February 16, 2007

Wilkie Collins and His Law Books

Bernadette Meyler, Cornell Law School, has published "Transparency and Textuality: Wilkie Collins' Law Books," in IN THE SECRETS OF LAW, Austin Sarat, ed., Stanford University Press, 2007. Here is the abstract.
This article takes as its starting point the priority that Anglo-American legal thought has, in recent centuries, placed upon transparency, a priority that has relied, in large part, on the notion that the law should increasingly be recorded and publicly accessible. Through his representation of trial narratives - an extremely popular quasi-literary form during the nineteenth century - as well as the work of William Blackstone in his supposedly comprehensive Commentaries on the Laws of England, nineteenth-century novelist Wilkie Collins calls into question the idea that simply disseminating textual versions of the law or the records of legal processes will be able to furnish transparent access to the law for the lay reader. One of the difficulties he identifies is that of translating the law from the printed page into action; an exchange between two of the protagonists in Armadale who flip through Blackstone to determine whether any impediments would block their marriage demonstrates some of the challenges inherent in imagining the law in action in the absence of knowledge of the legal institutions that implement it. The other obstacle to transparency that Collins represents concerns the unreliability of the accounts of the proceedings of these same legal institutions. In The Law and the Lady, Collins focuses on the trial report, a form that first took on a literary dimension with the causes celebres of pre-Revolutionary France and acquired a similar cultural place in nineteenth-century England and America, and upon which Collins himself relied in constructing the plots of his novels. Through incorporating a fictional trial report into The Law and the Lady, Collins elucidates some of the ways in which trial narratives themselves partook of a literary construction, emphasizing aspects of coherence and continuity over factual accuracy. In both cases, Collins appears to suggest a model of legal reading that does not simply treat the written law as self-executing or the report of a trial as an entirely accurate account but instead adopts a critical and active stance.

Download the entire essay here from SSRN.

SSRN Announces Two New Journals

From an announcement by the SSRN

The Social Science Research Network is pleased to announce two new SSRN abstracting journals, Law & Literature and Law & Culture.

Law & Culture is edited by Reva Siegel, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Professor of Law and Professor of American Studies, Yale Law School along with Bruce L. Hay, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.

Law & Culture distributes abstracts of papers and articles concerning the connections or relations between culture and law. The journal welcomes work from within any of the numerous disciplines associated with the study of culture, both in the humanities and in the social sciences, as well as legal scholarship.

The URL below will let you browse all abstracts and papers in this


Law & Literature is edited by Penelope Pether, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law.

Law & Literature abstracts distributes abstracts of working papers, forthcoming articles, and recently published articles on interdisciplinary topics or using interdisciplinary methods in Law and Literature. The journal welcomes interdisciplinary work in both the critical theoretical and humanist traditions, and scholarship on law drawing not only on English and Literary Studies, but also on Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, Rhetoric and Composition, Narrative Jurisprudence, and Hermeneutics.

The URL below will let you browse all abstracts and papers in


Subscriptions to these journals are available at no additional charge to anyone who is covered by a site license or has an individual subscription to the LSN journals. You can subscribe to one or both of these journals by clicking on the corresponding links below:

Law & Culture

Law & Literature

You will then be able to subscribe to additional LSN journals and/or modify your subscriptions. You will need to enable session cookies on your browser to use this link or to access our user headquarters at:
http://hq.ssrn.com. If you have questions or problems with this process, please email UserSupport@SSRN.com or call 877-SSRNHelp (toll free 877.777.6435). Outside of the United States, call 00+1+585+4428170.

February 12, 2007

Thurschwell on DeLillo and Literature After 9/11

Adam Thurschwell (Cleveland-Marshall College of Law) has posted on SSRN his paper, Writing and Terror: Don DeLillo on the Task of Literature After 9/11. From the abstract:
Over the past thirty years, Don DeLillo has become the novelist-laureate for our age of terror, exploring the inner life, cultural causes and symbolic significance of terrorism and terrorists of all stripes. He is therefore perhaps the ideal subject for a consideration of the status of literature after the disaster of September 11, 2001. Indeed, DeLillo himself published a moving essay shortly after 9/11 in which he posits cyber-capital and terrorism as competing world narratives and argues that "it is left to us" - writers, among others - "to create the counternarrative."

In this essay, written for a symposium on "Law and Literature After 9/11," I take a closer look at DeLillo's proposal through a reading of some of his recent novels. In the wake of his essay critics were quick to respond that DeLillo's own works portray writers whose attempted resistance is defeated by the all-consuming forces of market capitalism. I address this criticism, but devote more time to what is potentially an even more devastating obstacle for DeLillo's program, Maurice Blanchot's thesis that the act of literary writing is itself, in its essence, already "terrorist." After briefly explicating and defending Blanchot's initially implausible-sounding notion, I attempt to show how DeLillo's novels suggest the affirmative possibility of a meaningful "counternarrative" that, without refuting Blanchot's conception of literature, still offers an (ambiguously) hopeful alternative view.

February 5, 2007

New Addition to the Star Trek Literature

Antonin I. Pribetic, Osgoode Hall Law School, has published "'To Boldly Go Where No One Has (Arbitrated) Before': The Star Trek Mythos as an Heuristic Paradigm for Jurisdictional and Arbitration Issues", a short paper on the ST:TNG episode "The Ensigns of Command" and the arbitration issues it raises. Here is the abstract.
While the topic of international arbitration has failed to capture the interest of Hollywood producers or television audiences, the science fiction genre yields a serendipitous result. Using an excerpt from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, this brief comment analyzes the impact of law and popular culture on the issues of the rule of law, jurisdiction and international (more accurately, "intergalactic") comity within the context of bilateral and multilateral treaty obligations.
Download the entire paper here.

The piece adds to the developing Star Trek bibliography that includes pieces by Jeffrey Nesteruk, Franklin and Marshall College, "A New Narrative for Corporate Law," available from SSRN and the anthology Star Trek: Visions of Law and Justice (2005), which brings together several of the more famous essays, including Paul Joseph and Sharon Carton's "The Law of the Federation."

February 1, 2007

Capers on Race and Justitia, the Symbol of Justice

Professor I. Bennett Capers has posted on SSRN an article, On Jusitita, Race, Gender, and Blindness, 12 Michigan J. of Race & Law 203 (2006):
If there is one image we associate with justice, it is of Justitia herself, blindfolded, balancing a scale in one hand, brandishing an unsheathed sword in the other. The image is so ubiquitous that we are often beyond noticing it. Late for court, late for class, or simply indifferent, we walk past it, barely glancing up.

This Essay – Justitia, Race, Gender, and Blindness – is about seeing Justitia and questioning how the image functions, both aesthetically and morally. Drawing upon law, literature, art history, and cultural studies, this Essay also problematizes Justitia. After all, what does it mean, connotatively and denotatively, for Justitia to be blind in a racialized society where color is so determinative? And conversely, what does it mean to fix a black gaze upon an image of justice that has been figured as white and female? The Essay contends that answering these questions is imperative for those of us who care about making our criminal justice system fairer, both in the way justice is meted out, and in our perception of justice.

Capers on Post-Colonial and Black Literary Theory and Legal Texts

Professor I. Bennett Capers (Hofstra Law School) has posted on SSRN the article, Reading Back, Reading Black, 35 Hofstra L. Rev. 101 (2007):
This essay builds on post-colonial theory and black literary theory to pose a pair of questions. If the reading of Western literature can be enriched by examining the great canonical texts through the lens of race, can a similar enrichment obtain from using a similar reading practice to read the law? Stanley Fish has argued that we each belong to interpretive communities, and that members of these communities are guided in their readings of texts by a common "consciousness," which produces interpretive "strategies [that] exist prior to the act of reading and therefore determine the shape of what is read." If this is true, what does it mean for the study of law to have a community of black readers?

This essay engages these questions and attempts to describe a reading practice of reading black. To illustrate the reading practice, the essay examines two cases that do not appear to be engaged in "race work" at all, The Queen v. Dudley & Stephens, and Muller v. Oregon. The essay demonstrates that far from diminishing these opinions—these grand narratives, these master texts—reading black reveals other layers, other meanings, and in the process deepens and widens our understanding not only of the holdings of these opinions, but also the how and why of them.