Friday, June 28, 2019

Tang on early modern European literature and international law

Chenxi Tang, University of California at Berkeley, published Imagining World Order: Literature and International Law in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800 in 2018 with Cornell University Press. From the publisher; 
Imagining World Order: Literature and International Law in Early Modern Europe, 1500–1800
In early modern Europe, international law emerged as a means of governing relations between rapidly consolidating sovereign states, purporting to establish a normative order for the perilous international world. However, it was intrinsically fragile and uncertain, for sovereign states had no acknowledged common authority that would create, change, apply, and enforce legal norms. In Imagining World Order, Chenxi Tang shows that international world order was as much a literary as a legal matter. To begin with, the poetic imagination contributed to the making of international law. As the discourse of international law coalesced, literary works from romances and tragedies to novels responded to its unfulfilled ambitions and inexorable failures, occasionally affirming it, often contesting it, always uncovering its problems and rehearsing imaginary solutions.
Tang highlights the various modes in which literary texts—some highly canonical (Camões, Shakespeare, Corneille, Lohenstein, and Defoe, among many others), some largely forgotten yet worth rediscovering—engaged with legal thinking in the period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. In tracing such engagements, he offers a dual history of international law and European literature. As legal history, the book approaches the development of international law in this period—its so-called classical age—in terms of literary imagination. As literary history, Tang recounts how literature confronted the question of international world order and how, in the process, a set of literary forms common to major European languages (epic, tragedy, romance, novel) evolved.
Praise for the book: 
 "Imagining World Order is one of the most engaging books to appear in the field of early modern comparative literature. Tang’s analysis of the histories of early modern literary genre and the emergent discourse of international law is ambitious, significant and could not be more convincing."
- John Watkins

"Chenxi Tang’s work is remarkable, as is the scope of the study: spanning texts of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries while situating its discussion in relevant classical and medieval antecedents. This book will make a welcome contribution to scholarship on the history of law and New Diplomatic History."
- Mark Netzloff

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi