European Network For Law and Literature

The European Network for Law and Literature Scholarship has been founded as a vehicle for increasing communication and cooperation between individuals working on related topics within Europe. Founded by a judge and law professor working in the Netherlands and a literary scholar in Germany, this network aims to embrace the variety of disciplines and languages its participants work in as potential sources of scholarly richness and innovation. It is our belief that work on Law and Literature in Europe can develop a profile that more clearly reflects and articulates the cultural identities and legal backgrounds of its participants. Specific goals of this network are to:

  • Promote Law and Literature within the European context and to increase communication between scholars
  • To reflect on and thematize possible differences between European Law and Literature work and that of Anglo-American scholars (such differences might include different foci due to backgrounds in adversarial or inquisitorial law systems and related legal cultures)
  • To meet to exchange ideas, work, and viewpoints
  • To use this platform as a forum for discussion
  • To encourage comparative work as well as research on non-canonical texts and genres

We invite you to make this network a platform for announcements about Law and Literature activities and to use it as a place to introduce your ideas. Networks of Law and Literature scholars already exist in the Scandinavian countries, in Italy, France, and Britain. We wish not to compete with these groups but to add to them by placing an emphasis on transnational and cross-linguistic scholarly efforts. The Network is an initiative of Jeanne Gaakeer, professor at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Greta Olson, professor at the Justus-Liebig Universität Giessen. If you would like to know more about the European Network for Law and Literature, please get in touch with Jeanne Gaakeer or Greta Olson.

A Dialogue on Law and Literature

Since 2005, Jeanne Gaakeer and Greta Olson have been in a dialogue about the futures, prospects, and limits of Law and Literature. Our mutual interest in encouraging Law and Literature scholarship in Europe led us to found the European Network for Law and Literature Research in 2007.

Jeanne, a professor of legal theory at the Erasmus School of Rotterdam and a judge on the Appellate Court in The Hague (criminal law section), approaches the subject from the perspective of a legal practitioner who would like to see the study of law and literature integrated into judges' training, whereas Greta, a professor of English and American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Giessen in Germany, approaches Law and Literature from the framework of critical theory and historiography. 

Greta published a comparative study on Law and Literature scholarship in the United States, the UK, and Germany in 2010  (“De-Americanizing Law and Literature Narratives,” Law & Literature 22.1), and Jeanne responded to this article in her 2012 essay for Helle Porsdam and Thomas Elholm's edited volume, Dialogues on Justice: European Perspectives on Law and Humanities (Law and Literature Series, Berlin and New York: De Gruyter). In the same volume, Greta was given the opportunity to respond to some of the criticisms of and feedback on the 2010 essay she had been given, including that of Jeanne. 

Please find links to the 2012 articles: 

Olson, Greta (2012). Reprint of “De-Americanizing Law and Literature Narratives” (With an Expanded Ending). Ed. Helle Porsdam and Thomas Elholm. Dialogues on Justice: European Perspectives on Law and Humanities. Law and Literature Series. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter. 15-43. Print.

Gaakeer, Jeanne (2012). European Law and Literature: Forever Young. The Nomad Concurs. Ed. Helle Porsdam and Thomas Elholm. Dialogues on Justice: European Perspectives on Law and Humanities. Law and Literature Series. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter. 44-72. Print.

Letter 9 of the European Law and Literature Network

Dear colleague,

A few months ago we wrote to you to announce the launch of a website for the European Law and Literature Network: The network and its website have been founded with the intention of increasing communication and cooperation between European students and scholars working on Law-and-Literature subjects. We warmly thank the Nordic Network for Law and Literature and the associazione italiana diritto e letteratura for their cooperation. As with this letter, future letters and announcements will be mailed to you via the website's administrator Astrid van der Wal or Fausia Sual.

In its first months some technical difficulties plagued the website for which we apologize. It was not possible for members outside of the Netherlands to enter restricted parts of the site, including publication lists, announcements, and the notes of the late professor Govaert van den Bergh. These start-up problems caused some frustration and may have hampered fruitful discussion. Thus the decision was made to make the entirety of the site open to everyone. Hence passwords are no longer necessary when you enter the site. Kindly just ignore the link to members log in when you visit the site, as everything can be accessed through the documents page.

One of our aims has been to try to define a European trajectory or trajectories of Law-and-Literature scholarship. Here we hope to enter into a conversation with you about attempting to define or discover commonalities and points of disagreement between our working projects. In order to get the conversation going we offer a brief statement in this letter about where we think European Law-and-Literature scholarship is heading and we invite you to respond to them through Fausia Sual. We will post all of your comments on the site.

What is European Law-and-Literature? We see several possible forms of Law-and-Literature scholarship that has a particularly European focus. Among these is work that concentrates on European literary texts (law-in-literature) by focusing on the legal culture out of which they arose and into which they were locally received, rather than treating primary works as, in the first case, 'world' literature that conveys universal ethical and legal themes. A second kind of European Law-and-Literature work makes conscious reference to its greater reliance on European philosophers and theorists such as Žižek, Goodrich, Ricoeur, Levinas, Derrida, Latour, and Blanchot rather than to leading lights in American Law-and-Literature scholarship (White, Weisberg, Nussbaum). Yet another kind of European work focuses on making particularities of a given legal culture explicit or on describing Europe's uneasy transition from various individual civil and common law legal cultures to a parallel common European one. We see a central challenge in articulating cultural, legal, and philosophic particularities in these types of research which do not rely primarily on the relatively recent – thirty-year-old – American Law-and-Literature paradigm. We hope that these statements may inspire you to disagree or agree and to join in the discussion. Please write your comments to Denny who will post them as well as announcements about new publications and conferences. With warm wishes for the summer holidays.

Greta Olson and Jeanne Gaakeer