April 30, 2007

Revisiting Inspector Morse

Last Friday's issue of The Independent has a wonderful article about the charms of Inspector Morse, that unique character created by Colin Dexter and brought to life by the late actor John Thaw. In addition to DVDs available from BFS Entertainment, you can enjoy the Inspector in print in any of Dexter's wonderful novels, many of which are also available in audio editions. Here's a link to the PBS webpage for Morse, and here's a link to a webpage for a walking tour of Inspector Morse's city.

Here are a few discussions of the character in literature and film.

Barker, Simon, “Period” Detective Drama and the Limits of Contemporary Nostalgia: Inspector Morse and the Strange Case of a Lost England, 6(2) Critical Survey 234-42 (1994).

Brodie, J. S., The Cult of Inspector Morse: A Contemporary Phenomenon, 38 Journal of Kyoritsu Women’s Junior College 79-87 (February 1995).

Decottignies, Jean, La vie poétique de l'inspecteur Morse: Un polar mélancolique (Grenoble, France: ELLUG; 2004).

Thomas, Lyn, In Love With Inspector Morse: Feminist Subculture and Quality Television, 51 Feminist Review 1-25 (Autumn 1995).

Sparks, Richard, Inspector Morse: “The Last Enemy”, in British Television Drama in the 1980s 86-102 (George W. Brandt ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

[Cross-posted to The Seamless Web].

April 18, 2007

The Duke Lacrosse Case as Narrative

Susan Hanley Kosse, University of Louisville School of Law, has published "Race, Riches, and Reporters: Do Race and Class Impact Media Rape Narratives? An Analysis of the Duke Lacrosse Case," in the 2007 Southern Illinois University Law Review. Here is the abstract.
Focusing on the Duke rape case as a case study, this Article analyzes magazine coverage using a labeling system from a previous study of media coverage of high profile rapes to determine whether race and class shape rape narratives. Part I of this Article is a brief background about narratives generally and their importance in the law. Part II summarizes the existing research on the topic of rape narratives and media coverage of these narratives. Part III analyzes the Duke case narratives and seeks to determine empirically whether race and class played a role in the exculpation or vilification of either party. The Article concludes by comparing the past studies of rape media coverage with this new data to provide insights and conclusions about media rape coverage today.

Download the entire paper from SSRN here.

April 13, 2007

Race and the Movies

N. Jeremi Duru, Temple University School of Law, has published "Friday Night "Lite": How Deracialization in the Motion Picture Friday Night Lights Disserves the Movement to Eradicate Racial Discrimination From American Sport," in volume 25 of the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal. Here is the abstract.
Sport has a unique power to unite. The power of sport to unite, however, has unfortunately obscured the extent to which sport is beset with the sociological ills plaguing broader society. Indeed, there exists in contemporary America a widely-held belief that sport is a utopian realm immune to the issues of race with which society in general must grapple. This article examines this idyllic picture of sport and the extent to which, through suggesting an absence of discrimination, it frustrates much needed anti-discrimination efforts in the sporting community.

Decades after the United States Supreme Court issued its 1954 desegregation mandate in Brown v. Board of Education, Odessa, Texas - home to Permian High School - continued to struggle bitterly with racial discrimination and discord, so much so that in 1982 it was placed under a federal court order to effectuate the desegregation both promised and denied nearly thirty years earlier. As this article explores, the unfortunate result was an uneasy interaction among members of different races at Permian High School and in its vaunted football program, which led to substantial racial discord and discrimination reflective of vexatious issues plaguing American sport more broadly. Although these troubling issues at the intersection of race, law, and sport dominated the 1988 Permian football team's season and inspired a Pulitzer Prize winning author's investigative chronicle, Friday Night Lights, a 2004 motion picture of the same name purporting to tell the tale of that team radically de-racializes the story. This article argues that by recasting a true but disturbing story largely about the impact of race on interscholastic athletics into a highly fictionalized and de-racialized vehicle buttressing the idyllic picture, the motion picture Friday Night Lights disserves the movement to eradicate racial discrimination from American sport.

Download the entire Article from SSRN here.

[Cross posted to The Seamless Web]

April 1, 2007

Hamlet on Trial

From the NewsHour:
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy presided over a "trial" of Hamlet in a Kennedy Center production taking place during a six-month celebration of Shakespeare in Washington, D.C.

COURTROOM ANNOUNCER: In the matter of the Crown v. Prince Hamlet...

JEFFREY BROWN: It was a trial 400 years in the making. The courtroom was actually a stage at Washington's Kennedy Center. The defendant was a fictional character: Hamlet, prince of Denmark, he of "to be or not to be."

The judge was real, but Anthony Kennedy usually hears cases as a justice on the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy first had the idea for "The Trial of Hamlet" some 13 years ago.

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. Supreme Court: Prosecution here; defense here.

JEFFREY BROWN: Recently, he approached Michael Kahn, head of the Shakespeare Theater here, about staging it as part of a six-month celebration of the bard now underway in Washington, using real-life lawyers, expert witnesses, and a jury of adults, college and high school students.

At the Supreme Court a few hours before the event, I had a chance to ask Justice Kennedy: Why try Hamlet?

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY: It seemed to be, number one, an excellent way to get young people interested in Shakespeare and to understand the value of our literary heritage.

Then, too, there are some similarities between the law and literature. We in the law seek to find order in a disordered reality; we seek to find rationality in a world that seems chaotic. And the artist does the same thing, and Hamlet's trying to do the same thing. So there's a parallel.
MSN News reports:
In Shakespeare's play, the killing of Polonius occurs shortly after Hamlet returns to Denmark for the funeral of his father, the king of Denmark. A grieving Hamlet learns that his mother has married his uncle Claudius, the new king. A ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered his father, and an enraged Hamlet vows revenge.

But Hamlet's plans go awry. He stabs Polonius, the councilor to the king, after hearing a noise behind a curtain and mistakenly thinking it is Claudius eavesdropping.

The split verdict by the 12 jurors, who were selected beforehand and deliberated for about 20 minutes, was a major blow for the four lawyers who argued the case.

"No Dane is above the law," San Francisco attorney Miles Ehrlich said in opening statements. "When you pick and choose your time to kill, you are in control."

In arguing that Hamlet was not insane, Ehrlich noted that Hamlet plotted to kill Claudius and nearly did so in a chapel while Claudius was praying. Hamlet decided to wait because he didn't want to send Claudius to heaven.

Alan Stone, a Harvard University professor of law and psychiatry, testified for the prosecution that Hamlet did not have a clear mental illness. Thousands of people have studied Hamlet's thoughts, the former president of the American Psychiatric Association said, "not because he was a madman but because he was brilliant."

Hamlet's vision of a ghost was not delusional, he argued, but was likely normal for his culture.

He said Hamlet was plotting to kill.

"Many of his puns are filled with anger and rage," Stone said. "He seems to think there is an audience."

In a heated exchange with Stone, Hamlet's attorneys argued that Hamlet, who sat silently through the proceedings and refused to take the stand in his own defense, showed clear signs of insanity.

"He talks to himself a lot, like a crazy person," said lawyer Abbe Lowell, whose clients have included convicted former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "What about the soliloquies and the asides?"

But Stone rejected Lowell's claim that Hamlet's words, such as "To be or not to be?" were signs of a "suicidal funk."

Columbia University psychiatry professor Jeffrey Lieberman, testifying for the defense, said Hamlet's question "To be or not to be?" was one of history's best examples of ambivalence — a cardinal symptom of psychosis.

Lieberman said the voices Hamlet heard while suffering hallucinations were "as real as your voice is being perceived by me."

Kennedy conceived the production for the fourth time. Prior juries in Boston, Chicago and Washington have found Hamlet sane. The show was hosted by Michael Kahn, artistic director of Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company.
The verdict?
The question of Hamlet's sanity remains unanswered after a Washington jury delivered an evenly split verdict on whether he should be held criminally responsible for the fatal stabbing of Polonius.
The Washington Post notes:
Almost every year since 1994, at least one Supreme Court justice has participated in a mock trial that uses a Shakespeare play to explore the American legal system.