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Law School Lunchtime Research Seminar - Wednesday 6 March 2024

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Location: S2.09 / S2.12

Guest Speaker: Dr Philip Kaisary, Carleton University Ottawa

Title of Talk: The Lost Unity of Social Life: Law and Literature in the World-System

Abstract: This paper begins the theoretical work of developing a materialist and worldly approach to “Law and Literature.” To begin, I observe two longstanding tendencies within ‘Law and Literature’ scholarship: (1) the mobilization of the category of the literary in the attempt to humanize law and (2) the elevation of literary critique to a mode of political praxis via an affiliation with law (tendencies memorably dubbed “the disciplinary hall of mirrors” by Julie Stone Peters). A further (and related) observation is the field’s indebtedness, on the one hand, to liberal humanism, and, on the other, to post-structuralism. Additionally, I suggest that the tendency of scholars working in the field to reference only an attenuated corpus of literary materials indicates the urgency of the task of ‘unthinking’ Eurocentrism as a precondition for a renewal of the law and literature project. In contrast to these approaches, I explore the usefulness to a reconstructed and reoriented law and literature movement of (1) cultural Marxism and (2) recent debates within world literary studies which have sought to elaborate world literature’s relation to the modern capitalist world-system. Following Fredric Jameson, my aim is to “restore, at least methodologically, the lost unity of social life,” to demonstrate that such “widely distant elements of the social totality” as law and literature “are ultimately part of the same global historical process.

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