Proposed Special Issue for Law and Literature (Cardozo Law School):

Humor and the Law


Humor in its various forms, from comedy and satire to stand-up and cartoons, is regularly at the centre of juridical debates and actual litigation: from defamation and blasphemy to copyright violations and incitement to hatred. Yet, due to its inherent ambiguity and frequent elusiveness, humor can make it particularly difficult to draw a clear line between lawful and unlawful expression. How exactly does the law regulate humor, and how does that change across different judicial systems or historical periods? How do certain forms and practices of humor respond, in different places and at different times, to the restrictions of the law? How might humor studies contribute to and illuminate the legal challenges posed by different forms of comic expression? How might humor, moreover, challenge the logics and procedures of law?

Although recent studies have stressed the benefits of collaboration between jurists and humor experts (Godioli 2020, Little 2019, Milner Davis and Roach Anleu 2018), the potential for interdisciplinary dialogue is still vastly unexplored. This special issue will investigate the intersection between humor and the law from various perspectives — we aim to promote diversity in terms of theoretical frameworks, historical and geographical contexts, judicial systems and legal issues addressed. We welcome full-length articles (approximately 8-10,000 words) which should consist of close readings of one specific example of an actual legal case concerning humor in any medium (including for instance literature, stand-up comedy, film, cartoons, or memes).

The special issue proposal has received preliminary interest from Law and Literature (Cardozo Law School). If you are interested in contributing, please send an email to by 1 November 2020 including an abstract (ca. 250-500 words) and a short bio note (max. 200 words). The outcome of the selection process will be communicated within one month after the deadline. We are expecting completed contributions by Spring or Summer 2021.

Coronavirus note: The editorial team began planning this CFP before the outbreak of Covid-19 and thus under very different conditions and with very different expectations. As a result, we understand that many potential contributors might not be able to complete their articles by the proposed deadline. If, however, you are still interested in contributing, but perhaps along a revised timeline, you should be in contact with the editors (; we are more than happy to offer flexibility to potential contributors.

Best wishes,

The organizing team:

Brigitte Adriaensen (Radboud University/Open University)

Andrew Bricker (Ghent University)

Alberto Godioli (University of Groningen)

Ted Laros (Open University)



Godioli, A. (2020). ‘Cartoon Controversies at the European Court of Human Rights: Towards Forensic Humor Studies.’ Open Library of Humanities, 6(1). DOI:

Little, L. (2019). Guilty Pleasures: Comedy and Law in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Milner Davis, J. and Roach Anleu, S. eds (2018). Judges, Judging and Humour. London: Palgrave Macmillan.



Brigitte Adriaensen is a professor of Literary Studies at the Open University of the Netherlands, and a professor of Hispanic Studies at the Radboud University Nijmegen. She has published a monograph on the poetics of irony in the work of the Spanish author Juan Goytisolo, and she published several articles and volumes on the politics of humor in relation to violence in contemporary Latin American culture.

Andrew Bricker is an Assistant Professor of English Literature in the Department of Literary Studies at Ghent University, in Belgium. His research focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to satire, the law, laughter and humour.

Alberto Godioli is senior lecturer in European Culture and Literature at the University of Groningen, and programme director of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL). His research mostly focuses on humor and satire across media (from literature to cartoons), with particular regard to humor controversies and freedom of expression. He is principal investigator of the NETIAS project ‘Cartoons in Court: Towards a Forensic Analysis of Visual Humor‘ (2020-2023).

Ted Laros is assistant professor of literary studies at the Open University of the Netherlands. One of his main research interests is the interaction between the field of culture, on the one hand, and the fields of politics and law on the other. Recently the Open Access version of his 2017 book Literature and the Law in South Africa, 1910-2010: The Long Walk to Artistic Freedom appeared in the Law, Culture and Humanities Series of Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.