Literary Inspirations for International Adjudication

29 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2020

See all articles by François Ost

François Ost

Saint-Louis University, Brussels

Thomas Schultz

King's College London

Date Written: November 23, 2020


Putting yourself in other people’s shoes is a highly evolved cognitive capacity. And it can be argued that it is one of the important tasks of those who make decisions for others which are meant to be fair, including judges and arbitrators, and all manner of other adjudicators. Now, one of the social functions of literary fiction is precisely to allow the reader to experience the story, a situation, from the protagonists’ perspective, to help her see what the world looks like standing where they do. Historically, this played a significant role in advancing women’s rights and minorities’ rights and to end a range of inhumane treatments, including slavery: works of literature got the general public to understand what it really is like to be in the shoes of those who suffer from these discriminations, from those exactions. So why, then, not encourage international adjudicators to connect with literature, with literary works, and remember the ‘centrality of texts to the form and substance of a community’s moral and social life’ (West 1988, 131) – texts which of course are not only legal texts? Study how literary works are constructed, their rhetoric, and you will be a better advocate, a better judge; study what literary works have to say, the societal functions and figures and values and aesthetics that they experiment with, and you may be a better international adjudication scholar. This paper offers an introduction to this way of thinking.

Keywords: international adjudication, law and literature, judicial function, international law

Suggested Citation

Ost, François and Schultz, Thomas, Literary Inspirations for International Adjudication (November 23, 2020). King's College London Law School Research Paper No. 2021/4, Available at SSRN: or

François Ost

Saint-Louis University, Brussels ( email )

43 Boulevard du Jardin botanique
Brussels, 1000

Thomas Schultz (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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