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Welcome to Roman Law and Latin Literature

Guiseppe Arcimboldo: Juristen Ulrich Zasius. opd Grh 1227

On the relationship between law and literature, Northorp Frye famously said that “all respect for the law is a product of the social imagination, and the social imagination is what literature directly addresses.” Since then, an entire interdisciplinary field has developed, with scholars eagerly examining the dialectic between legal and literary discourses (see, e.g., Aristodemou 2000; Dolin 2018). While these interdisciplinary studies have been vital in exploring law and literature as force fields of mutual contestation, they tend also to be broad and eclectic, moving rapidly from discussion of Sophocles’ Antigone to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The Roman Republic and Empire, on the other hand, have been mostly overlooked, despite their being periods of massive tectonic shift in the legal and literary landscape. The discipline of Classics has a lot to contribute to this lively debate about legal and literary interactions, but to date, the topic remains underexplored. While recent work by Lowrie (2009; 2016) and Gunderson (2015) suggests a paradigm shift, such theoretically nuanced approaches still represent a very small portion of classical scholarship. Experts in Roman law rarely engage in constructive dialogue with specialists in Latin literature and vice versa.

This conference aims to bridge that divide. It will explore the quintessentially normative nature of Latin literature vis-à-vis the literary character of Roman law. We aim to examine the interactions between legal texts (e.g. laws, edicts, witness statements, inscriptions, letters, responsa of jurists, sententiae) and literary works (e.g. comedy, tragedy, epic, didactic poetry, elegy, satire, collections of letters, declamations, speeches, praecepta,scholia).

We welcome papers on any aspect of Roman law and literature and particularly encourage proposals that engage with legal and literary theory, the philosophy of law, the history of Roman law and literature, interactions between Rome and Greece or the Near East, and the reception of Roman law and literature from the Middles Ages to Modern times.        

Possible topics may include, but are not restricted to:

authority, sovereignty, epistolarity, maternity, patria potestas, sexuality, marriage, emotions, performance, theatricality, speech act theory, biopolitics, exemplarity.  

Abstracts of maximum 300 words for papers of ca 30 minutes should be emailed to rlll.conference@durham.ac.uk by the 8th of March 2019. Please include your full name and affiliation in your email.

Conference Organizers: Drs Erica Bexley and Ioannis Ziogas

Works Cited:

Aristodemou, M. 2000. Law and Literature: Journeys From Her to Eternity. Oxford.

Dolin, K. (ed.). 2018. Law and Literature. Cambridge.

Frye, N. 1970. “Literature and the Law,” Law Society of Upper Canada Gazette 4: 70-7.

Gunderson, E. 2015. Laughing Awry. Plautus and Tragicomedy. Oxford.

Lowrie, M. 2009. Writing, Performance, and Authority in Augustan Rome. Oxford.

— 2016. “Roman Law and Latin Literature,” in Plessis, P., Ando, C., Tuori, K. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook to Roman Law. Oxford.  70-81.

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