ROUNDUP: Law and Humanities 08.04.14

Debuting August 5 on Crackle, the streaming service, is the original half hour legal drama Sequestered, starring Jesse Bradford, Patrick Warburton and Summer Glau. It centers on the workings of a jury busy deliberating a defendant’s fate, while a young defense attorney works to find out the truth before it’s too late. One of the jurors (Glau) seems to be under some kind of threat from the outside  with regard to her verdict, a storyline that seems familiar (see, for example, The Juror (Demi Moore as the juror (1996)).

Like other legal dramas, the description for this series (all that is available at this writing) seems to suggest that what happens in the courtroom is not “truth,”  and that the jury may actually be operating as blindly as Lady Justice. I’ll be curious to see if the storyline develops in that way. Six half hour (actually 22 minute) episodes will initially be available for viewing, with an additional 6 to be released in two months. More here from the New York Times. Crackle also makes a number of other series available, including episodes of the wonderful legal series Damages starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, and the cult favorite The Prisoner with the incomparable Patrick McGoohan.

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities will hold its Eighteenth Annual Meeting at the Georgetown University Law Center, March 6-7, 2015.  Panel and paper proposals are due Wednesday, October 15th, 2014.

Below is a description of the call for papers and proposals, a statement of the Association’s mission, and information on registration from ASLCH President James Martel.

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities is an organization of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary, humanistically-oriented legal scholarship. The Association brings together a wide range of people engaged in scholarship on legal history, legal theory and jurisprudence, law and cultural studies, law and anthropology, law and literature, law and the performing arts, and legal hermeneutics. We want to encourage dialogue across and among these fields about issues of interpretation, identity, and values, about authority, obligation, and justice, and about law’s role as a constituent part of cultures and communities. This year, the Association will not have a specific conference theme in order to encourage the broadest range of participation possible.  The Program Committee believes that the diversity of the Association’s members is its strength and that the themes that emerge from the conference should arise organically from the various interests of the members, without an overarching subject-matter directive.  Accordingly, we encourage proposals of panels or papers around any of the broad themes that engage with law, culture, and the humanities.  Examples of types of sessions the conference has featured in the past include: History, Memory and Law; Reading Race; Law and Literature; Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism; Speech, Silence, and the Language of Law; Judgment, Justice, and Law; Beyond Identity; The Idea of Practice in Legal Thought; Metaphor and Meaning; Representing Legality in Film and Mass Media; Anarchy, Liberty and Law; What is Excellence in Interpretation?; Ethics, Religion, and Law; Moral Obligation and Legal Life; The Post-Colonial in Literary and Legal Study; Processes and Possibilities in Interdisciplinary Law Teaching. However, these should be viewed as examples only.  Any proposals that interrogate law as a cultural form or view law through the lens of the humanities are welcomed.  We urge those interested in attending to consider submitting complete panels, and we hope to encourage a variety of formats, including roundtables, sessions at which everyone reads the papers in advance, sessions in which commentators respond to a single paper, and so on. We also invite proposals for sessions in which the focus is on pedagogy or methodology, for author-meets-readers sessions organized around important books in the field, or for sessions in which participants focus on performance (theatrical, filmic, musical, poetic). How to register:ASLCH uses a two part registration system (this will all be explained in detail on the website). First you register your paper or panel and pay a $35 membership fee. This should be done by October 15th, 2014, assuming your paper or panel is accepted, you go back to the same website (an email will be sent on that day to remind you) and pay the conference fee. All panelists will be notified about their acceptance before the new year. Here is the link to register:

Kevin Birmingham’s The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses (Penguin, 2014) examines the legal and cultural fight over the publication of that extremely famous, and extremely infamous, work. It’s a book that a lot of people talk about, whether or not they have read it. Whether or not you’ve read it, and whether or not you like Joyce, I think you’ll find Mr. Birmingham’s account of this clash between governmental power and artistic expression fascinating.

Finally, if you haven’t read it yet,  you might want to check out the debut novel The Embers by Hyatt Bass (Henry Holt, 2010), which is now available in paperback, eBook, and unabridged audiobook. It centers on a troubled family: playwright Joe, his ex-wife Laura, and their daughter, attorney Emily. The embers of the title are both literal and symbolic: the embers of a fire that destroyed a cabin the family once owned and the embers that are left of the love that once united the family. What I find interesting is the use of the lawyer character and the juxtaposition of the professional and personal in her life. Can she use the skills she has learned as counselor, negotiator, advocate, to deal with her parents and to work through the barriers each one of them has created over the years? Can she uncover the mystery (actually not so mysterious) at the heart of the family’s pain? There is little overt use of the legal system in the novel here, except for some description of Emily’s work with her clients, but the characters do in various ways deal with feelings of revenge, hurt, anger, and loss. I found The Embers a somewhat distressing but revealing narrative of a family’s coming to terms with the past.

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