Shakespeare and Judgment: The Renewal of Law and Literature

The European Legacy 15 (2):195-213 (2010)
Legal theorist Desmond Manderson and Shakespearean Paul Yachnin develop parallel arguments that seek to restore a public dimension of responsibility to literary studies and a private dimension of responsibility to law. Their arguments issue from their work as the creators of the Shakespeare Moot Court at McGill University, a course in which graduate English students team up with senior Law students to argue cases in the “Court of Shakespeare,” where the sole Institutes, Codex, and Digest are comprised by the plays of Shakespeare. Yachnin argues that modern literary studies suffers from impermanence and isolation from real-world concerns and that it can redress these limitations—developing attributes of corrigibility, temporality, judgment, and publicity—by learning from law. Manderson finds that modern legal judgment is bereft of affective engagement with the subjects of law and wedded to an ideal of objectivity, regulation, and impersonality. Literature can restore to legal judgment the elements of narrative, character, context, and self-reflection. Together, the essays argue that the question of judgment, so integral to the disciplines of law and of literature, needs the renewal that an interdisciplinary engagement provides
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