Mark S. Weiner

Posts Tagged ‘Law and literature’

A publisher, a library, a cemetery, a party

In Aesthetics, Aesthetics, narrative, form, Books and libraries, form, Gender, Law and film, Law and literature, Method, narrative, Video on September 13, 2014 at 8:38 am

In part three of “Walking with Horatio Alger,” I take a train ride to Philadelphia’s Chinatown, spend an afternoon in a lonely academic library, drive to a Massachusetts cemetery while listening to Fats Waller, and relax at a party with a bunch of fun-loving kids. How can video help bring a 1909 edition of Ragged Dick back into some of its original spatial and temporal relationships?

Here’s the complete video:

Small Blank Space

Here are links to individual sections: part one; part two; and—the latest—part three.

 

 

A Literary Ramble through New York

In Aesthetics, Aesthetics, narrative, form, Law and film, Law and literature, Video on March 31, 2014 at 12:03 pm

In Part II of “Walking with Horatio Alger,” I follow the path taken by Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick on the first day of the novel. I’m accompanied by friend, former student, and lawyer Matt Milford, and we reflect on the story and its meaning while try to recapture its original sense of place. We also eat a delicious Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich.

Small Blank Space

For Part I of my Horatio Alger video series, see here.

September 13, 2014: This post has been moved to March 31, 2014 for organizational purposes.

“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.”

Charlotte the Spider, Supreme Court Justice

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Animals, Corporations, Environment, Law and literature, Rule of law, Supreme Court, United Nations on June 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Very soon, my wife and I will be spending a few days in Maine. We’re going there for a wedding, and rather than spend money on a hotel, we’re going to camp. We’re looking forward to putting on our formal wear beneath the pine trees. And I’m looking forward to visiting the state again after a long absence. The last time I was in Maine, I was in college:

Isn’t that some lobster? I believe we cooked that lobster right where we stood, on the beach, in a tin bucket.

Our impending trip makes me feel especially close to E. B. White, whose views about world government I’ve been considering in a recent thread. They also put me in mind of Justice William O. Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court. I don’t think that the two ever met—at least, there are no letters between them in the E. B. White Collection at Cornell or the Justice Douglas papers at the Library of Congress. But they share a great deal in common.

Most obviously, they share a love of Maine. White spent much of his life there, at his farm in North Brooklin, and some of his greatest essays, such as “Once More to the Lake,” evoke the beauties of its distinctive, unspoiled landscape. I especially like the collection The Points of My Compass, which also contains some of White’s writings on international law. As for Justice Douglas, as I noted in an October post, he was a nature writer of real skill—and one of his greatest sources of inspiration was Mount Katahdin. That’s the highest peak in Maine and, for hikers traveling north, the end of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail (which Justice Douglas also completed).

“Katahdin has been like a haunting melody since the day in the late twenties when I first saw it against a buttermilk sky,” he wrote in My Wilderness. “For some years I explored the dark woods and marshy lakes at its feet, and climbed its rough points. Then came a long period of absence. But the pull of Katahdin, like that of an old love, was always strong. The memories of it were especially bright every May, when the ice went out and the squaretails started jumping—every June, when the salmon-fly hatch was on. Fiddlehead ferns—partridgeberries—alpine azalea with tiny cerise flowers … all of these—and more—were Katahdin.”

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From Charlotte’s Web to Star Trek: Animals and Midcentury Legal Internationalism

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Animals, Environment, International law, Law and film, Law and literature, United Nations on June 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm

340px-EB_croppedWhy is it significant that Stuart Little is a mouse—I mean, why is it significant from the perspective of American legal history? What does Justice William O. Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court have to do with Wilbur, the “radiant” and “humble” pig of Charlotte’s Web? What links a barnyard in North Brooklin, Maine and the Federation Council in the television series “Star Trek”? These are some of the questions I’d like to think about in this fifth post in a continuing thread about E. B. White and international law—or, to put it another way, about the popular liberal legal imagination at midcentury.

To my mind, the opening line of Charlotte’s Web is a model of how to begin a story: “‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’” Where Papa is going, to the distress of young Fern, is to kill the runt of a new litter of pigs. The line is potent mixture of action, threat, and conflicted loyalty, and it came to White only after many revisions. One of his earliest drafts begins this way: “A barn can have a horse in it, and a barn can have a cow in it, and a barn can have hens scratching in the chaff and swallows flying in and out through the door—but if a barn hasn’t got a pig in it, it is hardly worth talking about. I am very glad to say that Mr. Zuckerman’s barn had a pig in it, and therefore I feel free to talk about it as much as I want to.” Compare the two sentences and you have a lesson in great editing.

What the first sentence also does is instantly establish empathy with animals. In this case, the reader’s heart goes out to the pig which—whom—Fern soon calls Wilbur. Much of White’s writing gives animals an unassuming, gentle subjectivity. The first chapter of Charlotte’s Web ends with Fern naming Wilbur; the final chapter concludes with Wilbur naming Charlotte’s children (Joy, Aranea, and Nellie). One  aspect of White’s literary brilliance was to be able to create this subjectivity without being at all patronizing. Wilbur, Charlotte, Templeton (the rat), the geese, all become our moral equals without fuss. Stuart is an ordinary member of the Little family—part of the pleasure of the tale derives from how everyone takes for granted that he’s a mouse.

White grew up taking care of farm animals at his family’s home in Mount Vernon, New York. He spent time amidst them each summer when his family retreated to Maine. And he surrounded himself with them—sheep, chickens, pigs, geese—when he and his wife, Katharine, purchased a house and barn near North Brooklin (the barn was the inspiration for Charlotte’s Web). Not surprisingly, then, animals populated his prose, for both children and adults. Here’s a characteristic passage of his writing, from the introduction to One Man’s Meat:

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