Warwick Law School News
The latest updates from our department
Gary Watt secures major Leverhulme Fellowship
Gary Watt, Warwick Law School Professor and National Teaching Fellow has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship. The award includes a grant of £175,554 to buy out Gary’s teaching for a period of three years allowing him to undertake a major research project.
Gary told us, “I’m delighted to get the award, although somewhat daunted by it. It is the first externally-funded research leave that I have had in twenty-five years as a full-time university academic, so it’s a rare chance to work to a different routine and I’m conscious of the responsibility to make the most of it.”
For many years Gary has been committed in his teaching and research to the appreciation of law by the critical lights of the arts and humanities. He has published books on law and literature, Shakespeare and the law plus dress and law, and was also responsible for the creation of the Law and Humanities journal with Warwick Law’s Paul Raffield, which he continues to co-edit today. He is also general editor of the six-book series A Cultural History of Law, which is due to be published later this year. “The Leverhulme Fellowship gives me a sustained opportunity to pursue this passion for interdisciplinary work.”
Through the project, Gary will test his theory that law’s activities, especially advocacy and judgment in Common Law courts, are better appreciated as creative and artistic processes of production (production of persuasive narratives, satisfactory outcomes, plausible facts etc.) rather than as scientific processes of fact-finding and discovery of abstract truth. He will go on to ask whether this way of appreciating law can help us better understand how judgments are formed (that is per-formed) in courts of popular opinion through traditional and social media. He added “hopefully we will acquire a deeper appreciation of what it means to talk of ‘post-truth politics’, ‘fake news’ and ‘trial by twitter’.”
We asked Gary what he hopes to achieve with this research. He told us he expects the project will lead to the publication of books but that he would also like to populate an online resource to encourage general public awareness of the methods by which social and political performance persuades us to particular points of view. He shared, “I hope this research will encourage legal scholars and law students to take seriously the possibility that law’s activities might be elucidated by the lights of humanities’ scholarship. I think the health of the legal profession, as well as the health of social and political debate, depends on it.”
There are increasing numbers of legal scholars working in the arts and humanities, as well as humanities scholars working on legal themes. Gary hopes this award will be an encouragement to that growing academic community. “It certainly helps me to invest much more time to developing and expressing my ideas and to learning from humanities scholars through reading, conferences and so forth.”
“I’ve always believed that good research should naturally feed into teaching and that good teaching should be research-led. I won’t be teaching for a few years, but I trust that I will return refreshed and with a few new ideas to share in class.”
Best of luck with the research Gary and we look forward to having you back teaching our students soon.