Ravenstein Seminar (Winter School 2020): War, Literature and Law

Ravenstein Seminar

Dates: 22-24 January 2020
Venue: Leiden University | 22 January: Lipsius, room 147, Cleveringaplaats 1, Leiden | 23 & 24 January: PJ Vethgebouw room 1.01 Nonnensteeg 3, Leiden
Open to:PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Credits: 5 EC
Organizers: Prof. Dr. Frans Willem Korsten (Leiden University), Dr Ted Laros (Open University), Mariëlle Matthee (Leiden University)

Registration will open November 6, 2019

Wars come in many forms: in the archaic form of the battlefield confrontation between opposing armies, in civil wars, in wars between the state and revolutionary factions, but also, more recently, in the metaphorically indicated but still very real forms of the ‘war on drugs’ and the ‘war on terror’. We are surrounded daily by newsreports on cyberwarfare and ecological warfare. War may be one of the worst horrors human beings can go through, yet they also keep on faring it, which must imply that they somehow, perversely, also desire it.

In this OSL winter school we aim to focus on current and historical instances of warfare, from the contemporary to the distant past, and on a wide range of violent conflicts such as the ones named above. All of them has been thematised in literature – and ‘literature’ is also a synecdoche here for all forms of art, like cinema, comics, paintings, songs, plays, and so forth. This holds, then, from Tolstoj’s epic War and Peace to Keiji Nakazawa’s manga Barefoot Gen, from Isabel Allende’s historical novel Portrait in Sepia to Tupac’s song Changes, or from Chibundu Onuzo’s novel Welcome to Lagos to Matthew Heineman’s documentary City of Ghosts. As most works of art testify, wars are always fought in close proximity to law, as all acts of war form a provocation to the operation of law, either because ‘normal life’ and the rule of law have been disrupted or because martial law only covers certain forms of warfare. Or because the laws on war crimes are considered, ironically, as ‘soft law’. At the same time it needs to be acknowledged that many forms of war have been legally underpinned, or made possible by law.

Literature has been the instrument that helped people sustain war (as Primo Levi testified) or that was a major vehicle for the call for justice (as in the work of Antjie Krog). At the same time there is much art that promotes war (Marinetti’s horrifying manifest), or motivates it (Kipling’s “White man’s burden”). Law may be the last stronghold people hold on to in times of violence (as happens wherever people keep on registering what happened with an eye to future justice), or may instead itself be the instrument of violence (as perhaps too many examples illustrate). Our aim in this winter school is to investigate the forcefields and dynamics that exist between the two fields, literature and law, as they intersect in making sense of, or in their trying to govern the phenomenon of war.

We invite ResMa students and PhD students to participate in this winter school by means of a focused paper and active participation during the three day gatherings. We invite historical studies as well as conceptual reflections, we invite scholars coming from the legal side and those coming from the humanities. Our aim is to make the different disciplines talk to one another and to have a broad scope of reflections on the dynamics described above.

The first day of our meeting will consist in theoretical explorations of the concepts at stake and in focusing on the papers produced by the participants. The papers will be central in the next two mornings as well. In the two
afternoons we will have four speakers giving two key note lectures per day.

 

Our confirmed keynote speakers are:

 

Prof. dr. Richard H. Weisberg
Richard H. Weisberg is the Walter Floersheimer Professor of Constitutional Law.
He was an Obama appointee to the Commission on the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. Professor Weisberg has helped litigate successfully in American federal courts on behalf of Holocaust survivors and their heirs, providing a measure of justice for World War II victims of anti-Semitism. President Nicholas Sarkozy of France awarded him the Legion of Honor in 2008. The founding director at Cardozo of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program and the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy, he writes widely in those areas, including his book Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France and essays on First Amendment developments in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a pioneer in the growing law and literature movement worldwide, and his books The Failure of the Word and Poethics have been widely translated. In 2014, he published In Praise of Intransigence: The Perils of Flexibility (Oxford University Press).

 

Prof. dr. Gisèle Sapiro

Gisèle Sapiro is Professor of Sociology at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales and research director at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, from which she received a médaille de bronze in 2000. She specialises in the sociology of translation as well as of literature and intellectuals. Her first book The French Writers′ War, 1940-1953 (Duke University Press, 2014; original edition 1999) adopts Bourdieu’s field theory to analyse French writers’ political choices during the German occupation. Her publications also include La Responsabilité de l’Ecrivain. Littérature, Droit et Morale en France, XIXe–XXe siècles (Seuil, 2011), focusing on writers’ and intellectuals’ struggles for freedom of speech and the autonomy of the arts in France, as well as Les Ecrivains et la politique en France: De l’Affaire Dreyfus à la guerre d’Algérie (Seuil, 2018).

 

Prof. dr. Carrol Clarkson

Carrol Clarkson is Professor and Chair of Modern English Literature at the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on aesthetics, legal theory, and South African literature and art. Her books include J.M. Coetzee: Countervoices (2009; second edition 2013) and Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice (Fordham University Press, 2014). Before coming to Amsterdam she was Professor and Head of the English Department at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

 

A complete programme will be available soon.