September 26, 2008

Law and Lyrics

Alex B. Long, University of Tennessee College of Law, has published "[Insert Song Lyrics Here]: The Uses and Misuses of Popular Music Lyrics In Legal Writing," in volume 64 of the Washington and Lee Law Review (2007).

Legal writers frequently utilize the lyrics of popular music artists to help advance a particular theme or argument in legal writing. And if the music we listen to says something about us as individuals, then the music we, the legal profession as a whole, write about may something about who we are as a profession. A study of citations to popular artists in law journals reveals that, not surprisingly, Bob Dylan is the most popular artist in legal scholarship. The list of names of the other artists rounding out the Top Ten essentially reads like a Who's Who of baby boomer favorites. Often, attorneys use the lyrics of popular music in fairly predictable ways in their writing, sometimes with adverse impact on the persuasiveness of the argument they are advancing. However, if one digs deeper, one can find numerous instances in which legal writers incorporate the lyrics of popular music into their writing in more creative ways.

Download the article from SSRN here.

Call For Papers

Georgetown University Law Center, Columbia Law School, University of Southern California Center for Law, History & Culture, and UCLA School of Law invite submissions for the seventh meeting of the Law & Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop to be held at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. on June 7 & 8, 2009.


The paper competition is open to untenured professors, advanced graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in law and the humanities; in addition to drawing from numerous humanistic fields, and welcomes critical, qualitative work in the social sciences. Between five and ten papers will be chosen, based on anonymous evaluation by an interdisciplinary selection committee, for presentation at the June Workshop. At the Workshop, two senior scholars will comment on each paper. Commentators and other Workshop participants will be asked to focus specifically on the strengths and weaknesses of the selected scholarly projects, with respect to subject and methodology. Moreover, the selected papers will then serve as the basis for a larger conversation among all the participants about the evolving standards by which we judge excellence and creativity in interdisciplinary scholarship, as well as about the nature of interdisciplinarity itself.

Papers should be works-in-progress between 10,000 and 15,000 words in length (including footnotes/endnotes), and must include an abstract of no more than 200 words. A dissertation chapter may be submitted but we strongly suggest that it be edited so that it stands alone as a piece of work with its own integrity. A paper that has been submitted for publication is eligible so long as it will not be in galley proofs or in print at the time of the Workshop. The selected papers will appear in a special issue of the Legal Scholarship Network; there is no other publication commitment. The Workshop will pay the travel expenses of authors whose papers are selected for presentation.

Submissions (in either Word or Wordperfect, no pdf files) will be accepted until January 9, 2009, and should be sent by e-mail to:

Center for the Study of Law and Culture

Columbia Law School

435 W. 116th Street

New York, N.Y. 10027

Please be sure to include your contact information. For more information: Tanisha Madrid, 212.854.0692 or The full text of the Call for Papers is available at:

Antigone and the Politics of Lamentation

Bonnie Honig, American Bar Foundation, has published "Antigone's Laments, Creon's Grief: Mourning, Membership and the Politics of Exception," as American Bar Foundation Research Paper 08-02. Here is the abstract.

This paper develops a historically situated reading of Sophocles' Antigone as an exploration of the politics of lamentation and the larger ideological conflicts these stand for. The play is supposedly about Antigone's defiance of her uncle Creon's sovereign decree that her brother Polynices, who attacked the city with a foreign army and died in battle, be left unburied as a lesson to all regarding the consequences of treason. But, I argue, the play is not about Polynices and his treason. These are merely occasions for something else: The play explores the clash in 5th century Athens between Homeric/elite and democratic mourning practices. The former memorialize the unique individuality of the dead, focus on the family's loss and bereavement and call for vengeance. The latter, the democratic, memorialize the dead's contribution to the immortal polis and emphasize (as in the Funeral Oration) the replace-ability of those lost by other, future citizens yet to come. Both economies of mourning are limited, necessary and insufficient to the bereavement we feel in the face of death. By staging their critical agonistic engagement, the play calls attention to each one's limits, but also mounts a criticism of democratic Athens' (represented by Creon) intolerance of the Homeric view.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

September 24, 2008

Rousseau's Emile

Eric Engle, University of Bremen, has published "Law and Literature: Instilling Norms by Fable in Rousseau's Emile." Here is the abstract.

The Law and Literature movement proposes that legal interpretation can be improved by borrowing methods from literary interpretation, by seeing legal decisions as stories, and by examining literature from a legal perspective. In Emile Rousseau presents us his Bildungsroman and educative novella about a Model Couple, Emile (the hypostasized Rousseau) and Sophie (the wise, sturdy farm girl). Rousseau recounts several stories in Emile, about false rape claims, faithless partners, women who try to be men and fail and in all a series of stories set around the theme of super-responsibility of women to be in the end: baby factories, to make soldiers for the state. Without intending to, Rousseau is comedic in presenting images of women that by today's standards are pathetically laughable. And yet these images of women influenced legislation and judgements because narrative gives scripts and roles to people to recreate in real life. Only by consciously exposing and deconstructing these roles and scripts would it be possible to live out something other than these prescripted, artificial and limiting roles.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

September 19, 2008

Bells Are Ringing

Via On the Media, a piece by Zachary Pincus-Roth about how phones are vital to the plots of so many Hollywood films.

September 17, 2008

A Tragic Murder, Ten Years Later

The New York Times has this feature article about The Laramie Project, a docuplay about the Matthew Shepard murder, which took place ten years ago.

September 16, 2008

Upcoming Symposium On Acquiring and Maintaining Collections of Cultural Objects: Challenges Confronting American Museums in the 21st Century

DePaul College of Law Announces:

8th Annual Symposium
Acquiring and Maintaining Collections of Cultural Objects: Challenges Confronting American Museums in the 21st Century
Museums face increasingly difficult challenges in collecting cultural objects-challenges that must be dealt with in ways that are consistent with best practices. On October 16, 2008, DePaul University College of Law will hold a major conference where leading experts will examine the basic rules of nonprofit museum governance and how those rules apply to the growing challenge of collecting cultural property in light of new laws, court decisions and professional ethical guidelines; evolving museum practices and standards in collecting antiquities; sovereign immunity and immunity of art works; and the need for further standards for donor/collector museum relationships.

OCTOBER 16, 2008
DePaul Center, Room 8005
1 E. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM


Andrews Kurth LLP
The Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
Herrick Feinstein
DePaul University College of Law is an accredited Illinois MCLE provider. The Symposium has been approved for 6 hours of CLE credit.

September 15, 2008

In Agatha Christie's Own Voice, a Window On the Last Third of Her Life

Julie Bosman writes in the New York Times about a cache of tapes found recently featuring Agatha Christie's own voice and discussing a number of issues close to her heart, including whether Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot were ever likely to meet. Her grandson Mathew Prichard discovered the recordings in one of his grandmother's former homes. Read more here.

September 7, 2008

Legal Briefs, and More

The New York Times' John Eligon plays "What Not To Wear" in this article about fashion flair among legal eagles. Says Mr. Eligon, "For a visitor to the court, a judge without a black robe might prompt a double take. But on any given day in New York City’s courthouses, it is common to see judges on the bench with unzipped or unbuttoned robes; accessories like scarves, jewelry or collars hanging outside of a robe; and, in some cases, no robe at all. Often seen as straitlaced and uncompromising, judges like to consider their freedom of dress a humanizing factor. And they have long found ways to give their robes a bit of pop." Read on, Macduff.

September 2, 2008

Franz Kafka's Last Wishes and the Kafka Myths

Professor Lior Strahilevitz (U. Chicago Law School) has an interesting post about Franz Kafka's papers. The famous story about Kafka's papers is that Kafka asked his friend, Max Brod, to burn them after his death. Although Kafka had published a few works during his lifetime, a great many stories, parables, letters, and diary entries were unpublished, as were Kafka's two great book masterpieces, The Trial and The Castle. Brod refused to burn them. Instead, he published them, and Kafka would go on to achieve enormous posthumous fame as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.
Should Brod have carried out Kafka's wishes? Lior argues yes:
I have written, and continue to believe, that Brod should have destroyed Kafka’s unpublished works, as per Kafka’s instructions, notwithstanding the immense literary value of the work. Kafka had legitimate privacy and artistic integrity interests in the works that should have been respected, and as their creator he was in the best position to decide upon their fate.
Controversies over the Kafka papers have recently reemerged. The New York Times describes a new issue over Kafka's papers:
When Mr. Brod fled to Tel Aviv from Prague on the last train out in 1939 as the Nazis rolled in, he had with him a suitcase full of Kafka’s documents.
Here, he took up with his secretary, and when he died in 1968, he bequeathed to her the remaining Kafka papers, as well as his own from a rich cultural career. For nearly 40 years, the secretary, Esther Hoffe, held the world of Kafka scholarship on tenterhooks, keeping the documents in her ground-floor apartment on Spinoza Street, some of them piled high on her desk (it was originally Mr. Brod’s), where she typed all day and took her meals.
The last time a scholar was permitted into the apartment was in the 1980s. Later, Ms. Hoffe sold the manuscript for “The Trial” for $2 million. No one knows what remains.
Since her death last year at age 101, her 74-year-old daughter, Hava, has indicated that a decision about the coveted papers will be made in the coming months. While most of the Kafka estate is already in archives in the Czech Republic, Britain and Germany, some may still be inside the scuffed front door of the Hoffe apartment.
Lior's article, The Right to Destroy, 114 Yale L.J. 781 (2005) (SSRN version here, final published version here) argues:
I submit that the K papers and manuscripts should be destroyed, on the basis of any of four rationales. . . .
First . . . A society that does not allow authors to have their draft works destroyed posthumously could have
less literary product than a society that requires the preservation of all literary works not destroyed during the author’s life. Protecting authors’ rights to destroy should encourage high-risk, high-reward projects, and might prevent writers from worrying that they should not commit words to paper unless they have complete visions of the narrative structures for their work. . . .
Second, we might accept an economic rationale. . . . K has an economic interest (via his concern for the welfare of his beneficiaries) in assuring that the value of his published works is not diminished by the conceivably inferior quality of the unpublished works.
Third and relatedly, . . . By destroying his unfinished works, K may wish to send a message to the public that he is not the type of artist who will tolerate, let alone publish, inferior works. . . .
Finally, . . . . If a court decides to bar Brod from destroying K’s unpublished works, it is forcing the departed K to speak when he would have preferred to remain silent.
I don't want to take on Lior's arguments in this post, as I find myself greatly torn over the issue. Respecting the privacy and final wishes of the author is a very important value, but there is also enormous social benefit from society's having an author's papers. Imagine if Kafka's wishes had been granted. Nobody would know of The Trial or The Castle, two of the greatest works of literature ever penned. Maybe there should be a special exception for Kafka since his works are so great. . . .
hawes-kafka.JPGBut there's another interesting issue in Kafka's request to Brod. Lior explicitly states that he is assuming, for the sake of his analysis, that Kafka's instructions to Brod were "unambiguous." But Kafka's instructions were, in fact, not so clear. In a recent book, Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life (2008), James Hawes attempts to deflate many myths about Kafka. Kafka wrote two "wills" to Brod. In his writing desk, Kafka left the following instruction:
Dearest Max, my last wish: Everything that I leave behind in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters of my own and from others, drawing, etc. (whether in my bookcase, clothes cupboard, writing desk at home or at the office, or in any other place anything may have gotten and you find it) should be burned, completely and unread, as should everything written or drawn in your possession or in the possession of others whom you should ask, in my name, to do likewise. People who do not want to hand over letters to you should at least be made to promise that they themselves will burn them. Yours, Franz Kafka.
Kafka wrote Max another letter shortly before his death, listing his published works and saying that "only the following books count" but that :everything that exists in the way of my writings (publications in journals, manuscripts and letters) is without exception inasmuch as it's possible to get hold of it . . . . all this, without exception, is to be burned and you are asked to do this as quickly as possible by me, Franz."
Hawkes contends, and I agree, that Kafka "didn't mean a word of it." Hawes writes:
Kafka was a lawyer. He knew very well what a binding legal document looked like and that neither of these supposed wills was remotely a real one. Brod claims that he'd even told Kafka flat out, at the time of his first will, that he wouldn't carry out the instructions.
Brod was Kafka's best friend and greatest fan. Brod had helped to establish Kafka's reputation as an author, and it was ironic to ask him to destroy the works. Kafka had shown Brod The Trial and back in 1919, Brod even joked with Kafka that Brod would finish it when Kafka's publisher was demanding novels instead of stories from Kafka.
Kafka was a master of irony. His request to Brod, understood in the context of his work, diaries, and letters (much of which, even more ironically, were subject to his request to burn), is typical Kafka. He was asking the man whom he knew never would burn his papers to do so. He could have asked others to carry out his bidding, but he chose Brod. As in all his works, Kafka raises complex issues of interpretation.
The Hawes book is an interesting read, as it attempts to debunk many myths about Kafka. Among the myths are that Kafka was unknown in his lifetime, that he lived a lonely life, and that he was poor. In fact, Hawes points out that Kafka was well-received in literary circles. Kafka had an active social life. Kafka did have dysfunctional relationships with women, a phenomenon Hawes attributes to Kafka's deep ambivalence about being married and raising a family (which Kafka was afraid would take away time from his writing). Kafka made a very good living and was successful at his job. Hawes also notes that although many view Kafka's living at home for most of his adult life demonstrated that he was a failure, this was in fact the norm for young unmarried professionals. People envision Kafka as a tiny gaunt figure, but he was for most of his life in good shape and was quite tall -- about 6 feet tall, which was much taller than average at the time.
Hawes does go a bit overboard at times, contending that Kafka's Jewishness had little influence in his work. In fact, Kafka's works are suffused with countless tropes, images, and references to Judaism. Kafka wasn't a particularly religious man, but he was fascinated by Judaism and studied it extensively. Hawes also makes much of Kafka's porn collection, using it as a way to deflate critics whom Hawes think put Kafka on too much of a pedestal. The porn consisted mainly of illustrations from a journal called The Amethyst, which seems to have been a literary journal that published "edgy fiction" and erotica. The illustrations, some of which Hawes reproduces in his book, are a little weird, but seem much more arty than pornographic. Hawes seems to be a bit too obsessed in attacking his conception of the Kafka critic who views Kafka as an asexual individual, a pure soul devoted solely to abstract ideas. Such critics do exist, but much commentary about Kafka does not view him in this caricatured manner. Nevertheless, despite Hawes' tendency to overclaim, his book is very entertaining and illuminating about Kafka. Too bad it is marred by Hawes' rather obnoxious tone, as the one-and-only myth-slayer designed to bring Kafka back to earth.
Cross-posted at Concurring Opinions