Literary Studies and Legal Theory: Dislocation in Joseph Conrad's Fiction and Late Modern Legal Thinking

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The methodology known as law and literature, or literary jurisprudence, seeks to challenge and reappraise issues of central importance to law and its related theories through the critical exploration of fiction. Joseph Conrad’s work lends itself well to this endeavour, due to his treatment of themes of law, order, policing and justice. Yet Conrad’s fiction is also relevant to lawyers because his stories share with jurisprudence fundamental philosophical concerns that offer challenging parallels to the latter’s conceptual frameworks. This paper argues that such shared concerns can act as conceptual bridges between literature and law, which can be used to stretch jurisprudential reflection. The paper argues that Conrad’s modernist fiction and some key examples of late modern legal thinking engage with the relationship between justice and violence and approach them in terms of problematised disjunction and fragmentation, encapsulated here in the idea of ‘dislocation’. Through close readings of relevant texts, the paper compares these literary and jurisprudential approaches and suggests that Conrad’s work can confront law with an alternative view on the dislocation of justice, which observes violence’s effects, but emphasises the aggravating influence of isolation.


Keywords: Law and Literature, Joseph Conrad, Justice, Violence
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Stephen Skinner

Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Exeter
Penryn, Cornwall, UK

Dr Skinner joined Exeter University's School of Law at its new Cornwall Campus in 2007, having previously been a lecturer at the University of Wales and a Jean Monnet Research Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence. He specializes in criminal law and interdisciplinary work on socio-legal problems. He has published work on legal history, criminal law and human rights, and law and literature, using the works of Joseph Conrad in relation to discussions of policing and violence. He is currently working on the relationships between law and violence, explored from judicial, jurisprudential and literary perspectives.

Ref: H08P0609