The twentieth-century was a period of worldwide literary experiment, of scientific developments and of worldwide conflict. These changes demanded a rethinking not merely of psychological subjectivity, but also of what it meant to be subject to the law and to punishment. This two-day conference aims to explore relationships between literature, law and psychoanalysis during the period 1890-1950, allowing productive mixing of canonical and popular literature and also encouraging interdisciplinary conversations between different fields of study.
The period examined by the conference included: developments in Freudian psychoanalysis and its branching in other directions; the founding of criminology; continuing campaigns and reforms around the death penalty; landmark modernist publications; the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction; and multiple sensational trials (Wilde, Crippen, Casement, Leopold and Loeb, to name but a few). Freud’s followers, like Theodor Reik and Hans Sachs, would publish work on criminal law and the death penalty; psychoanalysts were sought after as expert witnesses; novelists like Elizabeth Bowen would serve on a Royal Commission investigating capital punishment; while Gladys Mitchell invented the character of Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley as a literary detective-psychoanalyst.
We therefore hope to consider areas including literature’s connection with historical debates around crime and punishment; literature and authors on trial and/or on the ‘psychiatrist’s couch’;and literature’s effect on debates about human rights. The event is linked to and partly supported by an AHRC project on literature, psychoanalysis and the death penalty, but the aim of this conference is much wider. Interdisciplinary approaches, especially from fields such as psychoanalysis, philosophy, law or the visual arts, are particularly encouraged. We also welcome papers on international legal systems and texts. All responses are welcome and the scope of our interdisciplinary interests is flexible, with room in the planned programme for strands of work that might be more or less literary.
Possible topics might include:
- psychoanalysis in the real or literary courtroom;
- literary form and the insanity defence;
- canonical authors as readers of crime fiction and vice versa;
- censorship cases;
- the influence of famous legal cases on literary productions or on psychoanalytic theory;
- influences of criminology and criminal psychology on literature;
- representations of new execution methods (for example, the gas chamber and the electric chair);
- portrayals of restorative versus retributive justice;
- literary responses to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- relationships between modernism and Critical Legal Studies (CLS).
You can also view more information about keynote speakers etc here: