human Rights (Vermont Law School Faculty Colloquium, Oct. 5, 2010).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Keynote Speaker, Developing Strong Poets in Legal Writing (Keynote Address as Visiting Scholar at Vermont Law School, Oct. 4, 2010).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Presentation, After the Violence and Oppression: Truth Commissions and their Consequences in Latin America (Diversity Committee of Vermont Law School, Oct. 4, 2010).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Presentation, Sexual Violence Against Women in War and Ethnic Conflict (Gender Studies Program, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Jap., July 15, 2010).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Paper Presentation, Victims’ Stories as a Means to Justice: The Work of Truth Commissions (XV Global Conference of the International Society for Criminology in Barcelona, Spain, July 23, 2008).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Session Chair, Philosophy and Peace: Historical (2008 Global Conference of the International Peace Research Association, at University of Leuven, Leuven, Belg., July 16, 2008).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Paper Presentation, Towards a Philosophy of Storytelling as Political Action (2008 Global Conference of the International Peace Research Association, at University of Leuven, Leuven, Belg., July 15, 2008).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, Truth Reports (Verdad y Paz en Colombia, Ibague, Colom., Oct. 4, 2007).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Lecture, Taking Authority (Legal Writing Institute Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Ga., June 2006).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, “Re-Membering: The Use of Personal Stories in the Aftermath of Violence (Franco’s Mass Graves Symposium, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., Oct. 28, 2005).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, Después de la Opresión y la Violencia, es Posible a Crear Justicia (Universidad Iberoamericano, Mex. City, Oct. 11, 2005).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Roundtable, Violence and Inequality in Latin America: The Role of Truth Commissions (Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., Mar. 4, 2005).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, The Far Side of Revenge: Quilts, Plays, Museums, and Truth Reports (Representations of the Holocaust, Genocide and Other Human Rights Violations, San Diego, Cal., Jan. 16, 2005).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, Faculty Colloquium with Judge Richard Goldstone on Truth Commissions (Fordham Natural Law Colloquium at the Fordham University Law School, N.Y.C., Dec. 6, 2004).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, Seminar on the Value of Truth Reports, Interdisciplinary Seminar on Comparing Truth and Reconciliation Processes (International Center Human Rights, Northwestern University School of Law, Chi., Ill., Mar. 29, 2004).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech/Keynote, Pollyanna, Alice, and Other Women in the Law (Women’s Conference Week, Olivet College, Olivet, Mich., Mar. 17, 2004).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech/Keynote, What’s the Use of Stories? Narrative and Legal Writing (Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nev., Mar. 6, 2004).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, Improving Women's Lives: How Much Can (and Should) the Law Do? (Ain o Salish Kendra, Dhaka, Bangl., Feb. 11, 2004).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech/Closing Address, Acting Justly (2nd Annual Peace & Justice Symposium, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind., Nov. 8, 2003).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, Lessons From the Amy Biehl Story (2nd Annual Peace & Justice Symposium, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind., Nov. 8, 2003).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Keynote Speech, Telling Stories in a Search for Justice: The Work of Truth Commissions (Conference: Transforming Unjust Structures, Von Hugel Institute, St. Edmund's College, Cambridge, U.K., June 26, 2003).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, A The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually (Faculty Colloquium, University of Washington, Apr. 25, 2003).
    • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Speech, Telling Stories in a Search for Justice (University of Washington, Tacoma, Wash., Apr. 24, 2003).