Law and Literature Criticism: Literary Responses To The Law - Essay

Tamkang Review (essay date spring-summer 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “John Updike's S.Tamkang Review 25, no. 3-4 (spring-summer 1995): 379-405.

[In the following essay, the critic examines the relationship between sex and the law as treated by Hawthorne and Updike in their respective novels The Scarlet Letter and S.]

In John Updike's S. (1988), set in 1986 America, there are passages and characters pointedly reminding the reader of its intertextual relationship to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850),1 which has as its setting 17th-century Puritan Boston. The epigraphs of the novel, to begin with, are drawn from the masterpiece by Hawthorne. The first epigraph is about...

(The entire section is 8689 words.)

Alma Jean Billingslea-Brown (essay date 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Billingslea-Brown, Alma Jean. “The ‘Blight of Legalized Limitation’ in Alice Childress's Wedding Band.” In Law and Literature Perspectives, edited by Bruce Rockwood, pp. 39-51. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.

[In the following essay, Billingslea-Brown explores the effect of anti-miscegenation laws in the framework of social repression of Blacks through established legal mechanisms.]

Between American jurisprudence and literary expression by African Americans, there is multifaceted relationship, one that has at its center questions of freedom and identity. It may be argued, in fact, that the impulse to creative expression by African Americans arises,...

(The entire section is 4181 words.)

Robert F. Barsky (essay date summer-fall 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Barsky, Robert F. “Bakhtin as Anarchist? Language, Law, and Creative Impulses in the Work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Rudolf Rocker.” South Atlantic Quarterly 97, no. 3 (summer-fall 1998): 623-42.

[In the following essay, Barsky comments on Bakhtin's theory of the implicit relationship between language, anarchy, and natural law presented in the framework of personal freedom.]

The various directions toward which Bakhtin studies are presently moving suggests that whatever the differences from one scholar to another, there remains a nagging question in much Bakhtinian work: What else can be done with Bakhtin? This is not, or should not be, a purely academic...

(The entire section is 7368 words.)

Andrew Low (essay date fall 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Low, Andrew. “Bernard Williams, Moral Law, and Kafka's Der Prozess.Symposium: A Quarterly Journal of Modern Foreign Literatures 52, no. 3 (fall 1998): 142-54.

[In the following essay, Low focuses on Kafka's depiction of justice and morality in The Trial, suggesting that his notion of it is a complex, nuanced one not easily summarized by modern critics.]

It would be inaccurate to label as “postmodern” Bernard Williams's criticisms, written in the last several decades, of the major Western traditions of philosophical ethics—inaccurate, but not altogether misleading. Without rejecting as necessarily ideological any competence claims of...

(The entire section is 6458 words.)

Dorothy Figueira (essay date May 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Figueira, Dorothy. “Aryan Aristocrats and Übermenschen: Nietzsche's Reading of the Laws of Manu.Comparatist: Journal of the Southern Comparative Literature 23 (May 1999): 5-20.

[In the following essay, Figueira discusses how Nietzsche incorporated his interest in the Indian law book The Laws of Manu into his work.]

Much has been written on Nietzsche's reconstruction of Indian thought.1 Indologists and historians of religion have placed great importance on Nietzsche's appropriation of Indian themes; and, indeed, the philosopher's evocation of India is varied and often tantalizing. These evocations range from Nietzsche's use of...

(The entire section is 7486 words.)

Michael Freeman (essay date winter 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Freeman, Michael. “Truth and Justice in Bertolt Brecht.” Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 11, no. 2 (winter 1999): 197-214.

[In the following essay, Freeman examines Brecht's notions about law, morality, and justice as revealed through his play The Caucasian Chalk Circle.]


This paper is not about truth and justice in Bertolt Brecht, the man. There was not much of either of these values in his life. Like Dubedat in Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma, he was a “scoundrel but an artist.”1 Politically self-serving, a misogynist, plagiarist and anti-Semite,2 he crossed “his fingers...

(The entire section is 6797 words.)

Andreas Gailus (essay date April 2001)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gailus, Andreas. “Lessons of the Cryptograph: Revelation and the Mechanical in Kafka's ‘In the Penal Colony.’” Modernism/Modernity 8, no. 2 (April 2001): 295-302.

[In the following essay, Gailus explores Kafka's idea of the law as a “force without significance” as developed through his satire of the law machine in “In the Penal Colony.”]

According to a great Rabbi, Walter Benjamin recalls in his essay on Kafka, the coming Messiah “will not wish to change the world by force but will merely make a slight adjustment in it.”1 A slight adjustment of the ordinary—this is indeed what happens everywhere in Kafka's texts in which daily...

(The entire section is 4483 words.)

Çigdem Üsekes (essay date summer 2001)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Üsekes, Çigdem. “‘You Always under Attack’: Whiteness as Law and Terror in August Wilson's Twentieth-Century Cycle of Plays.” American Dramas 10, no. 2 (summer 2001): 48-68.

[In the following essay, Üsekes discusses Wilson's linking of whiteness with law and terror in his plays, suggesting that off-stage white characters symbolize a corrupt legal system that oppresses blacks.]

August Wilson has won critical acclaim for his ambitious project of chronicling the African American experience in the twentieth century with a cycle of ten plays. But those critics who have applauded Wilson's black characters have neglected to pay attention to his equally...

(The entire section is 6380 words.)