February 28, 2009

February 27, 2009

Affect and Effect: Theories of Law and Film

Ruth Buchanan, Osgoode Hall Law School, and Rebecca Johnson, University of Victoria Faculty of Law, have published "Strange Encounters: Exploring Law and Film in the Affective Register," in 46 Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 33 (2009). Here is the abstract.

This paper argues that taking seriously the embodied and affective dimensions of thought is important in relation both to the critical and transformative possibilities of Law-and-Film scholarship. In it, the authors begin the work of revealing the ways that film works to produce what Raymond Williams called the 'structures of feeling' that help to cohere contemporary legal and political institutions. In its first section, it seeks to develop a more robust vocabulary for discussing how films work on their viewers. Building on the insights of William Connolly regarding the multilayered nature of thought, it discusses how the non-cognitive registers for thinking of technique, perception and affect are brought together in film. In the second section, the paper explores how these effects might be understood through a close reading of three short scenes drawn from the films The Piano (1993), Minority Report (2002) and Dead Man (1994). In the powerful contrast of 'affect' produced by each of these scenes (the latter two containing minimal narrative content), the authors make an argument for the significance of attending not only to the (fixed) representative or ideological dimension of film, but also to its movement, its flux and possibility as energy.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

February 26, 2009

Authoring Opinions

Ryan Benjamin Witte, Columbia University Law School and Florida State University College of Law, has published "The Judge as an Author/The Author as a Judge." Here is the abstract.
For Federal judges, a life-tenure also comes with a life-long publishing deal. While some judges remain faithful to the rigid framework of judicial opinion writing that dominates the shelves of law libraries throughout the country, others utilize certain cases to summon their inner novelist or poet to add life to the pages of the Federal Register.

The use of humor, poetry, and popular culture in judicial opinions is not without its criticism. This paper is divided into two main topics; the first discusses the judge as an author. The section will begin with an examination of the audience of judicial opinions and an outline of the different styles of judicial opinion writing. The section will also examine the advantages and disadvantages of using literary tools to advance the law.

The second section addresses the role of the artist as a judge. This section will study a small segment of judges who, in addition to the law, maintain an outside career as an author or artist. Judges who fit into this group include authors of books, operas, and magazine articles, and their opinions are often written in a manner which reflects their experience. This section will also discuss the advantages (and potential drawbacks) of having these unique judges deciding cases dealing with a wide range of author's issues, including copyright and free speech, both substantively and stylistically.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

Analyzing the Image of the Lawyer in "The Sweet Hereafter"

Timothy P. O'Neill, John Marshall Law School (Chicago), has published "There Will Be Blame: Misfortune and Injustice in 'The Sweet Hereafter'," in volume 5 of the University of Denver Sports and Entertainment Law Journal (Fall 2008). Here is the abstract.

This paper compares the two versions of "The Sweet Hereafter": Russell Banks' novel and Atom Egoyan's film. It contends that commentators have been too quick to criticize the lawyer who comes to town offering to represent the parents' interests. It argues that as good as the film is, the novel provides a more nuanced view of the human necessity to assign blame when injustices occur. It draws on the work of Charles Tilly to examine issues of credit and blame that run through both the novel and the film.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

February 22, 2009

Lincoln and Popular Culture

The American Bar Association is presenting a program on Lincoln in pop culture: The Lincoln Myth: How Pop Culture Defines America's Great Lawyer/President on February 24. Here's more. David Hundley, of Cinema Mishmash, and I are speaking. Henry White, Executive Director of the ABA is introducing the program, and Edward Adams, editor of the ABA Journal is moderating the program.

World Congress On Law and Literature and CFP

The Italian Society for Law and Literature, headquartered at the University of Bologna, is organizing the 24th IVR World Congress on Law and Literature, which will take place in Beijing from the 15th to the 20th of September. Here's a link to more information on the Society's website, including the CFP.

February 20, 2009

Rumpole of the Bailey

Paul B. Bergman, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, has published "Rumpole and the Bowl of Comfort Food," in Lawyers in Your Living Room (Michael Asimow ed.; ABA Press, 2009). Here is the abstract.

Rumpole of the Bailey was a delightful British television series based on the life and courtroom exploits of John Mortimer's fictional curmudgeonly barrister, Horace Rumpole. Rumpole was a zealous if eccentric criminal defense lawyer. He was equally skilled in the arts of cross examining police officers and plucking appropriate quotes from the Oxford Book of English Verse. The stories' gentle satires of British traditions and justice make viewers feel as comfortable as Rumpole usually was as he sat in Pommeroy's Pub after a hard day in the Old Bailey, drinking a glass of the cheap house wine that he affectionately called Chateau Thames Embankment or Chateau Fleet Street. Chambers Meetings were a regular feature of the Rumpole shows.

This essay creates a transcript of a mock Chambers Meeting to explore Rumpole's character, his courtroom strategies, and the judges and other barristers whose idiosyncrasies were never-ending sources of conflict and amusement for Rumpole.

Tontines, Not Tocsins

Remember the inheritance device behind the death in Agatha Christie's mystery 4:50 From Paddington? (That novel is also known as What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw). Or Thomas Costain's novel The Tontine? Kent McKeever of Columbia Law School investigates tontines further.

Kent McKeever, Columbia Law School, A Short History of Tontines.
The tontine, with its underlying premise that the living participants benefit from the death of their fellows, does not deserve its shadowy reputation. It had some success in its original purpose, as a means of government fund raising. It was most successful as a means of private development and investment from around 1780 through the 1850's. However, it was used as a gimmick in the selling of life insurance and as a cover for outright fraud in the latter part of the 19th Century. It was also subject to attack from writers who found the notion of gambling on other people's deaths unseemly. The tontine developed an aura of shadiness, and was eventually abandoned. If re-developed as a form of insurance for the long-lived, it may be worth rehabilitation as an investment tool.

Download the abstract from SSRN here.

Law and Pornography

John M. Kang, St. Thomas University School of Law, has published "Taking Safety Seriously: Using Liberalism to Fight Pornography," in volume 15 of Michigan Journal of Gender & Law (2008). Here is the abstract.

In the law review literature on pornography, there is sometimes the depressing story that either liberalism is limply unhelpful to combat pornography or, in its role as philosophical handmaiden, liberalism happily does pornography's bidding. Liberalism as referred to here is not meant as shorthand for the political ideals of the Democratic Party. Rather, it is meant to serve as an emblem for a loose collection of commitments to free speech, legal equality, toleration, and limited government. But the description of liberalism that pervades the law review literature on pornography seems exaggerated and far from inevitable. Liberalism, as a jurisprudential principle, need not be pornography's indifferent observer or spineless sycophant; liberalism can be used to fight pornography. In this Article, I propose to illuminate what appears to me the most essential aspect of liberalism in its inviolable dedication to peace and safety. By drawing upon the work of the early liberals, I argue that liberalism's most basic ethos is conceptually incompatible with pornography, as the latter celebrates an unjustified form of violence as its own end.

Civility, Constitutionalism, and the Image of Men

John M. Kang, St. Thomas University School of Law, has published "Manliness and the Constitution," at 32 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 261 (2009). Here is the abstract.
Much of the legal scholarship regarding gender focuses justifiably on discrimination against women; accordingly, if such scholarship does discuss men, it does so chiefly to illuminate the ways in which women have been oppressed by them.

My article seeks to explore men's identity as its own topic, specifically in its relation to the Constitution. I begin my exploration with early modern England, for the American colonists would have to grapple with the ideas that arose during this time. My argument proceeds as follows. Prominent conceptions of male identity in early modern England made constitutional democracy, as the eighteenth century Americans understood it, philosophically unrealistic. Thomas Hobbes represented one view, Robert Filmer the other. Hobbes argued that men's violent hypermasculinity made them ineligible for the disciplined and mature enterprise of self-government; he believed that only an absolute monarch could control men for purposes of collective peace. Filmer also argued that men were generally incompetent for self-government. But unlike Hobbes, he argued that men were psychologically infantile and thus insufficiently manly for self-government. Filmer insisted that only the king had the requisite manliness of a powerful father and that men required the former's love and guidance while they owed him complete obedience.

The American colonists constructed a new understanding of male identity, one that was compatible with the logic of self-government in their constitution. Against Hobbes, the colonists pressed American men to embrace civility rather than being driven by a violent hypermasculinity. Against Filmer, the colonists urged American men to evince their manly independence by deliberating political truths instead of deferring to social betters. I then explain how these views by the colonists were manifested in the federal Constitution.

Download the article from SSRN here.

February 18, 2009

Spiritualists and Copyright

Christine A. Corcos, Louisiana State University Law Center, has published 'Ghostwriters': Spiritualists, Copyright Infringement, and Rights of Publicity, in Law and Magic: A Collection of Essays (Christine A. Corcos, ed.: Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2009). Here is the abstract.

In 1917, British-born editor and publisher Mitchell Kennerley (1878-1950) offered for sale Jap Herron, a new novel which he implied was written by the eminent Mark Twain. There was no author's name on the title page, but the frontispiece was a portrait of Mark Twain. This book included an introduction by St. Louis journalist and author Emily Grant Hutchings explaining the odd origins of the novel. Indeed, they were odd - Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, had been dead for six years, and the manuscript of Jap Herron was not some old piece of fiction he had left behind in a desk to be discovered after his demise. In her preface, Mrs. Hutchings claimed that Twain, to whom she referred familiarly as Mark, and whom she had met during his life, had dictated the book, as well as two short stories, to her through a Ouija Board, that is, through spirit communication via a board labeled with the alphabet, and with the assistance of a spirit medium, Mrs. Lola V. Hays.

Testimony in Literature

Pramod K. Nayar, University of Hyderabad, Department of English, has published "Human Rights and Testimonial Fiction: Alicia Partnoy and the Case of Argentina's Disappeared," at 1 Icfai University Journal of Commonwealth Literature 61-78 (2009). Here is the abstract.
This essay explores a particular genre in postcolonial literature: the literature of human rights. It uses a semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical narrative, the Argentinian Alicia Partnoy's account of her incarceration. The essay begins by proposing, following contemporary theorists of human rights, that a narrative tradition of human rights exists. It then moves on to discuss the 'literature of trauma'. Partnoy's work, it argues, demonstrates two strategies - the enumerative narrative of witnessing and self-witnessing. Partnoy produces a 'fiction of trauma', or 'testimonial fiction'. This fiction, the essay concludes, works at the level of a 'moral imagination', where the act of imagination is a performative through which the subject is formed, but also one that allows Partnoy to speak of the victims who did not survive the camp. This becomes the 'fiction of human rights' because it constructs the subjectivity - which includes agency - of Partnoy. If the focus of human rights discourses is the protection of the subject's agency, then the construction of subjectivity in The Little School makes it a narrative of human rights. It concludes by proposing, via Ashis Nandy's argument that the (postcolonial) Third World can become the 'collective representation of man-made suffering', that such narratives fit into a global history of trauma and human rights.

Download the article from SSRN here.

Law and Cultural Heritage

From the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP):
Three Important Announcements

LCCHP 2009 Student Writing Competition in Cultural Heritage Preservation Law
Database of Internship/Externship/Job Opportunities in Cultural Heritage Law
Students & New Professionals Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation being formed


Student Writing Competition in Cultural Heritage Preservation Law

The Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation announces the 2009 LCCHP Annual Student Writing Competition in Cultural Heritage Preservation Law. Due to the generosity of our competition sponsor - the law firm Andrews Kurth LLP - the awards for the 2009 competition are $1000 for first place and $500 for second place. The deadline for submissions is June 12, 2009, but papers may be submitted at any time before that date. We encourage those of you teaching seminars or with other student papers this semester to ask your students to submit papers now. Only current law students are eligible to enter the competition. Instructions for submission of papers and of faculty supporting nominations may be found at:



Database of Internship / Externship / Job Opportunities in Cultural Heritage Law

LCCHP is pleased to announce that its database of internship and externship opportunities in cultural heritage law is now available on our website at:


We know that this listing will be in great demand by law students and other students studying cultural heritage. If you know of any opportunities in this field that you think should be listed, we invite you to send us a short description with a web link. Please forward this request to government agencies and nonprofit organizations that may be interested in posting an announcement, and feel free to post this message to other relevant listserves and blogs. The listing is available only to LCCHP members, but we offer an attractive student rate.


Students & New Professionals Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation is being formed

LCCHP is creating a special Student and New Professional Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. This Committee will give students and recent graduates an opportunity to network and share information, while they also participate in several LCCHP activities, such as overseeing our soon-to-be launched blog in cultural heritage law and planning cultural heritage related events on their school campuses. You may want to bring this group to the attention of your students. For more information, contact Board Member Donald Craib at:




The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation is an organization of lawyers, professors, law students, and like-minded friends who have joined together to promote the preservation and protection of cultural heritage resources in the United States and internationally through education and advocacy. Cultural heritage law is a growing legal field, as our society comes to appreciate the important symbolic, historical, and emotional role that cultural heritage plays in our lives. Cultural heritage law encompasses several disparate areas, including the protection of archaeological sites, preservation of historic structures and the built environment, preservation of and respect for both tangible and intangible indigenous cultures, international market in art works and antiquities, and recovery of stolen art works.


Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP)
428 Hume Ave, 2nd floor, Alexandria, VA 22301
tel: 703-549-1110 | fax: 703-995-4890
web: www.culturalheritagelaw.org | email: info@culturalheritagelaw.org

February 16, 2009

Justice in "Measure For Measure"

John V. Orth, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Law, has published "'The Golden Metwand': The Measure of Justice in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure," in the Adelaide Law Review. Here is the abstract.

Measure for Measure, one of Shakespeare's problem plays, is a dark comedy depicting Duke Vincentio's effort to restore respect for the law after a period of lax enforcement. Peopled with a wide variety of law-enforcers and law-breakers, the play implicates numerous legal issues and has consequently attracted the attention of lawyers and judges. In the eighteenth century Sir William Blackstone contributed notes on the play, while in the twentieth century judges have quoted from it in their judicial opinions. Like all good legal dramas, Measure for Measure ends with a trial scene, but - as we would expect from Shakespeare - one with an unusual twist. When charges of corruption are brought against Angelo, the deputy appointed to enforce the law, the Duke orders an immediate trial: Come, cousin Angelo / In this I'll be impartial; be you judge / Of your own cause. When the deputy's guilt is disclosed, the Duke commands that he suffer the punishment he intended for others - measure for measure, putting the Bible-conscious play-goer in mind of the passage: Judge not, that ye be not judged. / For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you againe. By ordering Angelo to be the judge of his own cause, the Duke is inviting the deputy to measure out his own punishment. And Shakespeare is forcing us all to confront the difficulty of doing earthly justice.

Download the article from SSRN here.

Law and Semiotics

Here is the table of contents for volume 22 of the International Journal of the Semiotics of Law (no. 1, 2009--Special Issue: Lawyers Making Meaning - the Roberta Kevelson Seminar on Law and Semiotics.

The contents of the Special Issue: Lawyers Making Meaning - The Roberta Kevelson Seminar on Law and Semiotics, Guest Editors: Jan Broekman and William Pencak is as follows:

Jan M. Broekman, William Pencak / Lawyers Making Meaning

Francis J. Mootz III / Vico and Imagination: An Ingenious Approach to Educating Lawyers with Semiotic Sensibility

Denis J. Brion / Trial Argumentation: The Creation of Meaning

Jan M. Broekman / Face to Face

Philip Grier / Gustav Shpet and the Semiotics of 'Living Discourse'

William Pencak / The Lawyer, the Judge, and the Historian: Shaping the Meaning of the Boston Massacre, American Revolution, and Popular Opinion from 1770 to the Present Day

Michelle L. Wirth / Who's You Daddy? -- Or: Using Semiotic Tools to Deconstruct Legal Determinations of Who Holds Parenthood Obligations and Privileges

Jeffrey A. Ellsworth / Michael H. v. Gerald D.': A Case Study of Political Ideology Disguised in Legal Thought

Book review/Paper reviews

Paper Review: Etat (Postmoderne) de droit, Logique textuelle et theorie micropolitique du droit: sur un exemple de pensee juridique "Soft" (Guillaume Tusseau)

Review Paper: Derrida and legal scholarship: A Certain Step Beyond (by Jacques de Ville).

Culbert, Jennifer. L. Dead Certainty: The Death Penalty and the Problem of Judgment, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. 235 pages (index). (by George Pavlich).

Legal Narrative and Street Law

Elizabeth L. MacDowell, Chapman University School of Law, has published "Law on the Street: Legal Narrative and the Street Law Classroom," in volume 9 of Rutgers Race and the Law Review (2008). Here is the abstract.

This Article argues that the failure of anti-discrimination law to address the problems of subordination reflects the hegemonic perspective in legal narratives. For the lawyer concerned with social change, it is imperative to identify these narratives and the ways in which they not only inhibit deep social change, but may perpetuate the conditions of subordination. Yet, law school polices against the consciousness necessary for the lawyer to identify the hegemonic narrative in the law, and often instills attitudes which are antithetical to the project of social change. In this context, Street Law - a practical law course taught by law students to high school students in inner city neighborhoods and juvenile facilities - is an arena for the development of counter-hegemonic consciousness in the lawyer and in subordinated communities.

Literature on narrative from the legal and social science communities informs this analysis. Part I is the Introduction. Part II conceptualizes the classroom as a narrative moment in which legal text, interpretation and experience come together, and then establishes a framework for analyzing these elements. First, the Castlemont community in Oakland, California where the author taught Street Law is characterized as illustrating conditions of social marginalization and subordination. Next, the concept of narrative is defined in greater detail, and Ewick and Silbey's theory of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic narrative is introduced. Lastly, this Part analyzes the narrative of discrimination offered by anti-discrimination law as hegemonic.

Part III explores how legal education thwarts development of the consciousness and skills a lawyer needs to work for social change. First, the conditions associated with counter-hegemonic consciousness are discussed. Next, this Part argues that the objective viewpoint of the law is hegemonic in nature. The manifestation of this viewpoint in law school hinders the development of counter-hegemonic consciousness in persons of the law, instills attitudes which thwart the project of social change, and leads to widespread alienation - particularly among students with viewpoints that are marginalized within law school.

Finally, Part IV returns to the Street Law classroom, and the nature of the opportunity Street Law presents for a person of the law and her students. This Part suggests that Street Law is an opportunity to develop the consciousness and other qualities necessary for social justice lawyering. This Part also suggests that subjectivity is an appropriate methodology to employ in developing a pedagogy which encourages counter-hegemonic consciousness in the Street Law classroom.

Download the article from SSRN here.

Call For Papers


CRN No. 9 (Gender and Legal Education)


May 28-31, 2009

Denver, CO


Roundtable: Teaching Gender Inequality in Law Schools

Conversations about gender and sexuality in core law school courses are often focused on equality—constitutional doctrines of formal equality meted out by high courts – rather than underlying causes, effects and forms of inequality. Law students are rarely asked to consider if inequality itself is undesirable, and whether law has a role in perpetuating, creating, resisting or eliminating it. While these concepts are foundational in most sociology or anthropology programs, they are not central to the law school curriculum, especially in the first year.

While there is no doubt that court cases eliminating legal barriers to gender and sexual equality are important for all law students to learn, the conversation is impoverished if they are the only vehicle used to examine gender, sexuality and other intersecting forms of inequality in a typical course of law school study. Teachers of today’s generation of students also must grapple with the fact that gender inequality looks different to students than it did even fifteen years ago. The generation of women entering law school—the beneficiaries of equal opportunity to education under Title IX and employment under Title VII – are members of a community in which young women have excelled. Many of them do not perceive gendered inequality operating in their lives. This creates a displacement where students who are interested in women’s rights are more comfortable examining the inequality of women in exotic foreign locales (such as inequalities suffered by Muslim women, victims of sex trafficking or of mass sexual violence). At the same time, however, they are slow to recognize the structural nature of gendered inequalities that persist closer to home. They may be quick to dismiss their own anxieties as problems that can be overcome by making perfect individual choices. Students interested in eliminating the inequality of the LGBTQ community might perceive that inequality more starkly, but still often lack the vocabulary to discuss questions of law, power and sexuality outside of the bounds of formal equality.

In the climate of change created by recent critiques of legal education, roundtable participants will take up the question of how social scientists and law teachers can become allies in the creation of materials, techniques and strategies to teach law students about the gender, sexual, and intersectional inequalities in the U.S. legal system and culture. Possible topics might include: innovations in legal pedagogy; strategies for exploring gender and sexual inequality in core law school courses (e.g., contracts, torts, criminal law); whether the training of lawyers should include an apprenticeship of identity and purpose that has at its core a commitment to reducing inequality; teaching techniques for reinvigorating courses on discrimination with more nuanced and sophisticated understandings of how structural inequalities play out in the lives of lawyers and their clients; exploring the role of experiential and clinical education in both fighting inequality and teaching students about its nature; incorporating questions of how law enables corporations and consumer culture to create and perpetuate gender inequality into law school teaching; and addressing inequality created or sustained by culture and religion in U.S. domestic as well as international settings.

If you would like to join the roundtable, please email Daniela Kraiem, CRN No. 9 Organizer and Associate Director, Women and the Law Program, American University Washington College of Law at kraiem@wcl.american.edu with a brief paragraph describing your interest in participating in the roundtable by February 25, 2009.

LSA roundtables are generally informal discussions, guided by the questions and themes raised by the panelists. Panelists should be prepared to offer 7-10 minutes of remarks, followed by discussion of roundtable themes. If you are already on two panels at the LSA, I can’t add you as a formal participant, but would love to have you join us as an active member of the roundtable.

February 11, 2009

Call For Papers


8th International Roundtable for the Semiotics of Law (IRSL 2009)

(2-5 December 2009)



Convenor: Vijay K. Bhatia

Conference Venue: Department of English, City University of Hong Kong .

The overall aim of a State is to protect the social order in which the individual liberty of the citizen is a major concern. As a consequence the State should guarantee simultaneously and paradoxically a high level of individual freedom and an order in which such freedom is made possible and guaranteed.

The 8th International Roundtables for the Semiotics of Law invites contributors to reflect on the growing importance of Transparency, Control and Power in our international community and how these main ideas have been examined over the years. Contributors may choose to explore semiotic, rhetorical, pragmatic, sociolinguistic, psychological, philosophical and/or visual perspectives on Transparency, Control and Power.

Papers which examine the ways ‘actors’ in our society (legislators, politicians, activists, movie producers, singers, painters, graffiti artists, photographers etc.) have provoked public discourse to confront Transparency, Control and Power are particularly welcome.

The Roundtable will provide an opportunity for a general discussion of issues in the semiotics of law as well as open discussions to increase our knowledge about our Transparency, Control and Power with respect to Legal Semiotics.

In the interest of a cohesive roundtable, prospective participants are requested to adhere to the theme as outlined in the call for papers.

Proposals in either English or French (max 300 words) should be sent by e-mail by the 1st of May 2009 to Vijay K. Bhatia at enbhatia@cityu.edu.hk and to Anne Wagner at valwagnerfr@yahoo.com

Selected papers will be published in a special annual issue of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law (http://www.springer.com/law/journal/11196).

Matlock From Across the Pond

Steve Greenfield and Guy Osborn, University of Westminster School of Law, and Peter Robson, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, School of Law, have published "Matlock - America's Greatest Lawyer - Case Closed: A Transatlantic Perspective," in Lawyers in Your Living Room (Michael Asimow, ed.; ABA Press, 2009). Here is the abstract.

Matlock for people in Britain is an almost entirely unknown series, and the eponymous hero is remembered very vaguely as a slimmer, rather more handsome successor to private eye Frank Cannon. We are interested in writing about Matlock from a British perspective because he seems to us to exemplify American cultural hegemony, curiously, at both its strongest and weakest. We are aware that Matlock contains many cultural references that will pass over the heads of the British audience, but that will have been appreciated by an American audience. We hope that our restricted understanding of the nuances in this portrayal of the Southern American lawyer will not limit our remarks too much. Indeed, L.A. Law has been on British TV screens for the past 20 years almost continuously and the characters and situations have been appreciated and understood on this side of the Atlantic. Despite our suggestion that Ben Matlock is, for British audiences, largely forgotten or misremembered, we in Britain may be about to take him to our hearts at the end of the first decade of the 21st century in a way undreamt of when he first came to the small screen. Perhaps he even has the potential to overtake L.A. Law in the public imagination. To explain why this might happen, a little bit of the context on screen lawyers needs to be provided.

February 9, 2009

The Visual, French History, and Virtual Memory

Daniel Maxwell Sussner has published "Projections: The visual structure of French history," a dissertation in partial completion of the requirements for the PhD at Harvard University. Here is the abstract.
How do visual media structure historical thinking? In the context of collective memory, this essay argues that engraving, the daguerreotype and film organize how historians make sense of the past. Specifically, analogizing from the digital technique of "virtual memory," the simulation of contiguous accessible digital memory available to efficiently manage computer programs, this essay shifts direction away from studies employing visual material to illustrate arguments or demonstrate historical meaning. Instead, virtual memory explains how visual media (re)organize memory, staging a collective dreaming of the past. "History," Tocqueville reminds us, "indeed, is like a picture gallery in which there are few originals and many copies."

Three hypotheses underscore this applied mechanics of thinking visually: (1) visual media displace aspects of human memory; (2) copyright law politically empowers visual media; and (3) visual media virtualize collective memory. Each chapter advances a case study elaborating a visual medium's organization of collective memory in techniques specific to its mode of reproduction Chapter One, in detailing the decline of the ancíen regime, explains the emergence of a public visual space for engraving as the collective mediation of political representation. Chapters Two, Three and Four consider Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the French Revolution together, not simply in terms of direct or retrospective impact, but as the fruition of commemorative practices indelibly linked to Rousseau's obsession with the communication of visual memory. Rousseau's "memory project" engaging the engraving medium to organize key moments of his complete works, provided readers with the mnemonic tools to virtualize Rousseau's collective memory. Chapter Five frames the emergence of the daguerreotype, emphasizing the transition from engraving to new historical modes of virtual memory. The focus here will be a now-forgotten trial involving French plagiarisms of Edgar Allen Poe. Finally. Chapter Six explores the medium of film. From the internal struggle between content and medium to the ineluctable complicity between moviegoers and historians in ascribing objectivity to fictional films about the past, cinema has much to teach us. In particular. Alain Resnais changes the rules of the game: if earlier visual media structure collective memory, the point of film is to smash it.

His advisor is Patrice Higonnet.

Update: For those interested in obtaining dissertations, they are generally available from University Microfilms International.

Call For Papers

OCTOBER 1 – 3, 2009

Villanova’s Law School and Department of English will hold a law and literature symposium, the first in a projected annual series, beginning Thursday evening, October 1, 2009, and ending Saturday afternoon, October 3, 2009. The symposium has also been supported by a grant from the Law and Humanities Institute.

We invite interested scholars to submit abstracts of proposed papers. Peter Goodrich (Professor of Law and Director of Law and Humanities, Cardozo School of Law), Steven Mailloux (Professor of English and Chancellor’s Professor of Rhetoric, Department of English, University of California – Irvine), and Robin West (Associate Dean, Research and Academic Programs, and Frederick J. Haas Professor of Law and Philosophy, Georgetown University Law Center), will be keynote speakers.

The conference theme for 2009, “Law, Literature, and Religion”, is broadly conceived. Papers may include but are not limited to papers on any literary, rhetorical, narrative, or textual aspects of law and religion; the exegesis and hermeneutics of legal texts or topics; interpretation in law, literature, and religion; shared languages and histories of law and religion; discursive intersections of civil and canon law; ethics and justice explored in religious and secular literature; the comparative poetics or rhetoric of legality and religion; legal priesthoods; political theology; orthodoxies and/or heterodoxies; humanisms; Pauline studies; religious images in law; literary works about religion in/and/as law; and law as a civil religion. Papers will be 20-25 minutes long to permit time for discussion.

Abstracts of proposed papers should be sent to Professor Penelope Pether (pether at law.villanova.edu), to whom inquires may also be addressed. Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words, and should arrive before March 15, 2009. Invitees will be notified by April 30, 2009, and will receive room and board at (but not transportation to and from) the symposium, provided by Villanova University School of Law.

It is anticipated that a limited number of places will be available for attendees who are not presenting papers. The symposium is being convened by Professor David S. Caudill, Arthur M. Goldberg Family Chair in Law, and Professor Penelope J. Pether of Villanova University School of Law; and Professors Evan Radcliffe (Departmental Chair) and Cristina Maria Cervone of the Department of English at Villanova University.

The Law and Literature of Basil Montagu

David Graham and John Paul Tribe, Kingston University Law School, have published "Basil Montagu QC (1770-1851): A Portrait of an Early 19th Century Life in Literature and the Law." Here is the abstract.
In 1814 Basil Montagu, by now an extremely busy member of the Chancery bar took up residence at 25 Bedford Square in fashionable Bloomsbury. Together with his wife, large family and servants he continued to live at this address for the next 20 years or so. On Sundays Mrs Montagu often reigned over a salon that attracted prominent literary figures amongst whom were several long-standing friends of her husband. At the time of their marriage in 1808 Montagu had already been married twice before; his wife had been a widow for about six years and was bringing up her daughter who would one day as Mrs Proctor have her own salon frequented by a new generation of poets and authors. Montagu's chambers were at 10 New Square; his practice was mainly concerned with insolvency matters, serving as a Commissioner in Bankruptcy at the Guildhall. He was a prolific writer on commercial law but is best remembered, if at all, for his many books on bankruptcy and for a lengthy series of law reports. He also wrote numerous pamphlets on contemporary topics such as Catholic and Jewish emancipation. Additionally he published a book of essays one of which dealt with the general principles of law reform and a best selling philosophical anthology. If Bedford Square reflects Montagu's commitment to literature, then New Square represents his professional dedication; sometimes these two segments of his life came together; he acted as junior counsel for Shelley in the proceedings brought by the poet after his wife's death to obtain custody of their children; on at least one occasion Coleridge arrived at chambers to discuss Montagu's Francis Bacon project; urgent steps were taken by him and Bryan Waller Proctor, his step-son in law, to rescue Hazlitt from imprisonment for debt. In this article little attention is given to Montagu's legal career, his role as founder of the Legal & General Insurance Company, or to his work after 1836 as the first Accountant-General in Bankruptcy. Instead it concentrates on his literary activities and private life so often clouded by tragedy. It is suggested that when Montagu died at Boulogne in 1851 he was living there in exile fearful of arrest for debt at home resulting from involvement with the financial disaster of his principal publisher, William Pickering. His death does not end the story that must continue with the hunt, still in progress, for his voluminous papers, manuscripts and other documents together with reminiscences about him. Our research indicates that notwithstanding a belief that much of this material is lost this is by no means the case.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

Witnessing in The Accused

Jessica A. Silbey, Suffolk University Law School, has published "A Witness to Justice," in Studies in Law, Politics, and Society: A Special Symposium Issue on Law and Film (Austin Sara, ed. 2009), pp. 61-91. Here is the abstract.
In the 1988 film The Accused, a young woman named Sarah Tobias is gang raped on a pinball machine by three men while a crowded bar watches. The rapists cut a deal with the prosecutor. Sarah's outrage at the deal convinces the assistant district attorney to prosecute members of the crowd that cheered on and encouraged the rape. This film shows how Sarah Tobias, a woman with little means and less experience, intuits that according to the law rape victims are incredible witnesses to their own victimization. The film goes on to critique what the right kind of witness would be. This article explains how the film The Accused is therefore about the relationship between witnessing and testimony, between seeing and the representation of that which was seen. The article elaborates the relationship between the power and responsibility of being a witness in law - one who sees and credibly attests to the truth of her vision - as well as it unpacks the significance of bearing witness to film - what can we know from watching movies.

Download the essay from SSRN here.

February 2, 2009

British Advisory Group Says British TV Stereotypes Women

The National Skills Forum, an independent British group, has slammed British television, saying it presents a stereotyped view of women. Somehow, I'm not surprised. In a report to be released tomorrow, the group says
"No major British broadcaster has made any commitment to challenging gender stereotypes at work. This should change."

According to the Guardian, "The report does not name the unsympathetic portrayals it refers to, but they might include Jane Tennison, the police detective played by Helen Mirren in ITV's Prime Suspect. Tennison became an alcoholic who found it difficult to maintain a stable relationship. However, the report praises the BBC's Silent Witness, which starred Amanda Burton and Emilia Fox as pathologists, for producing a "huge increase" in the number of women training to be forensic scientists."

Read more here.

Gender stereotyping on tv and in film is nothing new. Whether it's because those who make films and tv think it's what the viewers demand, or it's because those who make films and tv really do think men and women fit into such roles is an interesting question. But the fact remains that we rarely see women tv lawyers, for example, in happy marriages and pursuing successful careers. Much more often, they're manipulating harpies who can't attract and keep nice guys.

It's not just true on legal dramas. I just finished watching a marathon of that hit, House (on opposite the Super Bowl for those of us who couldn't stomach another football game, no matter how hyped). The character is abrasive, and unethical, and selfish. Yet we are supposed to love him because he's a brilliant diagnostician. Actually he's not--I started to count the number of mistakes he makes per show. If he were female, would ANYONE put up with him, no matter how brilliant?

Even "nice" women are treated badly, and tv can show them as unsuccessful, measured against male norms of success, although this might actually be more true than we wish. Look at what happens to House's colleague, Cameron, when she objects to Foreman's "theft" of her idea for an article ("Sleeping Dogs Lie"). She's told to "suck it up." Unless she can adjust to male norms, she's not going to succeed. When she tries to patch up the quarrel with him, he refuses, saying, "I haven't done anything to apologize for," and "We're not friends. We're colleagues." It's a classic example of male-speak and a lack of ability to understand what she is saying. Further, it's a classic refusal on the part of a man to make an attempt to understand. Why doesn't Foreman reciprocate and apologize as well? Because he doesn't have to, and he knows it. Like House, he'll succeed because his gender makes the rules. The best advice, in a sense, Cameron gets is from the uber-boss, a woman, who tells her to write another article, and to wait until Foreman is "up for department chair" somewhere, and then needs her recommendation. The unspoken suggestion is that she can then give a poor recommendation, based on her inside knowledge. But would Cameron do that? Probably not. She's not mean-spirited. Her poor recommendation would in any case sound like sour grapes, and be dismissed as just that. She is in a classic "no-win" situation.