Friday, December 21, 2012

CFP: Law and Literature via Bentham

[The twelfth issue of the Revue d’Études Benthamiennes, to be published in autumn 2013, which is to be devoted to Law and Literature.  It will be coordinated by Claire Wrobel (Université Lille 2).  The full call is here.]

Bentham and his followers were undeniably interdisciplinary thinkers as their interests ranged from reforming the legal and political system to economic and colonial matters as well as language. They moved about diverse social circles and, even when they did not meet face to face, reformers and writers often discussed, albeit on different modes, the same issues.

The REB is seeking to publish papers relying on the methodology of “Law and Literature” studies to shed new light on the works and thinking of Bentham and his followers and, conversely, identify what Bentham's theory of fiction or evidence – for instance – may bring to the field.

John Wigmore (1863-1943) is usually regarded as the founding father of the “law and literature” movement. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he established lists of legal novels – meaning novels which included trial scenes or portraits of lawyers for example – which lawyers should read. Wigmore, like Bentham, analysed the common-law system of evidence (Treatise on the Anglo-American System of Evidence in Trials at Common Law, 4 vols, 1904-5). The fact that Bentham and Wigmore's theories of evidence should have been studied conjointly by William Twining is quite significant (Theories of Evidence: Bentham and Wigmore, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1985).

Wigmore's undertaking was supported and continued by some of his colleagues, including Benjamin Cardozo (whose essay on “Law and Literature” was published in the Yale Review in 1925 [vol.14, pp.699-718]) and Richard Posner (who took a critical stance in Law and Literature: a Misunderstood Relation, Harvard University Press, 1988).

The Legal Imagination (Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, [1973] 1985), which James Boyd White, a Law Professor at the University of Michigan, devoted to Shakespeare, provided new impetus to the movement and the field has kept on developing in the United States, especially from the 1990s. Most American law schools now offer “Law and Literature” classes. Three academic reviews centre on the subject: the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, the Legal Studies Forum, and the Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature.

In France, two conferences were organised recently: in 2007 at the Cour de cassation (the French Court of Appeal) and in 2011 at the University of Paris Ouest-Nanterre. In France as in Anglo-Saxon countries, the interest in “Law and Literature” has emerged through law specialists but the field is by its very nature open to other disciplines. This CFP addresses specialists of Law, Literature, but also philosophy.

Contributions may address - but are not necessarily limited to – the axes which are already well-established: law in literature (the way literature reflects – in both senses of the word – the world of law and legal processes), law as literature (the literary properties of legal texts), the law of literature (the laws relating to literary production and intellectual property), legal and literary hermeneutics. Bentham's theories on fictions and evidence may prove particularly fruitful for hermeneutic issues.***

Please send proposals (in French or in English) of around 500 words and a short biography to Emmanuelle de Champs ( and Claire Wrobel ( by December 12th. [Note: we've just received this call here at LHB, so we assume that submissions are still being solicited.]  Acceptance of proposals will be signified in February. Completed articles will be due by June 1st 2013.

Update: The deadline for submissions is now January 20th.