July 29, 2010

The Uses of Shakespeare in the Law Curriculum

Allen Mendenhall, West Virginia University, Temple University, and Furman University, has published Shakespeare's Place in Law-and-Literature. Here is the abstract.

Nearly every Anglo-American law school offers a course called Law-and-Literature. Nearly all of these courses assign one or more readings from Shakespeare’s oeuvre. Why study Shakespeare in law school? That is the question at the heart of these courses. Some law professors answer the question in terms of cultivating moral sensitivity, fine-tuning close-reading skills, or practicing interpretive strategies on literary rather than legal texts. Most of these professors insist on an illuminating nexus between two supposedly autonomous disciplines. The history of how Shakespeare became part of the legal canon is more complicated than these often defensive, syllabus-justifying declarations allow. This article examines the history of Shakespeare studies vis-à-vis legal education. It begins with early law-and-literature scholarship, which focused on Shakespeare’s history or biography – speculating as it did about whether Shakespeare was a lawyer or perchance received legal training – and concludes with recent law-and-literature scholarship treating Shakespeare as a source of insight for law students and lawyers alike. I submit that early law-and-literature scholarship on Shakespeare anticipated New Historicist theory and that more recent law-and-literature work, with its turn to presentism, is in lockstep with Shakespeare studies. In law-and-literature classrooms, Shakespeare is more fashionable like a hobby than scholarly like a profession; but law-and-literature scholarship on Shakespeare amounts to high-caliber work based on interdisciplinary research as well as deep engagement with legal and literary texts.

I wrap up this essay with a note about the direction of the university in general and of the law-and-literature movement in particular. I admit that my closing argument, as it were, is tendentious. It raises issues usually raised by confrontational academics and suggests remedies for what William M. Chace has called “the decline of the English Department” or what Harold Bloom has called “Groupthink” in “our obsolete academic institutions, whose long suicide since 1967 continues”. If Chace and Bloom are right about a decline in academic standards – evidence shows that they are at least right about a decline in numbers of English majors – then the fate of literary studies seems grim. Nevertheless, Chace and Bloom overlook the migration of literature professors into American law schools, a phenomenon yet to receive critical attention. Another aspect of this phenomenon is the migration of students from the humanities to professional schools. I personally have known many students who wished to go on to graduate school in the humanities but quite understandably viewed that route as impractical and went to law school instead. A positive result of this trend is that a substantial body of law students is open to the idea of law-and-literature and finds luminaries like George Anastaplo or Stanley Fish more interesting than other law professors. My final comments address the strange exodus of literary scholars into professional schools, which pay more money and arguably provide vaster audiences and readership, more generous funding opportunities, and reduced teaching loads. Perhaps more than other literary disciplines, save for cultural studies, Shakespeare studies has moved into the realm of interdisciplinarity, albeit without large contributions from scholars outside of literature departments. The law-and-literature field would have perished without the expertise of literature professors; likewise, Shakespeare studies, if it continues down the path of politics and cultural criticism, will perish without the expertise of economists, political scientists, and legal scholars, whose mostly non-Marxist perspectives, when pooled with the perspectives of literature professors, might fill out a space for interesting scholarship and redeem the interdisciplinary label. Information-sharing is especially crucial for literature scholars who, in order to examine the history of Shakespeare in American culture, have turned to practices and methods traditionally reserved for other disciplines.

Full text not currently available on SSRN.

July 22, 2010

Yet Who Would Have Thought The Old Man To Have Had So Much Blood In Him...

And academics, their readers, and viewers to have had so much interest in the horror film. Well, apparently they do, according to this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which documents the continuing stream of titles on the genre. What's in the pipeline? Steffen Hantke's American Horror Film: The Genre at the Turn of the Millennium (University Press of Mississippi), Thomas Fahy's collection The Philosophy of Horror (University Press of Kentucky), Wheeler Winston Dixon's A History of Horror (Rutgers University Press) and much, much, more. To bed, to bed, to bed, with all these great tomes to read, and all these films and books to visit and re-visit.

July 20, 2010

Roman Law and European Culture

Reinhard Zimmermann, Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, has published Roman Law and European Culture (Derecho Romano y Cultura Europea), at Revista de Derecho Privado no. 18, 5-35 (2010). Here is the abstract.
The European legal tradition takes its distinctive feature of the ius commune, which is rooted primarily in Roman law. This paper aims to establish its relationship and analyze, within that context, the most influential features of the ancient Roman law. It also describes the transformations in the perception of Roman law and finally asks the following question: How Roman is the current Roman law? How European is the European legal "tradition?"

Download the article from SSRN at the link. It is in Spanish.

July 19, 2010

Susan Sage Heinzelmann's "Riding the Black Ram" Is Published

From Stanford University Press:

Stanford University Press is pleased to announce the publication of Riding the Black Ram: Law, Literature, and Gender, by Susan Sage Heinzelman. Susan Sage Heinzelman is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Unruly women are not often represented in a good light. Whether historical, or fictional, disruptive women with their real or imagined excesses have long provided the material for literary and legal narratives. This probing new work analyzes a series of literary, legal, and historical texts to demonstrate the persistence of certain gender stereotypes.

In her 1820 adultery trial, Queen Caroline was depicted in a cartoon riding into the House of Lords on a black ram that had the face of her Italian lover. As this book reveals, a number of women, remembered largely for their insubordinate presence, have metaphorically "ridden the black ram" in the last 700 years. Heinzelman's historicized understanding of the relationship between law and literature reveals a disquieting pattern in the legal and literary representations of women and provides a new recognition of the significance of sexuality and gender in the way we narrate our world.

More information about this book may be found at http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=11686.

The publisher has sent me a copy of this book, and I will be publishing a review in the near future.

Gender, Evidence, and Language Usage

Janet Ainsworth, Seattle University School of Law, has published The Performance of Gender as Reflected in American Evidence Rules: Language, Power, and the Legal Construction of Liability as part of the proceedings of the International Gender and Language Association (Victoria University Press, 2009). Here is the abstract.

The rules of evidence both govern the admissibility of evidence in trials and determine the scope of meaning to be accorded to that evidence. This article examines two American evidence rules and suggests that both rules incorporate ‘masculine’ norms of language usage. The evidence rule defining adoptive admissions provides that, when a person is confronted with an accusation of wrong-doing and fails to assertively deny it, the allegation is deemed to be admitted through silence. This rule presumes that one’s natural reaction upon an accusation would invariably be an explicit denial, such that silence can fairly be taken as a confession. Thus, this rule privileges assertive and confrontational modes of speech - all coded as ‘masculine’ - and additionally ignores the ways in which power assymmetries impact responses to accusation. Likewise, the evidence rule construing apology as an admission of fault denigrates expression of emotional solidarity - coded as ‘feminine’ - in favor of a presumption that penalizes those who say ‘sorry’ by presuming it means ‘I’m sorry I did something wrong’ rather than ‘I’m sorry that something bad has happened to you.’ Evidence rules such as these both channel and constrain the legal interpretation of language in ways that sustain linguistic ideologies of gender and gendered hierarchies of legal power.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

Literature, Sexuality, and Law

Timothy Stewart-Winter, Yale University, and Simon Stern, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, have published Picturing Same-Sex Marriage in the Antebellum United States: The Union of 'Two Most Excellent Men' in Longstreet's 'A Sage Conversation', at 19 Journal of the History of Sexuality 197-222(May 2010). Here is the abstract.
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet’s short story “A Sage Conversation” appears, at first glance, to be an astonishingly modern tale. It assembles an elaborate social tableau that has at its center “George Scott and David Snow; two most excellent men, who became so much attached to each other that they actually got married” and “raised a lovely parcel of children.” The story appeared in Longstreet’s 1835 collection Georgia Scenes, Characters, Incidents &c. in the First Half Century of the Republic, an early contribution to the tradition of American humor. This collection was reprinted more than twenty times before the end of the century, and has been an object of ongoing fascination for literary critics. However, critics have overlooked the question of how to situate “A Sage Conversation” in relation to the history of sexuality. We interpret “A Sage Conversation” as an artifact of a profoundly different moment from our own in the long, intersecting histories of marriage and sexuality in the United States. To that end, we contextualize the story, from a literary perspective, in relation to the traditions of the tall tale and the narrative of domestic life, and from a social and legal perspective, in relation to nineteenth-century American thought about same-sex sexuality, gender roles, and restrictions on marriage.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

July 15, 2010

Racial Representation in Film

Cynthia D. Bond, John Marshall Law School, has published Laws of Race/Laws of Representation: The Construction of Race and Law in Contemporary American Film , at 11 Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law 219 (2010). Here is the abstract.
Within hours of the soul-stirring and nation-lifting election of Barack Obama as president, journalists and pundits were announcing the demise of all prior notions of race in America. Even during the campaign itself, narratives of a "post-racial" America were bandied about. But the historic nature of Obama’s ascendance does not obliterate or transcend the vast history of race and racial representation in America. The representational techniques of the construction of both law and race in popular film are deeply interdependent. Both law and film are story-telling, narrative systems. Race is also a narrative system in which visual representation is key. The significance of the visual apprehension of race is deeply relevant to the legal construction of race as well. (For example, in early citizenship cases and racial “passing” cases which persisted through the latter part of the 20th century.) Since society constructs racial categories in large part by visual identification and experience, all visual media, including film, necessarily participate in the constitution of race. Thus, films do not simply depict supposedly free-standing, objective, racial categories naturalized by the dominant discourse, but instead actually participate in the creation of race. As part of standard Hollywood practice, the mainstream film audience is constructed through identification with a norm of “whiteness.” Since that audience, when viewing a law film, is actively involved in constituting the law as part of its spectatorship, it follows that mainstream films construct law from the perspective of white privilege. The consequences and effects of this cinematic construction of law are many. This article discusses three main effects: 1) the raced construction of the lawyer-hero; 2) the denial or displacement of the law’s role in constructing race and race-based discrimination; and 3) the suppression or revision of politics and political history.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

July 14, 2010

Native Americans in Popular Culture and the Law

andré douglas pond cummings, University of Iowa College of Law, University of Utah College of Law, and West Virginia University College of Law, has published A Shifting Wind?: Media Stereotyping of American Indians and the Law. Here is the abstract.

An accurate historical narrative of the treatment imposed upon American Indians at the hands of the United States Government reveals a sordid tale. The portrayal and stereotyping of North America’s indigenous civilizations by the United States’ popular media emulates this foul history. The U.S. legal system’s contemptuous judicial decrees and legal policies promulgated for more than two centuries testifies to the Government’s and the popular media’s hostility and historical abuse toward American Indians. Unfortunately for historical (and modern) purveyors, each of these abhorrent deeds is memorialized for the world to read and see in innumerable broken treaties, motion pictures, literary works and judicial reporters.

In recent decades, historians and scholars, both American Indian and non-native alike have skillfully documented the deceitful trail of broken promises and near annihilation. In addition, the popular U.S. media and the U.S. legal system have intersected curiously over the years in connection with a tag-team treatment of and discrimination against American Indians. The media, including print advertising, newspapers, literary works, television, online sources and motion pictures, seems to have borrowed historical stereotypical characterizations from the judiciary and U.S. government policies, and vice versa, simultaneously portraying American Indians as ferocious and savage yet simple and helpless. Proven instances of governmental abuse and discrimination, hostile portrayal and stereotyping by the media and contemptible judicial decrees are innumerable.

In very recent years, there is some evidence that the winds are shifting. Slowly and steadily, segments of the mass media seem to be trending toward a more honest historical account of U.S. history, and the portrayal of American Indians is becoming more reflective of reality and humanity. In the past decade, encouraging signs that the wind is shifting have signaled a potential sea change in the way that American Indians are presented to the United States public through the media and the law.

That said, favorite American Indian stereotypes and comfortable discriminations die hard. As the law and media stumble forward awkwardly, attempting to get it right, an assortment of U.S. contingencies, including professional sports franchises and American Universities, cling desperately to time-worn typecasts and hostile imagery.

While a veritable candelabra of options exist when attempting to describe the shameful historical treatment of American Indians, the following three brief snapshots will be presented to capture the essence of that treatment and to contemplate any further change in the curious intersection between the media and the law. The three snapshots will include a glimpse of the historical United States Government treatment of American Indians, followed by a look at the traditional stereotyping of American Indians by U.S. mass media and finally a brief examination of a few of the historically offensive judicial decrees handed down by federal judges. Thereafter an examination of the connection between the modern media and the law will be undertaken to assess whether a sea change is truly upon us.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

Roman Sumptuary Laws

Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics, and Centre for the Study of European Contract Law; Tinbergen Institute, and Anna E. Plisecka, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics, have published Luxury in Ancient Rome: Scope, Timing and Enforcement of Sumptuary Laws as Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2010-03. Here is the abstract.
Between 182 BC and 18 BC, Roman lawmakers enacted a series of sumptuary laws regulating banquet expenditures. These regulations included a maximum for the number of guests and restrictions on specific foods; moreover, they were reiterated over time but were rarely enforced. Traditional explanations based on morals, protection of patrimonies and political competition do not fully account for the scope, timing and enforcement patterns of such laws. We advance and formalize a novel hypothesis, which is based on four elements: (1) luxury is a signal of wealth; (2) the senatorial class holding political power enacts sumptuary laws to restrict signaling when individuals coming from an emerging class (the equestrians) become wealthier than them; (3) enforcement of such laws would facilitate signaling of wealth and hence would be counterproductive; finally (4), the reiteration of these laws can be explained as an attempt to leverage on the expressive function of the law. The rise of sumptuary legislation occurred when the senatorial class lost economic power to the equestrians, its fall when they also lost political power to the princeps (and later the emperor). These points are discussed against the historical and legal background and presented formally.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

July 13, 2010

The Legal History of Citizenship

Elizabeth F. Cohen, Syracuse University, has published Jus Tempus in the Magna Carta: The Sovereignty of Time in Modern Politics and Citizenship , in PS: Political Science and Politics (2010). Here is the abstract.
A genealogy of early modern British subjecthood reveals that law based on dates and temporal durations - what I will call collectively jus tempus - creates sovereign boundaries as powerful as territorial borders or bloodlines. This concept has myriad implications for how citizenship comes to be institutionalized in modern politics. In this article, I briefly outline one route through which jus tempus became a constitutive principle within the Anglo-American tradition of citizenship and how this concept works with other principles of membership to create subtle gradations of political status beyond the binary of subject and alien. I illustrate two main points about jus tempus: first, how specific dates create sovereign boundaries among people and second, how durational time takes on an abstract value in politics that allows certain kinds of attributes, actions, and relationships to be translated into rights-bearing political statuses. I conclude with some remarks about how, once established, the principle of jus tempus is applied in a diverse array of political contexts.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

A Legal Analysis of "A Clockwork Orange"

Daniel Albahary has published A Legal Analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and What it Means to Modern America. Here is the abstract.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel, “A Clockwork Orange,” is a shocking and fascinating film. Upon its initial release, it was rated “X” in the United States before it being re-edited to obtain an “R” rating. Beyond its cinematic worth the intense violence and misogyny it embodies and suggests, however, the film reveals much about the then and now contemporary attitudes towards criminal punishment prevailing in western democracies. Law professor Robert Batey claims that the film provides a vehicle “for students to examine fundamental aspects of criminal law.” Taken to the next level, the film also reminds us of the many international and domestic legal questions provoked with respect to human subject experimentation and the creation of the Nuremberg Code following the Nazi atrocities of the Second World War, the Belmont Report in the United States following the notorious Tuskegee experiments, as well as the infamous MKUltra program sanctioned by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The film remains, in some sense, timeless for these reasons. But it is even more significant because the Kafkaesque and dystopian prophecy of the future it portends may be extant in modern day America. The film is consumed by themes of maintaining law and order, reducing criminality, and identifying appropriate forms of punishment for criminal violence and deviant behavior. On a deeper level, the film questions the roles of society and government in creating the social and legal realities in which we live.

“A Clockwork Orange” thus may not only be Kubrick’s quixotic fantasy of violence and brutal misogyny but more the ideological suggestion of a pseudo-fascistic incarcerative police state that may one day arise in America and other Western democracies in response to violent criminal or deviant behavior, or perhaps even with the aim of “brain-washing.” Although mostly the work of English authors such as Anthony Burgess, George Orwell, and Alan Moore, the idea of a reemerging fascist state that dubiously imprisons and variously tortures its citizens is not unimaginable in the eyes of Americans such as Naomi Wolf.

Echoing this possibility, “A Clockwork Orange” is a surreal, often uncomfortable portrayal of a once respectable society in social and legal decay. The film presents a frightening picture of a society where violence has begun to tighten its stranglehold on the populace. While a sturdy police and authoritarian state presence exists to combat the persistent violence, society is on the brink of total chaos as hooligans ruthlessly threaten law and order. The central themes and events of the film illustrate the film’s continued relevance to contemporary issues including the desire to combat youth violence, the desire for social, moral, and legal order, the desire for justice, the desire to prevent cruel and unusual punishment, as the well as the desire to meet the goals of retribution and rehabilitation in criminal punishment.

Produced almost 40 years ago, “A Clockwork Orange,” as an expression of political culture, still resonates in contemporary American society. The themes and events present in the film presciently serve as indicia of the social, political and legal reality the nation may find itself in if the government does not cease to circumvent the rule of law in some cases, does not continue to zealously protect the natural and constitutional rights of citizens, and alter its current practice of incarcerating increasing numbers of prisoners in others.

The paper performs a legal analysis of the film and explore the relevancy it has for modern day America. While some issues may remain unresolved, it adopts a normative view of the law and, mirroring the central events of the film, analyzes the retributivist nature of juvenile punishment, the importance of preventing cruel and unusual punishment, and the legal status of the forced administration of psychotropic drugs to prisoners.

The full text is not available on SSRN.

July 12, 2010

Some Recent Publications In Law and Literature

Some recent publications in law and literature:

Conter, Claude, Justitiabilität und Rechtmässigkeit : Verrechtlichungsprozesse von Literatur und Film in der Moderne (Rodopi, 2010).

Conter, Claude, Literatur und Recht im Vormärz (Aisthesis, 2010).

Darnton, Robert, The Devil in the Holy Water, or the Art of Slander From Louis XIV to Napoleon (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010).

Frank, Catherine, Law, literature, and the transmission of culture in England, 1837-1925 (Ashgate, 2010).

Greinger, Bernhard, and Barbara Thums, Recht und Literatur : interdisziplinäre Bezüge (Winter, 2010).

Harris, Edward Monroe, and Delfim Leão, Law and drama in ancient Greece (Duckworth, 2010).

Heinzelman, Susan Sage, Riding the Black Ram: Law, Literature and Gender (Stanford, 2010).

Kertzer, Jonathan, Poetic Justice and Legal Fictions: Studies in Literary Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Krueger, Christine L., Reading for the Law: British Literary History and Gender Advocacy (University of Virginia Press, 2010).

Macpherson, Sandra, Harm’s Way: Tragic Responsibility and the Novel From (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

Raffield, Paul, Shakespeare's imaginary constitution : late Elizabethan politics and the theatre of law (Hart, 2010).

Ronner, Amy D., Law, Literature, and Therapeutic Jurisprudence (Carolina Academic Press, 2010).

Thompson, Carlyle Van, Black Outlaws: Race, Law, and Male Subjectivity in African American Literature and Culture (Peter Lang, 2010).

The Consequences of Imagery

Gregory Scott Parks, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Danielle C. Heard, Stanford University School of Humanities & Sciences, have published 'Assassinate the Nigger Apes' [1]: Obama, Implicit Imagery, and the Dire Consequences of Racist Jokes . Here is the abstract.

In 1994, Congress passed legislation stating that Presidents elected to office after January 1, 1997, would no longer receive lifetime Secret Service protection. Such legislation was unremarkable until the first Black President - Barack Obama - was elected. From the outset of his campaign until today, and likely beyond, President Obama has received unprecedented death threats. These threats, we argue, are at least in part tied to critics and commentators’ use of symbols, pictures, and words to characterize the Obama as a primate, in various forms - including cartoonist Sean Delonas’ controversial New York Post cartoon. Against this backdrop and looking to history, cultural critique, federal case law, as well as cognitive and social psychology, we explore how the use of seemingly harmless imagery may still be racially-laden and evoke violence against its object.

[1] Morgan v. McDonough, 540 F.2d 527, 531 (1st Cir.1976) (holding in a school desegregation case, that White students harassed Black students by chanting "assassinate the nigger apes"); see also infra notes 99 to 103 and accompanying text.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

July 1, 2010

Play That Funky Music, Your Honor

New York's Committee on Judicial Ethics says that Acting Supreme Court Judge Matthew D'Emic can play with his band after hours if potential parties aren't likely to appear before him, so Judge D'Emic, and other judges are free to rock to house, saying, ""The judge who wishes to pursue part-time employment as a solo musician may do so only occasionally, for a fee, for family, friends, neighbors and others who are unlikely to appear in the judge's court."

As it turns out, ethics committees in other states have examined this problem as well, coming to essentially the same conclusion. So the only worry Judge D'Emic has now is whether to rename his band. He seems have rejected current suggestions: (Rock-n-Robes, L.L. Cool Judge and The Electric Chairs). What about "Conflict of Interest"? ("No Conflict of Interest" just sounds too long). "Sidebar"? "Inadmissible"? "Judicial Conference"?