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Bernadette Meyler: "Law, Literature, and Identity"
This presentation draws from a chapter of a book I am completing entitled Law and Literature: An Introduction. Literary approaches have often foregrounded the law’s treatment of and disregard for identity, whether connected with race, religion, or sex and gender. Conceptions of agency within Anglo-American law have historically occluded people in many subject positions. Even the idea of legal personhood—so central to liberal legality—has been critiqued, and some have suggested replacing it with forms of agency derived from literature. Literature has also long staged the conflict between religious and political identities, and the tragic situations into which this conflict places protagonists. More recently, literature has illuminated how gender identity could be performed in a manner contrasting with the official demands of law or the recognition of the state. This chapter aims to demonstrate how law and literature has assisted in critiquing the law’s treatment of identity, how literature has furnished alternative avenues for constructing identity, and how literature can inform the reconstruction of law’s relation to race and gender.
Bernadette Meyler is Professor of Law and by courtesy of English