Monthly Archives: November 2011

Kate Sutherland

Call for Papers: Gardens of Justice

My colleague Ruth Buchanan directed me to a most interesting call for papers for a critical legal conference to be held in Stockholm in September 2012 on the theme of “Gardens of Justice.” A description and details appear below:

Confirmed plenary speakers:

Marianne Constable (Berkeley)
Angus McDonald (Staffordshire)
Panu Minkkinen (Helsinki)
Sundhya Pahuja (Melbourne)

The theme for next year’s Critical Legal Conference is “Gardens of Justice”. Although the theme may be interpreted in different ways, it suggests thinking about law and justice as a physical as well as a social environment, created for specific purposes, at a certain distance from society and yet as an integral part of it. The theme also invites you to think about justice as a concrete metaphor rather than an abstract concept. Just like any ordinary garden, legal institutions affect both people working in them and people who are just passing through their arrangements.

The theme “Gardens of Justice” further suggests a plurality of justice gardens that function together or that are at times at odds with each other. There are for instance well ordered French gardens, with meticulously trimmed plants and straight angles, but that also plays tricks on your perception. There are English gardens that simultaneously look natural – un-written – and well kept, inviting you to take a slow stroll or perhaps sit down and read a book. There are closed gardens, surrounded by fences, and with limited access for ordinary people. There are gardens organized around ruins, let’s call them Roman gardens, where you can get a sense of the historical past, but without feeling threatened by its strangeness. There are Japanese stone gardens made for meditation rather than movement. There are zoological gardens, where you can study all those animal species that do not have a proper sense of justice, no social contracts, no inequality and social injustice, and no legal systems. There is, indeed, the Jungle, a real or imaginary place outside the Gardens of Law.

The conference “Gardens of Justice” invites you to look at law and justice from a different and critical perspective:
– as a physical and spatializing structure;
– as a place where symbolic orders and disorders become visible and may be acted out;
– as therapy session;
– as social topography and/or geography;
– as gendered and gendering;
– as pluralistic and (un)fair;
– as political cartography on a global scale;
– as process and phantasy;
– as theatre and/or temple of justice;
– as social utopia and social dystopia;
– as nomos and/or physis.

We encourage you to make your own interpretations of the theme of “Gardens of Justice”. We invite individual papers and proposals for streams, roundtables and workshops. Proposals should consist of a short abstract (max 250 words). Deadline for proposal of streams, roundtables and workshops is 31 March 2012; and for individual papers 31 May 2012.

The conference venue is Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH) in Stockholm. The conference is organised by Skolan för datavetenskap och kommunikation, KTH; Juridiska institutionen, Lunds universitet; and Juridiska institutionen, Göteborgs universitet.

Organising committee: Matilda Arvidsson, Leila Brännström, Merima Bruncevic, and Leif Dahlberg.

Contact: dahlberg(at)csc.kth.se

Very literal of me, I know, but how could I resist posting beauteous pictures of actual gardens as an accompaniment to the foregoing? Above is an Italian garden amidst Roman ruins, and below are the gardens of Versailles, and a Japanese garden in Osaka, all public domain images borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.

Kate Sutherland

New on my Bookshelf: Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

I’m a big fan of Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant comics, and am most pleased to have acquired a copy of her new book, published this Fall by Drawn & Quarterly.

It was Beaton’s comics poking fun at exalted literary figures such as the Brontë sisters that first caught my eye:

And I was further drawn in when I found that Beaton also appears to share my preoccupation with crime fiction classics such as Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes. See, for example, a few samples from a series that she did riffing on the covers of Nancy Drew novels:

And this one, in which she has a bit of fun with TV/movie portrayals of Holmes sidekick Watson:

If that’s not enough to pique the interest of legal readers, you’ll also find in Beaton’s oeuvre a plethora of comics devoted to history, some with a legal dimension (see this deft summation of the genesis of Oscar Wilde’s legal troubles), and many with a Canadian focus (for example, here on Confederation). Indeed, my colleague Sonia Lawrence tells me that she has contemplated using Beaton’s comics in her constitutional law class.

For more information about Kate Beaton and her book, you can find recent interviews on CBC and in the Paris Review, and enthusiastic reviews in the National Post and Quill & Quire.

Kate Sutherland

New on my Bookshelf: The Ecstasy of Influence: nonfictions, etc. by Jonathan Lethem

The Ecstasy of Influence is a voluminous collection of Jonathan Lethem’s nonfiction, much of it previously published in scattered locations, some of it new. He covers a diverse range of subjects–a quick scan of the table of contents indicates that he touches on comics, postmodernism, used bookshops, Philip K. Dick, The Godfather, Bob Dylan, book tours, Shirley Jackson, Brooklyn, and more. There’s plenty here to interest fans of Lethem’s fiction, and bookish types generally.

But perhaps most likely to capture the attention of those of us interested in law and the arts is the section headed “Plagiarisms” that includes the title piece, an essay about plagiarism in which nearly every sentence is lifted from another writer (originally published in Harper’s Magazine in 2007); a follow-up piece reflecting on the stir that essay created; and other broad mediations on influence, appropriation, originality, and creativity.

For a bit of a preview of Lethem’s views on these and other literary matters, click here to read a recent interview with him conducted by Laura Miller for Salon. And I’m assuming that if you’re sufficiently interested in my bookshelves to read this post, you’ll also enjoy a peek at Lethem’s library. For that, click here to see fabulous photos of writers’ personal libraries, including Lethem’s, from Leah Price’s Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books, excerpted today in The New Yorker.

Of course, now I feel compelled to order Price’s book as well…

Kate Sutherland

Midday Performance: VCP Show Choir @ Osgoode – November 23, 2011

See below for an invitation to a midday performance by Vanier College Productions’ “VCP Show Choir,” co-sponsored by Law.Arts.Culture @Osgoode and the Osgoode Community Enhancement Forum. VCP, composed of York students, including Osgoode students, will perform a mixture of Broadway showtunes and Top 40 hits from their upcoming concert.

This event is one of several scheduled throughout this school year to highlight the intersection of law, arts, and culture at Osgoode. Click on the following link to download a brochure that outlines the full program of lectures and performances: LawArtsCulture_Brochure.

Kate Sutherland

New on my Bookshelf: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

I confess that there are a number of classics in the law and literature canon that I’ve not yet read, and I’ve resolved to fill in some of those gaps, beginning with Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville. The number of law journal articles that reference the story, and the frequency with which it turns up on the syllabi of law and literature courses would be reason enough to begin there. But I have a more specific interest as well. I’ve been plotting an article about Louis Auchincloss’s short stories, many of which are set in Wall Street law firms, and, given that Melville’s Bartleby is subtitled “A Story of Wall Street,” it seems an antecedent that I ought to explore.

But even if I hadn’t already resolved to read Bartleby, a couple of recent mentions highlighting the continuing relevance of this mid-nineteenth century work would doubtless have piqued my interest. The first is in a thought-provoking essay by Hannah Gersen at The Millions in which she links Bartleby’s “peculiar form of rebellion” to the Occupy Wall Street protests, ultimately concluding: “If Occupy Wall Street has any goal, it should be to have the same effect that great literature has—to unsettle.” The second is a reference in a Forbes column by Victoria Pynchon in which she parallels Bartleby’s situation with the contemporary plight of legal secretaries. (Thanks to Sonia Lawrence who led me to the latter with an @OsgoodeIFLS tweet.)

The edition of Bartleby the Scrivener that I bought, pictured above, is an instalment in Melville House Publishing’s marvellous Art of the Novella series. They’re lovely small books that feel good in the hand, and the selection of titles is broad enough to appeal to any discerning reader. I note as well that there are others besides Bartleby that are likely be of interest to those who like a bit of law with their literature, including, for example: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Ian Dreiblatt), The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg by Mark Twain, and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. I already boast a few Melville House novellas in my collection, and I covet many more!

I will report here in due course on how I fare with Bartleby, and on if and how it connects with my Auchincloss reading.