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CFP: ‘Literature, Law and Psychoanalysis, 1890–1950’

Call For Papers: ‘Literature, Law and Psychoanalysis, 1890–1950’

University of Sheffield, 11–13 April 2019

Organiser: Katherine Ebury
Katherine Ebury is Senior Lecturer in Modern Literature at the University of Sheffield. Her research interests include life-writing, modernism, psychoanalysis and law and literature. Her first monograph, Modernism and Cosmology, appeared in 2014, and she is the co-editor of Joyce’s Non-Fiction Writings: Outside His Jurisfiction (Palgrave, 2018). Her articles have appeared in journals such as Irish Studies Review, Joyce Studies Annual and Society and Animals. She has just commenced an AHRC-funded project on the death penalty, literature and psychoanalysis from 1900-1950, which is running from 2018-2020.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Ravit Reichman
Ravit Reichman is Associate Professor of English at Brown University, where she works at the intersection of literature, law, and psychoanalysis. Her first book, The Affective Life of Law: Legal Modernism and the Literary Imagination (Stanford, 2009) examines law and literature in the context of the world wars. She is currently working on a study of property’s cultural and psychological life, Lost Properties of the Twentieth Century, which offers a genealogy of the propertied imagination, beginning with more conventional notions of property and ending in ideas of property restitution as a vehicle for justice. Her articles on affect and law, colonial jurisprudence, capital punishment, and counterfactual life, as well as on writers like Albert Camus, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce, have been published in a range of journals and volumes. She has been a Fulbright Scholar, a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and a Howard Foundation Fellow.

Lizzie Seal
Lizzie Seal is Reader in Criminology at University of Sussex. Her monograph Capital Punishment in Twentieth-Century Britain: Audience, Justice, Memory is a cultural history of the death penalty focusing on its place in everyday life. It explores topics including capital punishment as entertainment, popular abolitionist campaigns, the impact and significance of high profile miscarriages of justice and their significance in the post-abolition era and argues capital punishment had a contested and ambivalent place in British culture. Her current project, ‘Race, Racialisation and the Death Penalty in England and Wales, 1900-65’ is funded by the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2016-352). This is interdisciplinary and draws on both history and criminology to explore the overrepresentation of Black and other minority ethnic (BME) people among those executed in twentieth-century England and Wales. Through examining all cases of BME people sentenced to death, we examine how prosecutions for murder were in practice made racist through analysing the significance of racist stereotypes and racialised interpretations of defendants’ behaviour. In addition to highlighting racism in the criminal justice system, we research the everyday lives of BME people sentenced to death in the twentieth century. Lizzie is the author of Women, Murder and Femininity: Gender Representations of Women Who Kill (Palgrave, 2010) and, with Maggie O’Neill, Transgressive Imaginations: Crime, Deviance and Culture (Palgrave, 2012), as well as several journal articles.

Victoria Stewart
Victoria Stewart is Reader in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Leicester. She has published widely on twentieth and twenty-first century writing and has a particular interest in the representation of the Second World War, including the Holocaust, in both fiction and autobiography. Her book Women’s Autobiography: War and Trauma (Palgrave, 2003) considered the work of writers including Vera Brittain, Virginia Woolf and Anne Frank from the perspective of trauma theory. Narratives of Memory: British Writing of the 1940s (Palgrave, 2006) examined a range of novels and short fiction from this decade, focusing in particular on their depiction of the processes of memory. The Second World War in Contemporary British Fiction: Secret Histories (Edinburgh University Press, 2011) explored the use of secrecy as both a trope and a narrative device in recent fictional treatments of the war. Her latest book, Crime Writing in Interwar Britain: Fact and Fiction in the Golden Age (Cambridge University Press, 2017)examines the relationship between true-crime narratives and detective fiction in the mid-twentieth century. Victoria’s new project, ‘Crimes and War Crimes’, considers the effect of existing discourse about crime and criminality on the representation and understanding of war crimes in 1940s and 1950s Britain.

Call For Papers
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).

Please send 250 word paper proposals or 300 word proposals for fully formed panels to by 28 November 2018.