From Law and Literature to Legality and Affect argues for the continued vitality of Law and Literature. Traditional methods of Law and Literature are combined with work in critical media studies, affect, and cultural narratology to address topics such as ethnonationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, and systemic racism in Germany and the United States. Taking stock of the diversification of the field at fifty years, this book understands Law and Literature as a political project. It has a precedent in inaugural Law and Literature texts such as Jacob Grimm’s Von der Poesie im Recht (On the Poetry in Law) from 1815/16, which imagined an alternative legal order that was grounded in the unity of law, poetic language, and feeling. The political thrust of Law and Literature continues up into the present in the arts of BlackLivesMatter, which document and resist police violence. Law and Literature offers keys for understanding how legal texts and identities are constructed, and for comprehending how cultural-legal issues are mediated affectively. Using cultural, medial, affect theoretical, and narrative analyses of law, a revitalized Law and Literature offers a set of methods and theories with which to address the most pressing issues of the present.

You can find a trenchant review of the book by Andrew Majeske here. This is followed by a co-authored interview in which the sparks fly while Andrew and I discuss the place of affect in law and current political events.

The book launch on October 10 was accompanied by an online event that speakers of the law and literature sphere attended. It featured inputs by Jeanne Gaakeer, Professor of Jurisprudence at Erasmus School of Law (Rotterdam) and Senior Justice in the Court of Appeal, The Hague; Simon Stern, Professor of Law and English, Chair in Innovation Law (Toronto) and Co-Editor of the Oxford University Press Law and Literature series; Werner Gephart, Professor of Legal Sociology and Founding Director of the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture” (Bonn); and Peter Goodrich, Professor of Law and Director of the Program in Law and Humanities, Cardoza Law School (New York) and Visiting Professor in the School of Social Science at New York University Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates).

The launch was moderated by Birte Christ, Substitute Professor for English and American Literature (Giessen) and author of a book on representations of the American death penalty in film and television, (under review) and co-editor, with Stefanie Mueller, of a special issue of Amerikatustudien on Poetry and Law.

Flyer for the book launch event

Using the Book

A Model for Doing Media Analysis

The following tripartite model is not limited to working with popular legality but applies to any form of critical cultural analysis.

Note that other authors worked with a similar analytical model, especially Kellner, Douglas (2009). “Toward a Critical/Media Cultural Studies.” Media/Cultural Studies: Critical Approaches. Ed. Rhonda Hammer and Douglas Kellner. New York and Washington: Peter Lang. 5-24. Print.


A Model of Legal Identity Based on People’s Felt Relations to Their Legal Environments (Legality)

How Legal Identities Are Created through Interactions with Legality

Adapted from: Olson, Greta (2022). From Law and Literature to Legality and Affect. Oxford: OUP. 62. Print.

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