From Civil to Human Rights
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From Civil to Human Rights

Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe

Helle Porsdam

Europeans have attempted for some time to develop a human rights talk and now European intellectuals are talking about the need to construct ‘European narratives’. This book illustrates that these narratives will emphasize a political and cultural vision for a multi-ethnic and more cosmopolitan Europe.
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Chapter 8: transatlantic dialogues on 'law and literature': from 'law and literature to 'law and humanities'

Helle Porsdam


8. Transatlantic dialogues on ‘law and literature’: from ‘law and literature’ to ‘law and humanities’ ‘It’s culture, stupid’, to paraphrase a famous sentence by President Bill Clinton – or rather, it’s law and culture. In this legalized day and age where we use a legal discourse to discuss major problems and where we present social, cultural and political claims in terms of rights, it could hardly be otherwise. In academic circles, since the late 1970s and early 1980s, we have seen this reflected in the ‘law and literature’ movement. Originally an American phenomenon – American culture and history being more thoroughly legalized than those of any other country – law and literature has gradually spread to European academic circles too. In this chapter, I shall argue that it makes sense to expand ‘law and literature’ into ‘law and humanities’. This argument has been implicit in all the previous seven chapters; in fact, my theoretical and methodological approach throughout this book has been that of law and humanities. In this chapter, I want to reflect more openly on law and humanities as an academic field. The most ‘fundamental connection between law and literature’, writes Kieran Dolin (2007), is that ‘law is inevitably a matter of language. The law can only be articulated in words’.1 This is no doubt one of the reasons why the law and literature movement from the very start has been focused on key fictional texts. In addition, the movement was started by lawyers and law professors who thought that law...

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