Law and Literature and the Right to Death
FIGURES OF LAW: STUDIES IN THE INTERFERENCE OF LAW AND LITERATURE, Gert Hofmann, ed., A. Francke Verlag: Tubingen and Basel, 2007
20 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2005 Last revised: 19 Oct 2008
The very name of the Law and Literature movement implies some inner connection between the institutions and concepts of law on one hand and those of literature on the other. Received wisdom has it that this connection reaches its limit, however, at the point where the language of law incorporates an essential relation to the literal violence of the state. The canonical statement of this distinction (at least in the Anglo-American legal academy) is Robert Cover's claim that "judges deal pain and death... In this they are different from poets, from critics, from artists." Here I attempt to complicate this distinction through a close reading of Maurice Blanchot's essay, "Literature and the Right to Death." My thesis is that, beyond sharing law's status as linguistic artifact and cultural construct, the literary already inhabits law's ostensibly distinguishing relationship to sovereign violence.
Keywords: Jurisprudence, Law and Literature, Sovereignty, Blanchot
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