|Penelope Pether (credit)|
This essay has been written for a Symposium organized in remembrance of Penelope (Penny) Pether, Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law, and a leading scholar in the field of law and literature. I take as my point of departure Penny’s essay “The Prose and the Passion,” which appeared in the Australian literary journal Meanjin (2007), and which offers an entry to the world of Penny Pether as commentator – at first on the (scholarly) work of others, but also and increasingly for “others,” for those of us fated to be the targets of cruel and uncaring state power. What emerges for me from these two forms of commentary is a fierce refusal to yield law to the state. Whether founded on the quotidian routines of legal practice, the fragile structures of constitutionalism, or the world of possibilities immanent in the common law, Penny’s commentaries speak of a deep critical faith that law can be what, on occasion, and falteringly, it has been: a shield for the weak and defenseless and deprived, one for which it is worth fighting against those who would make law simply an instrumentality of established power. There is indignant passion in Penny’s prose, and along with it a demand that we put aside our weary cynicism and see the law she wants us to see.