Of Crime and Justice I: New Questions on German Law and Literature (Panel)


German / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Julia Goesser Assaiante (Trinity College (Hartford))

The theoretical and practical intersections between law and literature have been recognized as central to German cultural discourse, including, for instance intriguing analyses of Kafka’s literature and the Nürnberg trials. Recent research, such as Michael Niehaus’ Mord, Geständnis, Widerruf. Verhören und Verhörtwerden um 1800 (2006) and Thomas Weitin’s Zeugenschaft. Das Recht der Literatur (2009), has also pointed to the eighteenth century as a period of paramount interest concerning law and literature. Since both literature and the law use language to create narratives that reflect, interpret, judge, and prescribe human actions, examining how the law is represented in literature gives insight both into how these narratives change over time, and how crucial the role of narrative is to legal institutions. Recent questions regarding the junctions of law and literature explore the theatricality of the courtroom, the legal use of physical evidence and rhetorical argumentation to construct narratives, and problems of verbal and physical communication before the law. Encounters with these and other issues accompany avid philosophical discussions about the relative merits of Natural Law, positivism, codification, proof, truth, and ideals central to German culture from the Enlightenment to the present. This panel seeks contributions that explore the ways in which law is both represented in literature since the 18th century, and adopts the rhetorical strategies of literature to enact itself.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

- Comparisons between legal and literary texts.

- Original literary analyses of legal texts.

- Readings of legal themes or techniques in German texts by canonical or non-canonical authors.

- New literary analyses of German texts that address the intersections between law and literature.


100 words:

This panel will explore the ways in which law has been represented in literature since the 18th century, and adopts the rhetorical strategies of literature to enact itself. Topics might include comparisons between legal and/or literary texts, readings of legal themes or techniques in German texts, or interpretations of 18th-century literary works from the perspective of the history of law.