CFP: Satire in Theory and Practice / Literature and Law Conference, March 29-30, John Jay College, CUNY

full name / name of organization: 
Al Coppola
contact email:

In times like these, it’s hard not to write satire. And so that’s why I am advertising two linked panels on satire that will be featured at the upcoming John Jay College Biennial Conference on Literature and the Law next spring.

As you’ll see from the general announcement and call for papers that I have attached below, this conference, now in its third iteration, brings together legal and humanities scholars for an interdisciplinary dialogue that considers justice both in terms of contemporary and historical practices as well as in terms of its various theoretical and cultural imaginations. The conference theme this year is “the idea of justice,” and it will foreground new research that attempts to integrate the theory with the practice of justice, and/or that engages and compares differing notions and perspectives of justice.

To complement the theme of this year’s conference, I am organizing two panels: “Satire in Theory” and “Satire in Practice.” The first panel will present new scholarly work on the history and theory of satire, while the second panel will be a roundtable populated by TV writers, journalists, novelists and other “practicing satirists,” so to speak, who will discuss the nature and intent of satire in their own work.

These panels might as well have the subtitle: "Justice—the Very Idea!" Whether in Augustan Rome, Walpole’s Britain, or Post-Bush America, satire has had a long and vexed relationship with the pursuit (or neglect) of justice. Whenever the law has failed to do its job, whenever society has proved too pig-headed to know what’s good for it, writers have used satire to expose vice and ridicule folly. Next spring, I am looking to initiate a cross-disciplinary and cross-professional conversation about just what happens when writers operate alongside, outside or in sheer defiance of the law, seeking justice—or perhaps just settling scores?—with cutting speech.

For the academic panel, I am seeking theoretically-informed papers that seek to refine, or that take issue with, the traditional ways in which literary critics and other scholars have theorized satire. In light of what surely must be the efflorescence of another Golden Age of Satire in contemporary culture, papers are invited that reassess questions like the following:

• Do writers use satire to urge positive moral reform, or just to demolish what is wicked?

• Should satire have a right to attack real people, or must it stick to generalities?

• What is the line between slander and satire, and ought it be the same for every target?

• Is satire a genuinely ethical activity, or is it just a pretext for showing off one’s wit?

• Who gets to write satire, anyway, and whose interests does it really serve?

• Satire theory has typically addressed a tradition of formal verse satire, usually written by men, that locates its roots in Greek and Roman antiquity. But what of women satirists, or of non-white and non-western satiric traditions?

• The best recent satire theory shows renewed interest in Menippian satire. But how helpful is that tradition (and that category of analysis) for making sense of satire in practice today?

• How should we understand the difference that the satirist imagines between herself and the objects of her ridicule?

• What kind of difference does satire make anyway? Does it discover, or produce divisions? Does anything good come out of witty, cutting speech?

Participants in the “Satire in Theory” panel will also be asked to prepare a question to put to the “Satire in Practice” roundtable, which, as of press time, is scheduled to include writers from The Daily Show and the creator of Pop-up Video.

Scholars working on satire in any discipline are encouraged to participate; in addition to papers from literary critics, I’d welcome submissions from cultural historians and art historians as well. Proposals for 18 minute papers for the “Satire In Theory” panel should be sent to Al Coppola, Assistant Professor of English, John Jay College, CUNY, no later than January 6, 2012.


General Conference CFP:

Third Biennial Literature and Law Conference
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York, New York

• Conference Date:
o Friday March 30, 2012: Check In/Continental Breakfast starts at 8:30 a.m.: Activities commence at 9:00 a.m.: Activities conclude at approximately 6 p.m.
o Thursday March 29, 2012: Keynote Speech by Professor Amartya Sen at 7 p.m. (tentative time).

• Conference Location
o John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) (59th Street and 10th Avenue). The conference will take place on the newly expanded John Jay campus, near Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The facilities include a brand new, state of the art conference center.

• Conference Organizer and Contact Person
o Andrew Majeske,

• Conference Theme and Overview:
o Theme: The Idea of Justice
o Overview: This conference aims to bring scholars of literature and law into an interdisciplinary setting to share the fruits of their research and scholarship. Generally this conference consists of approximately 12 paper panels and roundtables, two talks by prominent speakers, and a post-conference reception. The conference fee will be $75, which will be payable by credit card through a link on the conference website (details below).

• Call For Papers and Panels
o We invite proposals for papers and panels that address topics that relate the humanities & arts (especially literary texts (broadly conceived)), to this year’s conference theme, the “idea of justice.” Of particular interest are papers and panels that in addition engage aspects of Professor Sen’s book, The Idea of Justice, or that attempt to integrate the theory with the practice of justice, and/or that engage and compare differing notions and perspectives of justice.

o Panel proposals should contain the names and affiliations of the speakers, the titles of their papers, a clearly identified contact person, and an overall title for the panel. Panel proposals should be received by November 25th 2011. Given the 75 minute length for the panels at this conference, the panels should include no more than three presenters plus a commentator or moderator.

• CFP Deadline
o Please submit abstracts (250 words or less) to Andrew Majeske,, by Friday, January 13, 2012.

• The Daily Show/The Colbert Report
o A limited number of “Daily Show” and/or “The Colbert Report” tickets may be available for the evening of Thursday March 29th on a first-requested basis (assuming the shows are taping that evening). We have succeeded in obtaining a small block of these for the prior two conferences. These shows are taped in studios only a few blocks walk from John Jay. We are attempting to schedule Professor Sen’s keynote address so that those attending these shows also will be able to attend the keynote address.

• Conference Registration:
o Conference registration will be by credit card from a link on the conference website. International participants who have are unable to register in this fashion should contact Andrew Majeske, to work out other arrangements.

• Conference Website
o More conference information will be posted at

• Conference Speakers
o Amartya Sen, Keynote Speaker: The conference’s keynote speaker is Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University and, until recently, the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has served as President of the Econometric Society, the Indian Economic Association, the American Economic Association and the International Economic Association. He was formerly Honorary President of OXFAM and is now its Honorary Advisor. Of particular interest to this conference is Professor Sen’s celebrated 2009 book, The Idea of Justice. His other books, which have been translated into more than thirty languages, include Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2006), The Argumentative Indian (2005), Rationality and Freedom (2002), Development as Freedom (1999), Inequality Reexamined (1992), The Standard of Living (1987), On Ethics and Economics (1987), Resources, Values and Development (1984), Choice, Welfare and Measurement (1982), Poverty and Famines (1981), and On Economic Inequality (1973, 1997) . His research has ranged over a number of fields in economics, philosophy, and decision theory, including social choice theory, welfare economics, theory of measurement, development economics, public health, gender studies, moral and political philosophy, and the economics of peace and war.

o George Anastaplo, Feaured Speaker: The conference’s featured speaker is Professor George Anastaplo from Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, whose life and career been devoted to the idea of justice, both in theory and practice. Professor Anastaplo is the author of more than 15 books, and innumerable articles, including The Constitutionalist: Notes on the First Amendment (1971, 2005), But Not Philosophy: Seven Introductions to Non-Western Thought (2002), The Thinker as Artist: From Homer to Plato & Aristotle (1997), The American Moralist: On Law, Ethics and Government (1992), The Constitution of 1787: A Commentary (1989), The Artist As Thinker: From Shakespeare to Joyce (1983) and Human Being and Citizen: Essays on Virtue, Freedom, and the Common Good (1975). Professor Anastaplo, during his Illinois Bar interview in 1950, took a principled stand against McCarthy era questions asking about his political affiliations, and whether he believed in a right of revolution—he cited the Declaration of Independence to support his view that he and all Americans believe or should believe in such a right. The committee interviewing him was not pleased with his responses, and as a consequence, he has never been admitted to the Bar. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, in his dissent in Professor Anastaplo’s Supreme Court case seeking admission to the Illinois Bar (In Re Anastaplo 1961—which Anastaplo lost 5-4), vigorously defended Anastaplo’s position on first amendment grounds and asserted, among other things, that “we must not be afraid to be free”—Justice Black arranged for this quote, and others from his dissent, to be read at his funeral.

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