Mark S. Weiner

“Towards a Literary History of International Law”: A Post on Opinio Juris

In International law on July 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Christopher Warren of the Carnegie Mellon University English Department has a nice methodological post today about literature and international law in the “Emerging Voices” series on Opinio Juris. On his faculty web page, Warren shares that his current book project “investigates Renaissance literature’s complex and often-neglected contributions to the history of international law by reading Renaissance poets including Shakespeare, Donne, Grotius, and Milton in the dual contexts of literary history and the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century formation of international law.”

Warren rightly laments “the present disconnect between international law and humanistic disciplines like literature and history.” “Our fragmented disciplines,” he asserts, “have given us a fragmented view of history, implausibly cutting wider cultural history from the history of international law.” It’s worth remembering, he writes, that literature and wider cultural texts “are typically places outsiders [first] encounter” international law’s “specialized domain” (here he kindly cites, among other writings, my recent thread on Stuart Little and world federalism).

Warren concludes with this compelling suggestion: “it may be most illuminating then to consider the distinctive ways different genres like epic, comedy, tragicomedy, and tragedy have tended to organize experience and the ways those tendencies map or don’t map onto recognizably modern legal categories like the laws of war, trade law, environmental law, and human rights.”

The post is called “A View from Early Modern Cultural Studies on Fragmentation and the Law of Nations.”

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