January 29, 2009

Treatise on Legal Visual Semiotics: Call For Papers

The original call for papers specified a closing date of January 15. This call for papers extends the date to February 15th.

Editors: Anne Wagner, Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy and Richard Sherwin
Publisher: Springer SBM

Expression of interest should be addressed by e-mail to valwagnerfr@yahoo.com
Please make sure that the document clearly indicates on a separate page your name, affiliation, and contact information.
Date of submission: Abstracts of 2 pages to be submitted by 15 February 2009
Decision for authors: 15 March 2009
Full paper submission: Full papers to be submitted by 15 December 2009
Final version of selected papers: Revised and final version of paper to be submitted by 15 March 2010
Length of chapters: Between 7,500 words and 10,000 words
All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis.

The visual is above all a means of communicating and understanding. In general terms, symbols, images and gestures have the potential to convey multiple levels of meaning and often represent concepts that are challenging to articulate explicitly due to their complexity, novelty or lack of specificity. When we have recourse to the visual, the subtleties and possibilities of communication increase exponentially.

The overall aim of the proposed two volumes is to fill the gap between law, semiotics and visuality. As an original project, its aim is to provide a comprehensive analytical overview of legal visual semiotics. The two volumes will endeavor to adopt a comparative perspective with a view to identifying a common ground for semiotics analyses of the converging and/or merging aspects of law and the visual.

The project seeks to harness the diverse and innovative work to date in the fields of visuality and semiotics, anchoring them in the legal context. It will seek to bring together the cumulative research traditions of these related areas as a prelude to identifying fertile avenues for research going forward.

Contributions should reflect the interdisciplinary nature of legal semiotics research. They should focus on:
- Theories and conceptualization of legal visual semiotics
- Pictorial semiotics and law
- Visuality of legal language
- Media and the law

These might include but are not limited to analyses on:
- Interface between text, images and oral signs
- Globalisation, time, space and place and its impact on media and law
- Law and architecture, specifically architecture and criminology
- Law and landscapes
- Cartoons and the law
- Gesture and the law
- Dress codes and the law
- Religion and law: e.g. images, icons, representation of the sacred, etc.
- Legal construction, interpretation of legal subjects and objects through the mediation of images e.g. cultural objects and the law; the body as a legal object etc.
- Aesthetics and the law: e.g. aesthetics and psychoanalytic jurisprudence; Deleuze, art and law; painting and the law; murals and the law; aesthetics and indigenous representation of customary law, specifically native American and African
- Digital technologies and law: e.g. surveillance and law, specifically use of images for forensic evidence; law, advertising and the production of meaning etc.
- Digital media, law and culture: e.g. technology in the courtroom and the law classroom; digital images and law, internet and the law, including pornography
- Media, culture and the law: e.g. cinema, popular culture and law; representation of law and/or legal events in media, specifically the representation of human rights, criminal trials in films and/or historical documentaries; representation of victims, perpetrators etc.

January 27, 2009

Law, Literature, and Political Thought

P. G. Monateri, University of Torino School of Law, has published "Sovereign Ambiguity - From Hamlet to Benjamin via Eliot and Schmitt." Here is the abstract.
The Author examines how Romantic Ambiguity lies at the heart of the legal notion of Sovereignty, applying a law and literature approach to notions developed by Benjamin and Carl Schmitt. Moving from a sophisticated analysis of literary texts, the inquiry intends to unveil the subtle strategies that lay behind the construction of Modernity and of its representational canon. The research perspective intentionally discloses the inherent dialectic between aesthetics and law. On this ground this paper rethinks the theory of the 'state of exception' as a pivotal concept for a deep understanding of Law and Politics (and their proper untraced boundaries), offering an alternative interpretation with respect to Giorgio Agamben's thought. The Author's lecture comes to rewrite even the centrality of representation as a fundamental notion both in literary and in political terms.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

January 26, 2009

I Like To Slog/Among the Blogs

From Mental Floss Blog: Stacy Conradt entertains with 10 Stories Behind Dr. Seuss Stories. They include the little known fact that "If I Ran the Zoo, published in 1950, is the first recorded instance of the word “nerd.” On the human rights front:
Horton Hears a Who! Somehow, Geisel’s books find themselves in the middle of controversy. The line from the book, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” has been used as a slogan for pro-life organizations for years. It’s often questioned whether that was Seuss’ intent in the first place, but I would say not: when he was still alive, he threatened to sue a pro-life group unless they removed his words from their letterhead. Karl ZoBell, the attorney for Dr. Seuss’ interests and for his widow, Audrey Geisel, says that she doesn’t like people to “hijack Dr. Seuss characters or material to front their own points of view.”

January 22, 2009

References To Homer in Australian Judicial Opinions

Leslie Katz has published "Homer in Australian Reasons for Judgment or Decision." Here is the abstract.

The paper discusses various allusions to Homer or his works in the reasons for judgment of Australian courts or the reasons for decision of Australian tribunals.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

January 20, 2009

Hip Hop, Criminal Law, and Legal Critique

Nick J. Sciullo has published "Conversations with the Law: Irony, Hyperbole and Identity Politics or Sake Pase? Wyclef Jean, Shottas, and Haitian Jack - A Hip-Hop Creole Fusion of Rhetorical Resistance to the Law," in volume 34 of Oklahoma City University Law Review (2009). Here is the abstract.
This article sets out to prove why the law must be investigated in an interdisciplinary fashion which invites an intersection between law, popular culture, and identity politics. First, this article describes how Wyclef Jean, a hip-hop artist, is an active voice of legal criticism and why his criticism is important to a larger discussion of the law. Second, this paper develops a conception of Creole/Haitian legal studies and its importance as an analytical lens through which to perceive the law and legal institutions. Third, this piece formulates a rhetorical criticism of the law through the rhetorical terrain of Wyclef's hip-hop music and cultural aesthetic to critique criminal law and legal institutions. The fusion of hip-hop, Haitian/Creole cultural identity, and rhetorical criticism, opens a new area for legal analysis and understanding. This article concludes by suggesting that rhetorical criticism, hip-hop, and other rhetorical acts (among them irony and hyperbole) provide new terrain from which to understand the law, and further, that the Haitian/Creole cultural identity is an important and underrepresented facet of legal culture, which further compliments current critical race theory.

Download the article from SSRN here.

January 16, 2009

John Mortimer Dies

John Mortimer, author of the "Rumpole of the Bailey" stories, as well as numerous other books, has died at the age of 85. Read more here.

January 15, 2009

McGoohan, Montalban Die

Patrick McGoohan, known for a number of law-related roles: as "Number 6" in the cult series "The Prisoner," as "John Drake", the hero of the series "Danger Man" and "Secret Agent," and as various villains in several "Columbo" movies, as well as a number of well-received films, has died at the age of 80. The announcement of his death follows that of the news of the death of accomplished actor Ricardo Montalban, who most famously played the Nietzchean character Khan in an episode of Star Trek and reprised the role in the second big screen Star Trek film.

Read more about law in The Prisoner and Star Trek in some of the selected references below.
The Prisoner

Christine A. Corcos, Narratives of Imprisonment: "I Am Not a Number! I Am a Free Man!": Physical and Psychological Imprisonment in Science Fiction, 25 Legal Stud. Forum 471 (2001).

Star Trek

Christine Corcos, Isabel Corcos, and Brian Stockhoff, Double-Take: A Second Look at Cloning, Science Fiction, and Law, 59 Louisiana Law Review 1041 (1999).

Paul Joseph and Sharon Carton, The Law of the Federation: Images of Law, Lawyers, and the Legal System in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” 24 University of Toledo Law Review 43 (1992).

Richard J. Peltz, On a Wagon Train to Afghanistan: Limitations on Star Trek’s Prime Directive, 25 University of Ar-kansas (Little Rock) Law Review 635 (2003).

Michael P. Scharf and Lawrence D. Robert, The Interstellar Relations of the Federation: International Law and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” 25 University of Toledo Law Review 577 (1994).

Methods of Teaching Native American Literature and Law

Cristine Soliz, Colorado State University, Pueblo, and Harold Joseph have published "Native American Literature, Ceremony, and Law," in MLA Options for Teaching Literature and Law (Austin Sarat, Cathrine Frank & Matthew Anderson, eds., 2009). Here is the abstract.

The joint study of law and literature offers a platform for Indigenous Studies and other programs to explore divergent philosophies and systems of law that have marked the Americas since 1492: Native American Ceremony and Euro-U.S. Law. Although law and literary culture are seen as inextricable and thus seemingly preclusive of Native American ceremony, our essay suggests a rationale and approaches for exploring, in a classroom, the theme of Native American ceremony in its relation to law.

Native American ceremony, as fundamentally anomalous to Old World or Eurasian ceremony and law, interrogates, in the relation, the collective imaginary and ethos or internal logic that enters into creating and even needing law. This relation can be explored using imaginative literature and contrasted to networks that legitimate our practices, as well as to changing definitions of law, such as St. Augustine's Natural Law, and Jeremy Bentham's early definition that tied law to monarchy. Euro-U.S. law in America since 1492, for example, has relied on punitive force as its normative power, but what are the consent mechanisms in Native American ceremony and how does it differ from normative domains described by Euro-U.S. practices, such as religion and even literature? An exploration of this theme through interactive readings of literature and law would focus on what the relationship between law and Native American ceremony might be, based on the continuing presence of Indian ceremony against the force of the U.S. system of law as it increasingly exercises control over Native Americans on tribal lands. Despite the legalities of Euro-U.S. past and present control over Indians, Native American ceremony continues to play a strong part in the psychological processes of the Native American imaginary.

James Welch's Fools Crow is an exemplary fiction that raises these issues, which are made clearer through legal texts. The plight of a small village of Blackfeets and the implied historical events that follow receive a fuller reading through the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Andrew Jackson's Report to Congress in 1829 and 1835, including congressional rhetoric and Acts contemporary to the 1870s, the temporal setting of Fools Crow. These texts give access to divergent cultural practices both through the experience of imagination and through grounding the fictive in the reality of the political setting, setting being an important element of fiction. A reading through the lens of the legal texts motivates questions about why, in the last chapter, Fools Crow and the people observe a 7-day ceremony, even though they realize they are being overwhelmed by invasions of U.S. soldiers and settlers. This locus in the text creates an interpretive opening to the conflict between U.S. and Indian law, to divergent views of law itself and the collective imaginary that goes into its formulation and enactment. Law, as seen in Indian ceremony across America, is strongly tied to harmonious interaction with what the land offers.

Classroom approaches can be organized around major time periods addressing three kinds of legal texts: ceremony, Indian treaties, and federal law with corresponding texts in themes important for the 21st century because of environmental, humanitarian, and sustainability concerns and because of pressures for development of natural resources, many of which can be found on what remains of Indian land. Much of the conflict between Native Americans and Non-Indians, from the Makah whale hunt to more recent Hopi and Navajo opposition to creating artificial snow on San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, has been because of a lack of understanding of Indian Ceremony as valid law in the Americas.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

January 14, 2009

Some New Books Of Interest

New books of interest

Lisa Surwillo, The Stages of Property: Copyrighting Theatre in Spain (University of Toronto Press, 2008).

David Thomas et al., Theatre Censorship From Walpole To Wilson (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Rhetoric, Law, and Religion: Jefferson's "Letter to the Danbury Baptists"

Ian C. Bartrum, Yale Law School & Vermont Law School, has published "Of Historiography and Constitutional Principle: Jefferson's Reply to the Danbury Baptists," in volume 51 of the Journal of Church & State. Here is the abstract.

This article examines the ways that the Supreme Court has used Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists ("a wall of separation between church and state") as a rhetorical symbol. It finds the letter at the heart of the Court's debate over competing theories of religious neutrality. The article then explores the treatment the letter has received in several leading academic histories, and concludes that professional historians have largely tailored their arguments to match the Supreme Court's ideological divide. The article concludes that, because the goals of historical argument and legal argument are fundamentally different, this "incestuous" kind of relationship between historiography and constitutional principle is potentially destructive.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

January 12, 2009

Legal TV

As with nearly every new tv season, new legal series are in development. David E. Kelley has one in the wings, Legally Mad, which will star Charity Wakefield. Now, NBC has agreed to develop Rob Morrow's Barely Legal, based on the true story of Kathleen Holtz, who at 18 passed the California Bar.

January 9, 2009

Harry Potter the Anglo-Saxon

Susan Liemer, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale School of Law, has published "Bot and Gemots: Anglo-Saxon Legal References in Harry Potter," forthcoming in Harry Potter and the Law (Carolina Academic Press). Here is the abstract.
In the popular Harry Potter book series, author J.K. Rowling obliquely references the legal world of the old Anglo-Saxon tribes. This article explains how she does so and offers explanations to help readers understand the parallels between legal institutions of the Anglo-Saxon world and the legal institutions in Harry's wizard world. This understanding may deepen readers' appreciation of the dynamics in each trial scene in the series.

Download the essay from SSRN here.

English Common Lawyers and Tradition

Cristina Costantini, University of Bergamo, has published "The Keepers of Traditions: The English Common Lawyers and the Presence of Law." Here is the abstract.

This paper looks into the subtle frame of the legal traditions, exploring the structural relationship that indissolubly binds history, law and narrative. The core of the Author's thought is that the ontological and epistemological views on the nature of historical past decide the fate of legal discourse and juridical arguments. Rediscovering the centrality of T.S. Eliot's notion of pastness as a meaningful concept that claims to be investigated when cultural heritage is at stake, this paper inquires into the active role played by English Legal Profession in the formulation of a foundational narrative with the structure of a legal tradition. Common Lawyers were the skilful selectors of the means of expression of political power and authority of Law. It is in the common lawyers' narrative and aesthetics that we meet a conscious paradigm of political theology.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

Law, Literature, and Doctor Faustus

Shaina Kovalsky has published "Legally Speaking: State as Community in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus." Here is the abstract.

Marlowe's Doctor Faustus appears to have largely neglected by scholars in law and literature, despite its seeming promise in that arena. The paper first reads the play through the lens of a debate between Robin West and Richard Posner about autonomy and consent in Kafka, dredging up the bits and pieces of law and literature-type scholarship along the way. The paper then argues that it is important to remember that, at the time of the play's publication, there were actual laws outlawing pacts with the devil, and so Faustus can be read both as a metaphor and as the product of actual contemporary fears.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

Law, Literature and the Holocaust

Richard Weisberg, Cardozo School of Law, has published "Law and Literature as Survivor" as Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 221. Here is the abstract.
While human rights lawyers from Nuremberg on tried to respond to the evils of Hitler's Europe with cautious directness, humanistic theorists in the post-modernist modes of the post-war period resisted all generalizations, including the establishment of legal norms through international codes of law. Addressing with some admiration the Holocaust-related later works of Geoffrey H. Hartman and (with less reverence) the anti-code and largely antinomian writings of Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida, this essay places in opposition the code-identifying and code-evaluating work of Law and Literature to that of the always equivocated writings of these deconstructionists for whom every grand narrative and every attempt to base act and choice on precedent was anathema. Although Hartman's aversion to all generalization is ethically sound considering the damage caused by Hitler's blunt and conclusory rhetoric, this essay relies on work about legal discourse during the Holocaust to indicate that this aversion emerges from a mis-placed logic about how institutions managed to adjust their ingrained beliefs and practices to such grotesque pronouncements.

More skeptical perhaps of complexity for its own sake, Law and Literature studies tend to locate codes (public or private, written or unwritten) within the great stories of the law and then unabashedly to value those codes in the Nietzschean sense as good or bad, justice-serving or reactionary. Discourse confronts ethical dilemmas - including those still unresolved six decades after the Holocaust - and to speak of them through a direct language of choice that often informs the canonical narratives we study.

Download the paper from SSRN here.