February 28, 2008

Joseph Slaughter, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, has published Human Rights Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (Fordham University Press, 2007). Here's a description from the publisher's catalog.

In this timely study of the historical, ideological, and formal interdependencies of the novel and human rights, Joseph Slaughter demonstrates that the twentieth-century rise of “world literature” and international human rights law are related phenomena.
Slaughter argues that international law shares with the modern novel a particular conception of the human individual. The Bildungsroman, the novel of coming of age, fills out this image, offering a conceptual vocabulary, a humanist social vision, and a narrative grammar for what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and early literary theorists both call “the free and full development of the human personality.”

Revising our received understanding of the relationship between law and literature, Slaughter suggests that this narrative form has acted as a cultural surrogate for the weak executive authority of international law, naturalizing the assumptions and conditions that make human rights appear commonsensical. As a kind of novelistic correlative to human rights law, the Bildungsroman has thus been doing some of the sociocultural work of enforcement that the law cannot do for itself.

This analysis of the cultural work of law and of the social work of literature challenges traditional Eurocentric histories of both international law and the dissemination of the novel. Taking his point of departure in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, Slaughter focuses on recent postcolonial versions of the coming-of-age story to show how the promise of human rights becomes legible in narrative and how the novel and the law are complicit in contemporary projects of globalization: in colonialism, neoimperalism, humanitarianism, and the spread of multinational consumer capitalism.

Slaughter raises important practical and ethical questions that we must confront in advocating for human rights and reading world literature—imperatives that, today more than ever, are intertwined.

Literature in the Health Law Curriculum

We missed this interesting piece when it first appeared, but we're trying to make amends now. Stacey A. Tovino, Hamline University School of Law, published "Incorporating Literature Into a Health Law Curriculum" at 9 MSU Journal of Medicine and Law 213 (2005). Here is the abstract.
Literature has had a long relationship with medicine through literary images of disease, literary images of physicians and other healers, works of literature by physician-writers, and the use of literature as a method of active or passive healing. Literature also has had a long relationship with the law through literary images of various legal processes, lawyers, and judges, works of literature by lawyer-writers, and the use of literature as therapy. How can the field of law and literature inform the study of health law? And how can the field of literature and medicine help the field of law and literature in this regard? This article shows how the descriptive, contextual, and narrative qualities of literature, literary nonfiction, and illness narratives can be used to enhance traditional case law, statutory, and regulatory approaches to teaching health law. Examples are drawn from Samuel Shem's The House of God, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, George Eliot's Middlemarch, and Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

Download the article from SSRN here.

For more resources on integrating law, medicine, and the humanities see the webpage for Tom Mayo's course here at Southern Methodist University School of Law and some materials that I have at my website on Law and the Humanities, for example, here.

New Museum on Crime and Punishment To Open Soon

Tony Mauro of Legal Times writes of a new museum which may soon be opening in Washington, D.C., devoted to "Crime and Punishment". The National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the brainchild of attorney John Morgan, will reside at 575 7th St. N.W. Mr. Morgan and his partner John Walsh, known to tv viewers as the host of "America's Most Wanted", will fill the venue with interesting exhibits and onsite broadcasts from the show. Read more here (registration required, free).

February 27, 2008

Legal and Political Themes in Battlestar Galactica

Over at Concurring Opinions, Dave Hoffman, Deven Desai, and I interview Ron Moore and David Eick, creators, producers, and writers of the hit television show Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica chronicles the struggle for survival of a small band of humans who escaped a devastating genocidal attack by intelligent robots called cylons. The humans created the cylons for use as slaves. The cylons rebelled and a war erupted between the humans and cylons. But a truce was reached, and the cylons disappeared. But forty years later, the cylons launched a massive surprise attack, destroying the human society (called the Twelve Colonies) with nuclear missiles. Only a small group of humans aboard spaceships survived. The show depicts the humans’ difficult fight for survival and the tough choices they must make along the way. The cylons have developed technology to allow them to take human form, and some of the humans within the group of survivors are really cylons.

The show is heavily influenced by modern events, especially terrorism, war, and torture. In a time of emergency, how should we balance security and liberty? How do we deal with enemies who may be burrowed in among us? How does a society decimated in a war reconstitute its political, economic, and legal systems?

Our interview explores the legal, political, economic, and social ideas raised by the show.

From our post:
Our interview is structured in three parts. Part I, available in two files (see the end of this post to download), focuses on the issues of legal systems and morality. It examines the lawyers and trials in the show. It also examines how torture is depicted, as well as how the humans must balance civil liberties and security.

Part II examines politics and commerce. It explores how the cylon attack affected the humans' political system, and it examines how commerce works in the fleet.

Part III examines issues related to cylons, such as the humans' treatment of cylons, how robots should be treated by the law, how the cylons govern themselves politically. Additionally, Part III will explore the religious issues involved in the show.

Click here to listen to the audio files.

February 25, 2008

Looking Back at Silkwood

Kelly Lynn Anders, Washburn University School of Law, has published "Reviewing Silkwood at Twenty-Five: The Reel Impact on Environmental Policy," in volume 49 of South Texas Law Review (2007). Here is the abstract.
The year 2008 will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of the film Silkwood, which depicted the events surrounding the apparent plutonium contamination and mysterious death of Kerr-McGee employee Karen Silkwood. The film featured the facts leading up to the case, but many would argue that the resulting lawsuit involved a legal battle worthy of a sequel. The Kerr-McGee Corporation may no longer exist, but the former company continues to impact our concepts of environmental policy, whistleblower protection, and damages awards through case law. This essay provides a comparative analysis of the case and its depiction in film and follows with a summary of how both continue to impact environmental policy.

Download the article from SSRN here.

February 21, 2008

Daniel Defoe and the Written Constitution

Bernadette A. Meyler, Cornell University School of Law, has published "Daniel Defoe and the Written Constitution." Here is the abstract.
Today, as constitutionalism spreads around the globe, it is embodied de rigueur in written documents. Even places that sustained polities for centuries without a written constitution have begun to succumb to the lure of writtenness. America, we think, spawned this worldwide force, inaugurating a radically new form of political organization when it adopted the U.S. Constitution as its foundational text. Yet the notion of the written constitution had, in fact, received an earlier imprimatur from the pen of Daniel Defoe, English novelist, political pamphleteer, and secret agent. Plying his trades in the early eighteenth century, Defoe, now known largely as the author of Robinson Crusoe, in a number of disparate literary and political guises advocated the development of written documents setting forth the basic principles of a governmental order and restraining the power of legislative majorities. Just as the individualist ethos of Robinson Crusoe grabbed the American imaginary from the mid-eighteenth-century onwards, a conception of written constitutionalism similar to the one promulgated by Crusoe's author took root on American soil.

My article elaborates the contours of written constitutionalism that Defoe outlined and demonstrates the close alignment of some of Defoe's arguments with the scholarship of today, an alignment that suggests the persistence of a number of the mythic ideals of written constitutionalism that Defoe elaborated in the early eighteenth century. Methodologically, the article illuminates the importance of looking to the emerging genre of the novel as well as other widely read forms -- rather than focusing exclusively on more traditional historical sources -- to discern the construction of a popular imaginary at the time of the Founding. At the same time, however, the article argues that the differences between the account of written constitutionalism that emerges out of Defoe's works and the claims made for written constitutionalism by Chief Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison and legal academics today illuminate the contingency of what writing may mean for constitutionalism and demonstrate the ways in which the mythic entailment's of writing are sometimes precisely that -- myths.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

Bezanson on Performance Art

Randall P. Bezanson, University of Iowa College of Law, has published "Performing Art,", in a modified version in the forthcoming Art and Freedom of Speech (University of Illinois Press, 2008), in the Federal Communications Law Journal (April 2008), and as University of Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper 05-08. Here is the abstract.
In this modified version of a chapter in his forthcoming book, Art and Freedom of Speech, (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2008-09), Professor Bezanson begins to probe the nature of art and its relation to the first amendment free speech guarantee. The article, to appear in the Federal Communication Law Journal, uses the Karen Finley v. NEA case, and specifically discussion of Finley's performance art, to critique the Supreme Court's very approach to the Finley case and to view the issues from the perspective of art, artistic freedom, and the Supreme Court's role in fashioning constitutional protection for art as art, and not simply as cognitive speech.

Download it from SSRN here.

February 20, 2008

NBC To Offer Full Episodes Of Old Favorites

NBC will begin offering full episodes of favorite old dramas, including Kojak, Miami Vice, and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour (on NBC.com), the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers (on SciFi.com), the Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Night Gallery on ChillerTV.com and Miami Vice, Kojak and Simon and Simon and SleuthTV.com. Some overlap obviously exists; read more here.

February 19, 2008

Now I Am the Master! (And the Little League Coach) Darth Vader as Everyman

NPR's Andrea Shea seeks to deconstruct Star Wars's Darth Vader and discovers there's a touchy-feeley side to everybody's favorite tough guy. Read (and hear) more here.

Upcoming Conference at the University of Chicago Law School

Announcement of an Upcoming Conference

Emotion in Context

Exploring the Interaction between

Emotions and Legal Institutions

May 9-10, 2008

The University of Chicago Law School

1111 East 60th Street, Chicago

The design of legal institutions is based on implicit and explicit assumptions about human behavior, for example assumptions about how people individually or collectively respond to new information, assess risks, or decide whom to trust or fear, about what motivates people to forgive or to seek vengeance, or about how to promote or discourage empathy. This conference will bring together scholars working in philosophy, neuroscience, neuroeconomics, sociology, psychology, political science and other disciplines exploring the complex interaction between emotion and social structure to consider both how institutional context affects the experience and expression of emotion, and how emotion norms affect the shape and operation of legal institutions.

Confirmed participants include: Mary Anne Case, Richard Epstein, Cass Sunstein, Martha Nussbaum, Joshua Greene, Elizabeth Phelps, Kevin McCabe, John Deigh, Susan Bandes, Oliver Goodenough, Christoph Engel and Scott Anderson.

For additional information, please visit our website at http://www.law.uchicago.edu/Lawecon/events.html
or contact Susan Bandes at sbandes@uchicago.edu

or Marjorie Holme at mholme@uchicago.edu.

Admission is free but space is limited so please register if you plan to attend.

Emotions and Institutions is sponsored by the University of Chicago Law School, the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, the DePaul University College of Law and the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago Law School.

February 14, 2008

Some New Publications on Law and the Humanties

Here is a very selected list of recently published law review articles on law and the humanties.

Cavallaro, Rosanna, Chester Himes’s Cotton Comes to Harlem: A Reparations Parable, 19 Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 103 (2007).

Dinunzio, Peter, Elimor Kim, and Robert Whitman, Karl N. Llewellyn: How Icelandic Saga Literature Influence the Scholarship and Life of an American Legal Realist, 39 Conn. L. Rev. 1923 (2007).

Gearey, Adam, The Poetics of Practical Reason: Joseph Raz and Philip Larkin, 19 Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 377 (2007).

Halley, Michael, Breaking the Law in America, 19 Cardozo L. & Lit. 471 (2007).

Jonakait, Randolph N., Law in the Plays of Elmer Rice, 19 Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 401 (2007).

Kamir, Orit, To Kill a Songbird: A Community of Women, Feminist Jurisprudence, Conscientious Objection, and Revolution in A Jury of Her Peers and Contemporary Film, 19 Cardozo Stud. L & Lit. 357 (2007).

Machura, Stefan, An Analysis Scheme for Law Films, 36 U. Balt. L. Rev. 329 (2007).

Moore, Nathan, Nova Law: William S. Burroughs and the Logic of Control, 19 Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 435 (2007).

Pether, Penelope, Editor’s Introduction: Symposium: The New Exceptionalism: Law and Literature Since 9/11, Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 155 (2007).

Sarat, Austin, Fathers In Law: Violence and Reason in 12 Angry Men, 82 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 863 (2007). Part of a Symposium.

Schulte, Martin, A Literary Study of Desires, Fantasies, and Identifications in a Corporate Law Fim: Kermit Roosevelt’s In the Shadow of the Law, 19 Cardozo L. & Lit. 533 (2007).

Thurschwell, Adam, Writing and Terror: Don Delillo on the Task of Literature After 9/11, 19 Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 277 (2007).

Tranter, Kieran, “Frakking Toasters” and Jurisprudences of Technology: The Exception, the Subject and Techne in Battlestar Galactica, 19 Cardozo Stud. L. & Lit. 45 (2007).

White, James Boyd, The Word and the Law, 41 Ga. L. Rev. 923 (2007). Part of a Symposium of Milner Ball.

Justice Alito On "The Sopranos"

Debra Cassens Weiss notes that Justice Alito doesn't like those Italian stereotypes revived through The Sopranos, at least, so the Trenton Times reports. Ms. Weiss says in her piece in the ABA Journal that the Associate Justice finds that a "trifecta" (Italian-Americans, New Jersey and gangsters) come together in shows like the popular HBO series. A cleaned up version of the show (that is--something that comports with FCC rules) is currently running on A&E.

Symbols and the Law

Caspar van Woensel, University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, and member of the Restitutiecommissie (Dutch Spoliation Advisory Panel), has published "Symbols and the Law", in BRAND, GOD, AND BAN: IMPROPER USE AND MONOPOLIZATION OF SIGNS WITH A HIGH SYMBOLIC VALUE, Amstelveen, Netherlands: deLex, 2007. Here is the abstract.

This paper contains a summary of the PhD study of Caspar van Woensel, which translates as Brand, God and Ban: Improper use and monopolization of signs with a high symbolic value (2007). This study is concerned with the Dutch as well as, in part, the European legal framework surrounding the improper use and monopolization of signs with a high symbolic value, or: symbols.

Central questions are: how does Dutch law look upon signs that many people regard as essential or 'sacred' in their personal lives or in society, and: does this law presently stand where it should? The book discerns between (i) national and international symbols, (ii) cultural and historical symbols, (iii) religious symbols.

The study deals with two main groups of issues that to a large extent make up the relationship between symbols and the law: (1) questions surrounding the rules for their use, including legal responses to their improper use, and (2) questions with regard to their monopolization as trade marks.

The book discusses civil law and self regulating authorities, criminal law, freedom of expression, and intellectual property law, mainly trade mark law, but also the law on designs and copyright law. A returning aspect in this discussion is a growing and maturing cultural diversity in the Netherlands and its implications for Dutch law, minority groups and society.

Download the essay from SSRN here.

Sherwin on Law and Film

Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School, has published "What Screen Do You Have In Mind? Contesting the Visual Context of Law and Film Studies," in STUDIES IN LAW, POLITICS AND SOCIETY, Austin Sarat, ed., Elsevier, 2008. Here is the abstract.
Law on the screen gives rise to a distinct way of doing jurisprudence. In this sense, it is incumbent upon legal scholars to discern with great care the kind of reality and the way of being that cinematic and electronic screens invite us to assume. Jurisprudence theorizes law in accordance with the cultural and cognitive meaning making tools at its disposal: story frames, character types, social scenarios, metaphors, as well as cultural and socially embedded or constructed emotional patterns, among other narratival and purely sensational elements. Law and film studies thus may be viewed as encompassing a larger concern with mind and culture. It addresses how a specific set of communication tools in a given socio-legal context polices the production, maintenance, and suppression of meaning and discrete meaning making practices. This aspect of the field implicates a rich agenda for empirical research. And by showing how it is done - how the manifold ways of habituated meaning making produce, preserve, and exclude possible worlds as well as ways of being (seeing/experiencing) - visual legal studies may also help to clear a path toward creative reconstruction. In this respect, law on the screen scholarship invites an empirical as well as an emancipatory practice, a source of knowledge as well as a call to action against false necessity.

Download the essay from SSRN here.

February 3, 2008

Talking Trash About Thrillers

In today's New York Times, Charles McGrath has a piece about writer Joan Brady, the effects of glue-sniffing on her literary career, and why so many people think detective and mystery fiction isn't "real literature." Indeed, Ms. Brady won 115,000 pounds in a settlement after a ruling that glue in the environment around her home had affected her.
Ms. Brady apparently made the claim that writing detective and mystery fiction is somehow something less than writing literature. The discussion has gone on and is likely to go on for quite a while. See Mark Larson's piece in the Guardian. Meanwhile, successful mystery and thiller writers engagingly entertain a good many of us, and I suspect have very nice vacation homes to show for it.