Roundup: Law and Humanities 02.05.16

An update on the Law and Humanities Scene, February 2016.


1.The Law and Society Association meets in New Orleans from June 2 to June 5, 2016. The theme of the conference is At the Delta: Belonging, Place and Visions of Law and Social Change. Registration opens in early February, 2016. More information is available at the conference website here.

2.The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities 19th Annual Conference takes place at the University of Connecticut Law School April 1-2, 2016. This year’s conference theme is Reading Race, Writing Race, and Living Race. More information is available at the conference website here.

3.The Kent Summer School in Critical Theory will run for the second time this year, in Paris, 13-24 June 2016. The website has just gone live.

This summer school for early career researchers and doctoral students aims to create a unique pedagogical experience, enabling leading critical thinkers to conduct an intensive 2-week seminar with members of a new generation of critical scholars.

Applications are now open to attend the summer school, and you will find application instructions on the website.

The teachers of the intensive seminars in 2016 will be Professor Samantha Frost, Professor James Martel, and Professor Bernard Stiegler. The website also contains information about the seminars, in addition to the school’s other events.


4. Critical Legal Conference 2016, Turning Points: Kent Law School, 1st-3rd September, 2016

The Call for Stream Proposals is OPEN NOW – please send proposals of no more than 500 words along with short bios of the stream organisers to The Call for Stream Proposals closes 7 March 2016.

“…there are no witnesses to changes of epoch. The epochal turning is an imperceptible frontier,
bound to no crucial date or event.”

The present is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Are we living at a decisive turning point for global and European history, politics and law? Are we witnesses to a new epoch? Or perhaps we just have a bad case of “presentism”? The Critical Legal Conference 2016 will open a forum for critical reflection on precarious political situations, particularly that of Europe in a global context – an apposite theme for a critical conference at the University of Kent, ‘the UK’s European University’ and a point of origin for the CLC.

Taking a global and historicised view of contemporary Europe and its intellectual and political traditions (as well as an interrogative stance on their centrality), we anticipate that this year’s CLC will enable a creative response to some of the many problems of our collective present. The difficulty in thinking the present lies partly in its immediacy, and partly in the way in which spaces for that thinking are themselves precarious, colonised, dis-placed, degraded, recast or simply made untenable. From individuals’ housing, employment and migration experiences to the broader question about the intensification or disintegration of the European political project, are life’s very objects and experiences now peculiarly shaped by precarity?

Law forms part of the architecture of precarity, shaping both its production and governance, whether through specific rules and regulations relating to welfare provision, housing law or the structuring and regulation of financial markets; or through changing images and enactments of justice, (fragmented) genealogies, and shifting understandings of modernity. One approach within the critical legal tradition has been to expose these architectures: to show how it produces inequity, to demonstrate its contingencies, to trace its genealogies, to question law’s production of a normative order of life. In this sense it might be said that the role of critique is to render law itself precarious. What is the contemporary nature, role and position of academic work generally, in relation to political life and cultural and intellectual history? Are we post-human? Post-Europe? Post-law? Post-critique? And what about the core critical legal concerns: law, justice and ethics?

True to the tradition of the CLC, we hope participants will approach these general provocations through a rich plurality of critical and radical thematics and interdisciplinary approaches.

More information is available at the Conference website here.



Elizabeth Villiers Gemmette has added Law in Literature: Legal Themes in American Stories: 1842-1917 (Buckingham Group, 2015) to her collection of law-related publications. Here is a description of the book’s contents.

The twenty stories included in this anthology were all written by American authors, and all of them were first published in the seventy-five years between 1842 and 1917. What the stories have in common is that each of them explores legal themes and issues.

In this volume, stories written by women include “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, Life in the Iron-Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis, and “The Godmother” by Kate Chopin. Stories written by black writers include “The Lynching of Jude Bensen” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, The Heroic Slave by Frederick Douglass, and “The Wife of His Youth” by Charles W. Chestnutt. Other writers include Melville Davisson Post, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Richard Harding Davis, Jack London, Bret Harte, O’Henry, Hamlin Garland, and Willa Cather.

Many of the characters in the stories included in this anthology are despondent, depressed, and desperate. Yet, many of them are defiant, determined, and dedicated to helping themselves and others to overcome the deplorable conditions of their lives. Two words capture the struggles of those characters. Those two words are from “Bartleby” by Herman Melville: “Ah, humanity!”

Ms. Gemmette is also the editor of Law in Literature: Legal Themes in Drama (The Buckingham Group, 1995), Law in Literature: Legal Themes in Short Stories (The Buckingham Group, 1995), Law in Literature: Legal Themes in Novellas (The Buckingham Group, 1996), and Law in Literature: An Annotated Bibliography of Law-Related Works (Whitson Publishing, 1998). All appear to be o.p. but available from o.p booksellers.

Another new text available for law in literature folks is Law Meets Literature: A Novel Approach for the English Classroom (Rowman & Littlefield), put together by three English profs who are also attorneys–Gretchen Oltman, Johnna L. Graff, and Cynthia Wood Maddux. Here’s a description of the contents from the publisher’s website.

This text was developed by three experienced English teachers, who also happen to be lawyers. The law provides a new dimension to popular literary themes, like justice, fairness and equality. These legal documents will enhance the discussion in the English/Language Arts classroom. With the Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on incorporating primary documents of historical and literary significance, literature teachers have more opportunity than ever to use case law and other legal documents as texts. Each thematic unit includes essential questions, familiar fiction and nonfiction selections with connections to the theme, teaching notes, and relevant cases with before, during, and after-discussion questions. The text demonstrates not only the importance of the thoughtful selection of legal documents to meet state and national standards, but also includes new approaches to classic texts. With an easily accessible format, teachers will overcome any intimidation of case law and embrace the use of legal documents to enhance the literature in a new, insightful way.

Jonathan Todres and Sarah Higinbotham have published Human Rights in Children’s Literature: Imagination and the Narrative of Law (Oxford University Press, 2016). Here is a description of the contents from the publisher’s website.

  • Analyzes children’s rights under international law through the lens of children’s literature
  • Interdisciplinary approach sheds light on how human rights law, children’s literature, and human rights education can work together
  • Provides select children’s book illustrations and thought-provoking readings of classic children’s stories from “Peter Rabbit” to “Horton Hears a Who!” to “Harry Potter”
  • Asserts the value of reading children’s literature as a source of human rights knowledge
  • Extensive children’s literature bibliography provides teachers and researchers with access to hundreds of children’s books that feature human rights themes

Also of interest:

Law in Society: Reflections on Children, Family, Culture and Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Michael Freeman (Alison Diduck, Noam Peleg, Helen Reece, and Helen Reece, eds.; Brill, 2015).


Here is a description of the volume’s contents from the publisher’s website:

This collection, written by legal scholars from around the world, offers insights into a variety of topics from children’s rights to criminal law, jurisprudence, medical ethics and more. Its breadth reflects the fact that these are all elements of what can broadly be called ‘law and society’, that enterprise that is interested in law’s place or influence in diffferent aspects of real lives and understands law to be simultaneously symbol,
philosophy and action. It is also testament to the broad range of vision of Professor Michael Freeman, in whose honour the volume was conceived.
The contributions are divided into categories which reflect his distinguished career and publications, over 85 books and countless articles, including pioneering work on children’s rights, domestic violence, religious law, jurisprudence, law and culture, family law and medicine, ethics and the law, as well as his enduring commitment to interdisciplinarity.
The volume begins with work on law in its philosophical, cultural or symbolic realm (Part I: Law and Stories: Culture, Religion and Philosophy), including its commitment to the normative ideal of ‘rights’ (Part II: Law and Rights), and then offfers work on law as coercive state action (Part III: Law and the Coercive State) and as regulator of personal relationships (Part IV: Law and Personal Living). It continues with reflections on the importance of globalisation, both of law and of ‘doing family’ in personal and public life (Part V: Law and International Living) before closing with two reflections on Michael Freeman’s body of work generally, including one from Michael himself (Part VI: Law and Michael Freeman).


Lots of new articles in the area of law and humanities to report on: here’s a sample (more at the Law and Humanities Blog.  Nostrom Remedium, and Legal History Blog, and Legal Theory Blog among other blogs also have great coverage.


Hadell Al-Alosi, University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law, has published Young People as Creators of Sexually Explicit Online Material: Fan Fiction and the Law in Australia as UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2015-74. Here is the abstract.

Debate concerning the role of traditional media in the sexualization of young people tends to view young people as a special group of consumers who require protection from some media content and its potential risks. However, with the advent of new media technologies, young people are no longer passive consumers of sexualized representations, but also generators of sexually explicit material that is created and shared among their peers. This challenge has raised concern among those adults who remain ambivalent, or perhaps in denial, about the possibility that young people are sexually curious. Accordingly, this essay seeks to challenge the view that young people are simply passive recipients of sexual messages in the media by highlighting the role that young people play as producers of media content, in particular through the production of fan fiction. This essay investigates the potential criminalization of young people whose online communications about sex can be classified as criminal acts under Australia’s child abuse material legislation. Interviews were conducted with five members of the judiciary to ascertain how this kind of communication might be viewed in a court of law. This was conducted as part of larger research project that seeks to analyze how Australia’s child abuse material legislation may impact on the sexual self-expression of young people themselves.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

Melissa J. Ganz, Marquette University Department of English, has published Carrying On Like a Madman: Insanity and Responsibility in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at 70 Nineteenth Century Literature 363 (December 2015). Here is the abstract.

This essay reads Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) alongside medico-legal debates about the nature and scope of insanity, arguing that the novel seeks to shore up the idea of individual responsibility in Victorian society. The cognitive test of insanity that emerged from the M’Naghten case of 1843 deemed a person legally irresponsible for his acts if, due to a defect of reason resulting from mental disease, he was unable to perceive the nature and quality of his acts or to know that they were wrong. Alienists such as James Cowles Prichard and Henry Maudsley, however, argued that this test failed to acknowledge the existence of affective and volitional disorders such as moral and impulsive insanity. In their treatises, they urged judges to adopt a more permissive standard — an ‘‘irresistible impulse’’ test — that deemed accused criminals ‘‘mad’’ if they could not control their actions, even if they knew what they were doing was wrong. While the novel appears to be sympathetic to the position articulated by Prichard and Maudsley, I argue, it ultimately shows the dangers of broadening the definition of insanity. To recognize the idea of irresistible impulse as the basis of an insanity defense, Stevenson suggests, is to confound the distinctions between freedom and compulsion, deviance and disease. Contesting the use of emotional insanity to acquit educated professionals like Jekyll, Stevenson holds the doctor guilty of murder.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

David Ray Papke, Marquette University Law School, is publishing American Lawyer and Courtroom Comedies in Oxford Research Encyclopedias (forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

This essay surveys the surprisingly large amount of law-related American popular culture that is comedic. Comedies in general are narratives in which the characters’ dilemmas will work themselves out, and readers and viewers of comedies know in advance that no great disaster will interfere with their enjoyment of a comedic work. Comedies featuring portrayals of amusing lawyers and/or accounts of hilarious trials are common in inexpensive literary works, Hollywood films, and television series, although these media have different imperatives and proffer various types of comedy. Overall, lawyer and courtroom comedies are intended to entertain and distract, but some lawyers and courtroom comedies also appreciate the public’s resentment of the legal profession and the courts and intentionally satirize these important and much-valorized legal institutions.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.



The crime novelist Martin Edwards writes the sparking blog “Do You Write Under Your Own Name?”

Posts on novels, movies, and other material relevant to law and crime fiction.


ABC has ordered a pilot from VJ Boyd (Justified) and Mark Bianculli (MTV’s Self Promotion) for their anthology series The Jury, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

NBC may be offering two law-related tv series for fall. One is Miranda’s Rights (more here from The Hollywood Reporter). The other is Chicago Law, from veteran producer Dick Wolf.

And finally…from the law blog of Symes, Street, and Millard, this discussion of Count Almaviva’s attempts to seduce Susanna as she prepares for her nuptials in The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart). Is the Count’s carrying-on actionable as “a sexual solicitation or advance” under the Ontario Human Rights Code 7(3)(a)? Hey, opera is not for the faint of heart.

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