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Here we are in week Two. I’m going to give you two different lectures this week just to split it up a little bit
in this one, the first one I’m going to talk through, of course, law and literature specifically,
but also a little bit on reading scholarship. How we should read scholarships, some tips and tricks on how to do that, and then i’ll get into a couple of the essays for this week, and in the second recording. I’ll finish up
those essays and talk a little bit more about human rights and literature kind of a subset of law and literature.
So Let’s get started here on scholarship.
There are a number of elements of an article or a book chapter. You know a scholarly essay that it might be confusing if you’re reading it, not knowing that these are conventions of the genre. But let me sort of explain to you what’s happening here, and and some of the readings you’ve done already might make a little bit more sense.
So first things first, what we call the Lit review so peer-reviewed scholarship, including articles book Chapters and entire books provide what we call the Literature Review, or Lit Review for short.
This is where the author or authors provide a history of the field and demonstrate their knowledge of other publications and scholars working in the discipline.
This isn’t always helpful to a reader, especially to one who’s already familiar with the field. But it shows to other experts that the author or authors knows what they’re talking about, that they’re qualified to do so, and that they’ve considered as much of the pre-existing scholarship as possible.
Lit Reviews can also be helpful for readers who aren’t familiar with the field, they provide essentially an annotated bibliography of all the major works that someone studying the subject should read.
So here’s an example from what you read this week from the Kindariotis and good lad
you can see here. I Won’t read out this whole section, but several books are listed inventing human rights by Lynn Hunt. Another book from two thousand and Seven Human Rights, Inc. The World. Novel Narrative Form and International Law, by Joseph Slaughter, who you also read this week?
Um! This is the sort of thing that,
and the Lit review looks like It’s going to list books. Talk about them briefly, and move on. This may seem strange if you’re not used to reading essays like this, but it’s It’s a pretty standard convention in scholarly work
next a chapter Summary.
So three of the articles you read for this week were introductions to peer-reviewed scholarly journal issues, all of them but the weisberg
This means They each provide a descriiption of what else is to come in the rest of the journal or book, including brief descriiptions of what each essay is about. This can be helpful when you’re researching. If you find a journal issue that seems to be on your topic. But you’re not sure which essays in that journal issue issue to read.
Start with the introduction that’ll lay out what’s what, so you can decide which of the essays is most relevant to your topic.
Here’s an example from the Beat and Lincoln.
This one says: If the action of equity is to unveil. It may also be to traverse between law and literature, between life and death. Paren Gary Watt,
That means that that sentence is summarizing what the essay by Gary Watt in that collection is about the next sentence. Here, without a doubt, the oneric imagination and the dream of law resemble and play with one another. That’s Paul Rafield’s essay.
There’s another one by Sandra Travers default. Rear
a second example again from the Canarytis and good lot. Um doesn’t use this parentheses, but still talks about the essays and the issues. So you see here in the first essay in the special issue, Malachuk, This is the name of the scholar reconsiders the case for human rights from the vantage of post Secularism,
and goes on to explain this chapter.
So if you’re wondering why these other essays are being described. It’s because the point of what you were reading is to introduce you to the whole issue or the whole book.
Next, we have signposting. One really helpful academic writing strategy is to incorporate signposting into the introduction of the essay. I’ll also say you’re going to need to do that in your work for me this term
signposting essentially means telling your reader what to expect in the rest of the essay what are the main points. What order does the essay discuss them?
Not all essays include sign posting, but the ones that do are often easier to follow as a reader.
Here’s an example from the Weisberg and I’ve written this one out and highlighted the beginning of each of the sign posting statements, so that you can sort of see how this works. It says the essay
first brings the non-specialist reader up to date on the various claims, counter-claims and provocations connected to American law and literature scholarship. It reveals that the field has burst through to dynamic invocations and many other countries.
Finally, it restates what is always already there in the modern version of the interdiscipline, etc.
If you really is breaking down the essay, it’s first going to do this, then it will do that, and finally it will do this really helpful when you’re writing or reading an academic essay.
And of course, the thesis. The thesis should be evident in the beginning of any essay. What is the point of the essay? What is it trying to explain to you?
Sometimes it is really clearly marked. The author might, for instance, say, I argue. My claim is, this essay contends, in order to signal what the thesis is.
Other thesis statements might be trickier to identify, but there should always be one.
Here’s the example from Weinberg and I’ve highlighted in blue. The start of that thesis statement
says the path to justice is always always is readily available in these stories. It is the identifiable reason for its denial that helps the practitioner understand and correct why law so often goes terribly wrong. The claim is that only fictional narratives which move through time, together with characters whose actions and words are revealed, permit us to understand dynamically the jurisprudence of our era.
Now one more tip here is if you’re reading through a sentence, and you’re getting overwhelmed with it. That’s one. Have you of a sentence? What does it mean?
Try to take out the subordinate clauses. So anything that starts with a P. With a witch here which move through time. Take that out and try to read the sentence again. The claim is that only fictional narratives permit us to understand dynamically the jurisprudence of our era.
That’s a much more straightforward sentence, and then you can add in that clause at the end, if you like.
So those are some strategies, some elements of of essays that may help you read them in future.
So let’s get into the first essay that you read for this week by Christian Beet and Lisa Lincoln Introduction, Law and literature that and is italicized there.
This is the introduction to a journal, special issue, as mentioned, The journal is law and humanities from two thousand and eleven. This is a peer-reviewed journal which we’ve talked about.
Now, Christian, be it, I will tell you. Is his phd is a professor of theatre at Paris non-tired university. Actually, I believe he passed away a few years ago. Melissa Lincoln has a Phd. In French literature and theory, and is a professor at American University in Paris. So both of these these folks are coming from literature, from theater and from theory, not directly from law,
but nonetheless they are experts.
Carolyn Ownbey, PhD (she/her)
So let me read through some quotes from this essay: Um, And and really just sort of think about What is it saying? What is this essay saying about law, about literature, et cetera.
So in this first quote they’re they’re actually talking about another scholar working, and they say this:
for Dwarkin law is an interpretive concept and legal interpretation is a creative, not reproductive operation, similar to that of a work of art.
The interpreters of law, that is to say, judges are thus novelists of a sort, writing and publishing one after another in the courtrooms a great chain novel with its agreed constraints and spaces of freedom.
It’s not how we typically think of the law. We think of the law as more factual. It’s just applying legislation, but really for dwarf and for many others. It is an interpretive concept and and creative. Um. So it’s important to
broaden your your thinking about law. To maybe include this as well.
Next, we have Law is thus defined as a story in progress. This follows from before, when it was called a great chain novel. Here now we have a story in progress
again very different idea than thinking of the law, as fixed, as static, as objective and true. In some sense it is evolving. It’s a story in progress,
literature. The authors here say, quote, elaborates fictions that compensate for the gaps in law, or correct its contradictions.
In so doing it constructs new characters and strategies which are rooted in law, and in the end escape it. Literature thus relies on law to set up spaces where
thought can surpass and explore. Legal norms play upon their contradictions, and represent interannormative inter-normative situations which extend beyond the legal framework.
So this is one articulation of the relationship between law and literature.
How do they make sense together. Well, literature compensates for gaps or correct contradictions in the law, and I didn’t highlight it here. But literature relies on the law
to set up spaces to give them, you know, room to explore legal ideas and such like.
Now remember the approaches that we talked about last week to law and to literature.
One of them is thinking about how one can influence the development or theorization of the other,
and that’s sort of what we’re seeing here in a certain way.
Next, the authors discuss how scholars consider law and its practice to be incorporated in the study of theatre and literary narrative, and how they assess the structuring element that law provides for the arts. So literature
provides. You know it fills the gaps, talks through the contradictions. Law provides a structuring element That’s what these two authors are talking about here.
Now. This essay is broken into three sections after the introductory bit first is mapping the question where they’re really getting into just the idea of law and literature together.
The second is titled judicial and Literary Fictions from the Middle Ages, the modern period that’s essentially a history of law and literature together, and then theory and practice at the end.
So let’s go through these one by one, mapping. The question first of all
quote the first section. An introduction of source consists of mapping the question, considering it from all angles, and showing how the law and literature movement allows for a theoretical jeopardizing of legal theory.
Some respond that literature constructs, instructs, indeed, even establishes or reinforces a possible or ideal law.
Others contend that law and literature are both arts of interpretation, and that this fact alone obliges us to note that legal studies belongs first and foremost to the human sciences.
There’s a lot going on here, But I want to think about that that bit in blue. The Law and Literature movement allows for a theoretical jeopardizing
of legal theory. It puts it in danger. It questions it. You see this come up in the Weisberg as well. Sometimes legal scholars, legal theorists feel
threatened by the idea of law and literature, and I think it’s important to think about. Why might that be right? Some respond that literature makes it an an ideal law. Others say they’re both arts of interpretation. Well, let’s think about this as as we move forward in the semester
next here, Kia and Lincoln lay out these three quick statements. First, the law based itself on a practice which is only objective in appearance; second, Roman law itself. Doesn’t forego building an ideal vision of the world.
And third, the law, like literature, produces fictions.
Now I talked about a lot of this last week in lecture how Law isn’t really objective, and that it. It does sort of create an ideal vision of the world, and then try to enforce that vision,
and it produces fictions, of course. And all of these things are, you know. How do we understand the law? Is it really as different from literature as we typically think? It is
all right? The second section, judicial and literary fictions from the Middle Ages to the modern period. This is the sort of historical section.
Ah! The second section here takes stock of the fact that the law was performed, interpreted, and analyzed in literature just as much in the Middle Ages as in the early modern and modern period.
In this section. It is a question of historicizing theoretical reflections on the and of law and literature. In order to understand how these early narrative and theatrical devices fed off of law; and conversely, how law took into consideration artistic devices in its own functioning.
So, as I mentioned last week, most scholars will candidate in the twentieth century. For when the law and literature, field sort of came into being, but Whatbia and Lincoln are pointing out here is that
this relationship that law and literature had with each other way way pre-exist the twentieth century historicizing it means that we’re going to look at how this has happened in history.
How these two things have happened in history, law, and literature, how they’ve had a relationship
Um! And so, just to back that point up law and literature did not wait until the twentieth century to come into a relation of play and to permeate one another. The examples found in Shakespeare are less of an exception than a rule. So
these two things, law and literature not only have a relationship in terms of scholars looking at them and studying them together, but they really have something to do with each other from from the Middle Ages and beyond
next year. The authors consider quote how law schools are at once theater schools and schools for thinking law and theater together. Most courtrooms are considered theaters. They are really a place for performance and interpretation. And remember, be it. Ah, himself was a professor of theater. So so that’s likely. Why, this comes up here.
Final section, theory and practice.
We start as saying, The journal issue provides a consideration of the different theories and practices implied by the link between law, literature, and the arts. They ultimately argue that theories outside of law can thus be invoked in order to ask ourselves what law might be.
We’re talking about this a lot already Right? We’re allowing literature to help us think about? What is the law? The
how do we think about it? Are we right? Could it be different? And could we study it differently? And that’s what this journal issue is doing here, and in this theory and practice section. They also provide an example of how the personal criminal file becomes literary,
even fabricated, and at the same time turns fiction into judicial evidence. They’re blurring those lines to ask questions about what the law is.
And finally, from this essay quote: What if, in the end, the connections between law and literature were built on an absolutely imaginary ideal terrain, and at the same time on a terrain that is absolutely practical and real, revealed by the dream of fiction.
Now I love this so it seems like a contradictory quote. You know it’s absolutely imaginary and ideal, but it’s also deeply practical and real. Try to think about that right. The connections between law and literature. Of course, we’re making them up, and we’re trying to use one to better imagine and to imagine ideally the other.
But that has real consequences. That’s really practically useful.
Now let’s talk about the Richard Weisberg quickly. So this is the one of the four essays you read this week. That is not the introduction to a journal.
It is a contribution to a journal issue. So it’s an essay within a journal issue on the Future of Legal Studies, published in two thousand and sixteen. This is what remains real about the law and literature movement a global appraisal.
Richard Weisberg is a really big name in law and literature. He received A. Ph. D. A. Phd. Excuse me from Cornell University, has A. J. D. From Columbia University, and is a professor of law at Cardozo Law School, which, if you remember from last week. That is where the journal, Law and literature is housed
uh fewer slides on this essay than the last. But let’s get into them.
He starts out telling us for several decades. The reincarnation of studies labeled Law and literature has served to enliven, challenge and threaten traditional legal discourse.
Now this echo is something that that the previous essay said Right that’s threatened Ah! Which which is interesting, that this lawyer was bringing that up right. Ah, but he also puts it in terms of enlivening and challenging. So he wants to, I think think about. Should we be threatened, or should we really be using law literature to serve traditional legal discourse.
Next year, he says, quote, recognized in late century and beyond as one of the primary contributors to North American jurisprudence, law, and literature continues to inspire from both sides of the aisle, and that means, from the law side and from the literature side,
a discourse not so much of ironic abhorrence of the law as of an aspiration to just norms of law, and an insistence that perennial deviations from such norms are neither inevitable nor inexplicable.
Now this is a lot of sort of jargon here. But the point is, is the point of his whole essay. In some ways he wants to make law and the practice of law more just, and saying that you know
perennial deviations. By that he means often the law is not just in practice.
Often people deviate from that it gets read incorrectly things aren’t just, and he he wants to use literature to say
that doesn’t have to be the case. Law isn’t just flawed and can’t be practiced justly, and the way that we can figure out how to practice it in a more just manner is by studying literature.
Next slide here you says: This is the point. Only fictional narratives which move through time, together with characters whose actions and words are revealed, permit us to understand dynamically the jurisprudence of our era. Again,
read just the blueprint part. Only fictional narratives permit us to understand
dynamically the jurisprudence of our era.
This is his whole point in purpose. He is a champion for literature, and what it can do for us as legal scholars, as practicing lawyers. Even
He then goes on to quote Paul Khan, who is at the Yale Law School. Ah! Saying this, of course I am not the only humanist working in the building cons of the Yale Law school, but all of us suffer from the sense that we are merely ornamental. We, the humanists, which is to say, scholars of humanities,
we are tolerated. In order to make the school more attractive to the rest of the university. My colleagues frequently ask me what is the evidence to support your claims about the nature of law or the legal imagination.
They expect me to cite hauling data, or perhaps to design social psychology experiments. How else can we quote know what people think. I respond that there is no reason to prefer a poll to a film,
and that we learn what people think by looking at the products of their imaginations, books, poetry, films, political rhetoric, judicial opinions, performances, and practices.
This is a great way to think about law and literature together, right thinking of.
How do we learn what people think? In a certain time period, in a certain place or culture? We can look at all of these things. We don’t need to just all people and ask them. But judicial opinions can tell us what people think books, novels,
Tv shows, can tell us what people think, and what gets accepted, and not
so part of what we’re studying when we study law and literature is the context, the historical moment, the society, et cetera.
All right, just a couple more here.
Close readings of judicial texts have always been part of long literature studies. These insist on narrative, not as ornament, but as weapon
legal authorities reach good results when they organize words soundly, and they air sometimes badly when they bring words and structure to the service of unjust outcomes.
But when these close readings are juxtaposed to the wisdom gained from stories about law, literary jurisprudence takes on its exceptional quality and its key insight is the revelation that either judicial error or infinite interpretive maneuverability is endemic to law,
at least law is soundly practiced. Neither close scrutiny of legal text nor close readings of stories about the law demonstrate the inevitability of unjust legal outcomes within the stories of the law, a pathway to a sound and fair outcome always exists.
So the things that I’ve highlighted here I want to just focus on for a moment that first but close readings of judicial texts. You’ll remember.
I talked. Ah! In those four approaches the first one is close reading, right close reading of judicial text and post reading of literary texts. Of always, he says, been part of law and literature studies.
The second thing Well, ah! In blue here, I think I also said in different words in my lecture last week right. The law reaches good results when they’re dealing with words well
and bad results when they are not dealing with words Well, and so our job part of our job here is to learn to organize words and read words
better, and therefore in the service of just, not unjust outcomes.
Finally, this last bit. Neither judicial error nor infinite interpretive maneuverability is endemic to law. This is essentially what he was saying, what he said earlier, that the law isn’t by its nature necessarily flawed. It’s that we practice it
in a way where there are errors made. And so we really need to look at literature to help us understand how to practice it more justly.
following from that previous Weisberg says in writers such as Dostoyevsky, Camus, Bernard, Mellenwood, Frederick Durinmutt William Faulkner, or Katherine and Porter to name. Just a few judicial error happens almost constantly, but literary literary Jewish prudence recognizes and emphasizes that these storytellers are careful to demarcate a potential road to soundness often embodied in a lawyer who tragically winds up being defeated.
This injustice, however, is not systemic. It happens because of negligent reckless or willful missteps taken by other judicial figures in the story,
as usually cannot be done in an actual investigation. The reader of such narratives moves back and forth through its pages to detect with complete precision the fateful detours from accuracy the internal flaws that lead some characters to distort the law and the concomitant attack by such legalistic wrongdoers on those who would stand in their way.
So here Weisberg is really talking about reading literature that has judicial
errors in it that has a story that has judicial errors, and being able to study that, to study the negligent, reckless, or wilful missteps. And all of this other stuff here. You can’t. You can’t really do that with a court case that you know, has a judicial error in it.
In a novel you get a chance to do that
all right. One more shorter recording coming up.
All right, folks. Here is the second and shorter of the lectures for this week. So this one is going to focus on these other two essays that you read which focus more on human rights and literature rather than just law and literature. So we’re getting into a little bit of nuance here.
So, first and foremost, we have the Eleni, Kanderiotis and Lauren, M. E. Good Lad Essay. This is an instruction to a journal Special issue on comparative human rights, literature, art, and politics.
Now Eleni Cindariotis has a Ph. She from Columbia University, and she’s a professor of English at University of Connecticut.
Lauren me. Goodlab is a professor of
professor of English at Ruckers University, and also got her Phd. From Columbia,
only a couple of slides on this one. I really wanted to have you read this to think about literature and art, politics, these things, together with law, with human rights.
So the first quote here: What have literary studies contributed to scholarship on human rights.
That is their point and purpose. That is the point and purpose of all of the essays to follow. They want to think about literary studies and scholarship on human rights. And how are these things
have to do with one another?
They also say the multidisciplinary attention to human rights in the humanities and social sciences today explores the exchange between political,
legal, and ethical discourses on human rights and cultural texts,
including literature, the visual and performing arts, film and popular culture.
And I wanted to put this here primarily to say, we are studying literature in this class that is our primary avenue here, but the visual and performing Arts film, popular culture. These things also have a place.
These things also have a relationship to human rights to the law in in really substantial ways. And we’re learning to read literature specifically, which is often privileged among the disciplines in its relationship to law. And I think that’s for good reason, because so much of the law is written, and really needs good reading skills in order to
parse it out to make it work.
But learning to study. Film, for instance, is also really really deeply helpful. Think about that. Quote from that two thousand and seven Supreme Court case where the the Supreme Court was happy to let a videotape speak for itself.
As I said last week, any scholar of film would laugh at that statement. You can’t let it speak for itself. There’s nothing obvious, or there’s plenty that isn’t obvious. Rather about a piece of film by looking at the ways that it’s film the angle, the framing. What’s outside of the frame? What does the lighting do? What’s the sound on on the video, etc.
There’s so many ways that you can look at that and read that, and contextualize that differently.
Same is true for visual and performing arts and for other elements of popular culture.
This is the last quote here for condoriatis and good lab. Really, Don’t have many for you, but this is what they they’re framing. The rest of the essays in that journal issue.
They say, quote the essays that follow. That’s a typo. Apologies explore human rights as a framework through which humanists Again, humanity scholars might consider the complex relations between art and power, culture and the State.
Now, here they’re expanding the question of human rights or law to to encapsulate even more power in general, the State, you know the the government in general, and how these things have to do with art, culture,
literature, film, performance, And this is something we are going to get into, particularly when we start getting into the novels in the course.
This also tracks with one of those approaches that we talked about right. One of the four approaches of law and literature was thinking about institutions, thinking about systems
more broadly, not just looking at one individual law. But looking at the whole deal. And that’s that’s something that the essays in this journal issue are really getting at those complex relations between our and power, culture and the State.
All right. Final essay that you read for this week. Sophia and Mclennan and Joseph are slaughters, introducing human rights and literary forms, or the vehicles and vocabulary of human rights.
This is an introduction to a journal. Special issue and comparative literature studies comparative literature is sort of its own field um, similar to and and overlapping with literature. But comparative literature is its own kind of area. Um, often dealing with literature in different cultures and languages, and such like.
Now Sophia Mclennan has a Phd. From Duke University, and she is a professor of international affairs and comparative literature at Penn State.
Joseph Slaughter has a Phd. From the University of Texas at Austin, and is a professor at Columbia University, also in comparative literature. He’s also like the tallest man I’ve maybe ever met in my life.
So these two co-wrote this introduction to this journal special issue,
and they get really into the language of human rights, and how we use and can use, and should use that language, how literature and study literature can help us.
So here we go. If the idea and language of human rights first emerged in efforts to resist abuses of power and to redress social inequities. If they emerged as a project to put the human being and its requirements at the center of democratic society and modern social formations.
Human rights have also often provided the moral vocabulary for rationalizing abuses of state power and the exclusion of some people from the human community.
So we always think about the idea and language of human rights as a positive thing. You demand your rights. I demand citizenship and the rights that come along with that.
But one of the crucial things that Maclennan and Solder point out here is that no matter how you intend to use that language, it can always be used by someone else to do the opposite thing.
They can say, i’m a citizen, and therefore I want this right and that, whatever that right is maybe that infringes on somebody else’s rights.
So thinking about how tricky language can be, and how that can both include people in the human community and exclude people from the human community.
There’s three examples that they give of this sort of slipperiness of the language, we might say, stop when human rights are under threat everywhere, especially when the language of human rights is used to justify their violation.
Um! So that’s that’s the slipperiness. As I said of language. They give a a historical example, saying the language and law of human rights was so watered down at one point that waterboarding no longer qualified as torture, but airstrikes counted as humanitarian action.
Now we’ve all been around and seen how this these sort of justifications work. And you might think, Yeah, well just war. That makes sense. But what they’re trying to say is, you know, air strikes on the surface, and humanitarianism on the surface do not seem like the same thing.
And how how does language work to make those things seem like the same thing Here,
then, in this last quote they talk about this New World order,
characterized by a shift from law to rights, in which humanitarian intervention, like Nato’s, one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in defense of Kosovo may be illegal, but legitimate, and
that illegal but legitimate is so interesting. How do these things work? What’s what’s legal, but
would leave illegal? Excuse me, but legitimate it can be against the law, but it is supporting rights that’s that shift from law to rights that they’re trying to think about.
So things are tricky,
all right. Next. They say so. Not only are human rights everywhere; they are on the move. The words we use to refer to human rights practices, and to imagine social justice today may mean something else entirely when they are spoken by by authoritarian voices of power tomorrow,
and they surely meant something else. Yesterday.
I think one thing that’s easy to forget is how much language changes based on context based on history and culture. And this is the warning right. And this is one of the reasons why it’s really important to be able to step back from your presumptions, from your biases, to look at writing and think. What does this actually mean?
How does this actually mean? What is it trying to convince me of that. Maybe isn’t obvious, because the obvious meaning
is sometimes not the one that actually should be heard right. If you’re hearing those same words out of, as they say, Here are authoritarian voices of power that’s not going to mean the same thing as if they’re being said by. You know, democratic revolutionaries, or something like that.
All right, here is the next quote here:
Human rights are the proper name of a particular set of promises about a future of social equality and justice, about the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from ear and want as the preamble to the universal Declaration of human rights. Vdhr. Articulated in one thousand nine hundred and forty eight. This means that there is always a gap between the imagination of human rights and the state of their.
Carolyn Ownbey, PhD (she/her)
the imagination and the state of their practice. Once again, thinking of the law. The law imagines an ideal world, and tries to legislate that. And then
the question of their enforcement. Their practice might be different. It might look different than that it might not actually be creating that ideal imagined world, but something else.
Thus they say, students of culture
risk practical irrelevance. If we fail to recognize the juridical importance and institutional status of human rights as a legal regime,
which is to say, we can’t get too away from the point. Here we need to be thinking about the law. We can’t just be thinking about culture. We need to think about how they work together.
Indeed, they say in an era when human rights are under assault by governments that cytically manipulate sentiment to undercut the legal authority and institutional legitimacy of human rights, it may even be imperative for us to insist upon the letter of the law.
We whose job it is to read, and ostensibly we read well, sometimes have to hold the line on the law. When legal scholars and justice officials get out of line
here, they put it really directly right. We whose job it is to read. Well have to hold the line. We have a responsibility here to hold legal scholars and justice officials to account, because we can read it better than they can
all right. The next four slides they’re the last four slides are all about form, and i’m going to talk a little bit at the end of this of this lecture about form. But but think about form which is different than content. Okay, for we, we’ll get into that in a bit. But let’s. Let’s read the quote.
How often do we show a film or read a testimonial in human rights classes whether social science oriented or humanity-based where only the plot and themes are discussed.
What are we missing when such texts are taught with little or no attention to the forms of their expression?
If there has been one ongoing threat in humanity’s research in the past three decades it is that culture cannot be understood without reference to the politics of representation,
symbolic forums, societal context and representational meanings are intimately tied to relations of power.
The rich and messy nexus formed by political representation and the politics of representation that is at the center of human rights. Issues demands attention not only to the intersections between culture and law, but also to the ways that these discourses make and unmake meaning.
So this is this is a guiding principle for this class. We are paying attention to the ways that meaning is made and unmade in some cases, and we’re doing that through studying literature. But we’re not going to do what it says in the first blue highlighted part up here. Only discuss the plot and fiends. We will discuss plot and beans, but we will also be discussing the forms of their expression.
Let me move on here, and we’ll. We’ll get into this a bit more in a moment.
Here’s an example
that they give about form.
Ah! Talking about Michael and Dutch’s novel on Meals ghost. They say. This quote on an unnumbered page appears a much longer version of the following truncated list, and i’ll just let you read the list there.
The page itself reproduces a portion of a list of unresolved disappearances in the Sri Lankan Civil War, that was published in a one thousand nine hundred and ninety two amnesty international report, and that was later submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Center to the Un Commission on Human Rights on February two thousand and five.
But clearly this list cannot have the urgency of an amnesty action appeal in the enduring medium of a cloth-bound novel.
What, then, is the status of this list as advocacy as art.
What can we learn about the genoma of lists in human rights work and literature?
Does the endurance and afterlife of the list in a literary medium, reflect in some way the prolonged suffering and loss of disappearance does its endless seriality formally capture the interminability of present absences.
Now this is a lot of a lot of complicated questions here, but what it comes down to is Michael and Dutch a novelist wr it’s a fiction story. A fictional novel called Emil’s Ghost, and
that novel includes a non-fiction list. A real-life list from an amnesty international report.
Now, when that report with these same exact words was submitted to the Un Commission on Human Rights that had urgency right that had some sort of a legal claim
in this novel. It can’t right. It’s just a novel. It’s already been submitted this Isn’t submitting it to the Un. Or anything like that. But what is it doing?
And the questions at the end. Here, give some thoughts on. Maybe this is how this functions and it functions differently in a novel, because it’s a novel. So we’re going to think about that This term
all right, almost there. Second to last, they say. Well, one of our central claims here in the essay is that we cannot talk about human rights without talking about the forms in which we talk about human rights from a formalist perspective. Legal documents are just one of the many forms in which human rights discourses circulate, and in which human rights claims are articulated.
Right. There are lots of forms that human rights discourses circulate in. Think about the memoir or the expose. Think about witness testimony to you know, a criminal court hearing. Think about trials of war criminals,
right? There’s all sorts of forms.
It also happens in literature, in short stories, in novels and poems those are all different forms. So we need to think about how the form that we’re reading the content and changes. How we read that content.
This is the last quote. Here, we maintain, is where much of the social work and political potential of cultural production lies for may, in fact, be the only way to adequately recognize them.
Paying attention to form enables us also to think about the human rights, implications of cultural works that do not seem thematically or immediately related to human rights.
Now that second sense, therefore, may in fact, be the only way to adequately recognize them.
This is this is a cornerstone of literary studies. Right is we can’t just think about the content of a piece. We can’t just think about the themes. Because
what if the form is undermining that? What if the form is secretly manipulating us to read this differently
right form has a lot of effects, and we’re going to talk about that a lot this term.
Now, I want to talk about forming content, because it took me years to sort of really grab my brain around it. And I think there’s actually a really helpful
descriiption or example that I can give you actually from biology to think about form and content together. So in literary studies we say form and content. In biology we say structure and function.
What does that mean? It means that the structure i’m going to give you an example of this cute little guy in a moment that the structure of something influences how it functions. So take a desert fox.
Here, look at this this animal’s ears all right. These ears are huge. This is authentic fox. It’s got these huge, huge, massive ears. Why are they shaped like that?
Well, because this animal lives in the desert where it gets really really hot. And so it needs to have huge ears. Why, in order to cool off, those ears are full of blood vessels, so it can put the blood into its ears, cool them off in the air and in the wind,
so the actual shape
influences how it works right. They’re also huge and shaped the way that they are. Ah, with all the fur in them specifically, so that that animal can hear tiny, tiny little footsteps of little mice and the other things that it eats, the shape of the thing influences how it works, what its purpose is.
We should think the same way about literature,
think about and film and other things. Think about the difference between a short story that’s ten pages and a novel that’s three hundred pages. Think about the difference between one Tv episode and a full length feature film.
They do different things. They’re shaped in different ways, and there’s a lot of ways that we can think of forum beyond just novel versus short story. But What order is the story told?
Who is telling the story? What’s introduced? In which order?
How do the words appear on the page? We’ll look at all of these different things, and more throughout this term. But
keep that in mind, form, and content. You’re probably very used to talking about theme and content, and less used to talking about form. So keep that at the front of your mind. How is the shape of this determining how it works, and how I understand it
now. The last thing I will say for next week. I do recommend that you listen first to the lecture on South African history and context, before you do the reading. Ah! For next week a rare time will, and i’ll ask you to do that, but not not a crisis if you don’t, but that is my recommendation,
and that is it. For this week’s, lectures,
COMMENT ON THESE PEOPLE/1. Ian Dick – Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 10:23 PM
Hello Class and Professor,
I have always found it odd that we are more technologically advanced and connected to other humans, some that could be on the other side of the globe, and we still have governments around the world that abuse human rights. The first thing that spoke to me was when Professor Ownbey said that laws are written in a manner that requires advanced reading skills, yet the majority of the population is not educated to the level to read said laws and interpret them correctly. Would an abusive government not benefit from the governed not being able to read and understand the laws that are in place for them?
Further into the lecture, “indeed, in an era when human rights are under assault by governments that cynically manipulate sentiment to undercut the legal authority of institutional legitimacy of human rights, it may even be imperative for us to insist upon the letter of the law.” (McClennen and Slaughter 6) leads me to believe that laws implemented to protect human rights can be overruled or combatted by politicians, as long as they can gain the support of a portion of the public.
Without scholars and experts to precisely interpret laws and teach others those laws as well, would an abusive government be able to cross lines and revoke human rights? If the supreme court, who are not experts or filmography scholars, believe they can view a video and allow it to speak for itself, are we even sure that other politicians are well versed in the laws they pass or uphold? I feel that human rights are more important to protect than, especially when what is or is not a human right has been a major talking point for the last decade. The week 2 lecture sparked an interest in learning further about how law, literature, and human rights go hand in hand.
2. Adrian Carrillo – Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 6:08 PM
This week’s lectures helped clear up a lot when it came to the four papers that we were assigned to read. When the week started, I read the essays first to be able to do the first discussion and then watched the lectures after for the second discussion. I am not sure if I did that the write or best way, but I think it worked out doing it that way for me. That is because reading the essays first challenged me in trying to analyze the essays. Some I feel I was not far off in understanding the main parts and some I was a little off. Watching the lectures after helped in clearing up the confusion I had and made the essays make more sense.
One thing that really stood out to me from the lecture was about law being defined as a story in progress. I picked this up in the reading but hearing it explained was still interesting. The definition makes sense because every time a lawyer or anyone interprets the law, it evolves or progresses. It makes me think how 20 years ago, a law might have been viewed in one perspective but as time went on and humanity changes, that same law might hold a different meaning.
Another interesting point was the points made about human rights. There was the statement that really got me thinking and that was, “I’m a citizen, and therefore I want this right..” This was interesting to read because who’s to say what are actually our human rights and what we just feel are our human rights? There are a lot of topics that can be viewed as rights but are other people’s rights being infringed on when those certain “rights” are being exercised. Who’s to say or be the final say on what is a right and what is not. That is where things can definitely start to get tricky like it was mentioned in the lecture.
Lastly, the descriiption given on form and structure was very helpful. I have heard of theme and content being referenced before though and thought it was the same but that does not seem like the case. The comparison with the fox helped break that down and hopefully something I can refer to in the coming weeks when I need it again.
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