Literature and law

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GRAAT online

GRAAT Online
"Literature and Law"
The idea of academic "discipline" has a long and venerable history, reaching back to the Renaissance and beyond. But the term "discipline" with the meaning of "branch of knowledge" or "department" only started to come into common use from about 1850. A century later, the concept of "inter-disciplinary studies" had already gained considerable ground among educational theorists: in 1972, the OECD was sufficiently interested in the concept to publish a report –"Interdisciplinarity: Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities"– which concluded that disciplines "should be taught in the context of their dynamic interrelationships and societal problems". A change of culture was clearly underway. Since then interdisciplinary studies have emerged within the academic world and beyond. Within this developing field, there has been notable interest in the law and literature, religion and literature, literature and science, environmental issues and literature.
Benjamin N. Cardozo first explored the special relationship between law and literature in the United States in the 1930s. The Law and Literature movement, whose origins are often traced to James Boyd White, emerged in the 1970s (The Legal Imagination, 1973). A number of universities and law colleges in English-speaking countries now teach the law and literature as an interdisciplinary subject to their future lawyers and judges. The Law and Literature movement has given birth to Law in Literature and Law as Literature. The former is concerned to show how legal themes, situations and institutions are (re)presented in fiction. The latter focuses on similarities in the processes, priorities and values which underpin the creation and composition of legal documents and those of literature – thus making literary analysis of the former possible.
Nowadays interdisciplinary studies in law and literature extend well beyond the limits of universities and law colleges. In most English-speaking countries lawyers and judges have frequent recourse to literature in their pleadings or judgments. The theoretical phenomena described by Cardozo, Posner or White have now given rise to practical applications by academics, lawyers and judges alike.
Does the use of literature respond to a specific need among English-speaking lawyers/judges? Or has this development rather been dictated by academics? Are there any limits (geographical or otherwise) to the interaction between law and literature? And how and by whom are these limits set? What criteria dictate the choice by academics, lawyers or judges of some authors over others? In what ways can literature be used by lawyers and judges? Does literature give any added value to a legal opinion or judicial decision? Conversely can literature distort the course of justice? To what extent can literature and law academics work hand in hand? How can the traditional and theoretical meanings of the law and literature interdisciplinary movement be expected to evolve further?

GRAAT Online welcomes contributions relating to literature and law in the English-speaking world, contributions which may address, but are not necessarily limited to, the following areas:

• the historical development of law/literature interdisciplinary studies
• developments of this field across geographical/cultural borders
• the vulgarisation/popularisation of law through literature
• law and literature: from a new trend to a new culture?
• academics and/as lawyers – lawyers and/as academics
• specific authors and their depiction/use of literature in judicial decisions
• academic and judicial limits of literature and law

Please send proposals of around 250 words and a short biography by 12 November to Geraldine Gadbin-George ( and Trevor Harris ( Completed articles will be due for 15 May 2013.