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The Aesthetics of International Law

The Aesthetics of International Law

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 272
  • Book Info
    The Aesthetics of International Law
    Book Description:

    InThe Aesthetics of International Law, Ed Morgan engages in a literary parsing of international legal texts. In order to demonstrate how these types of legal narratives are imbued with modernist aesthetics, Morgan juxtaposes international legal documents and modern (as well as some immediately pre- and post-modern) literary texts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8486-7
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: The Aesthetics of International Law
    (pp. 3-6)

    The opening lines of Vladimir Nabokov’s most well-known novel tend to take readers by surprise: ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.’¹ Having heard of and anticipated this famous story, in which the term ‘nymphet’ was coined,² one might expect any number of approaches and themes: a quasi-pornographic appeal to the senses, or perhaps a psycho-drama of passion and guilt, or even a morality lesson in wrong and right....

  5. 1 Edgar Allan Poe: Law and Terrorism
    (pp. 7-15)

    Terror is not an easy thing to define.² According to the modern master of the medium, Stephen King, the phenomenon occurs when one ‘has been personally touched ... [by] melodies of disestablishment and disintegration.’³ In much the same vein, D.H. Lawrence commented on Edgar Allan Poe’s tendency to force the reader to undergo the very sense of terror experienced by his characters, noting that ‘the human soul must suffer its own disintegration.’⁴ Indeed, Poe’s acknowledged dexterity at the Gothic tale has been said to lie in his ability to ‘manipulate the conventions of that horror to register subtly on the...

  6. 2 Henrik Ibsen and Bertolt Brecht: War Crimes Trials
    (pp. 16-27)

    Despite the number of prosecutions underway in The Hague, Arusha, Sierra Leone, and in domestic courts around the world, war crimes cases remain rarified legal events.¹ As forums for evidencing the extremes of human behaviour, each case presents a unique dramatization of wartime actions – reflecting large historic conflict as well as localized incidents of violence.² A war crimes trial, with all of its conventions embodied in the law of evidence and the rules of procedure,³ is therefore a special form of theatre.⁴ Like all theatre it can be described, as Aristotle did in his Poetics,⁵ as an imitation of human...

  7. 3 Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot: Public International Law
    (pp. 28-44)

    Although the temporal starting point for international law would be impossible to identify,¹ the discipline began producing its greatest quantity of material and having its greatest impact in the early twentieth century. Since it is the overriding theory of this book that the aesthetic qualities of the law mirror similar qualities in literature, it makes sense to examine the core doctrinal developments of modern international law through the lens of the distinctive literary modernism that developed at the same time.² What follows are three short illustrations of this methodology, dealing with each of public international law’s three primary categories of...

  8. 4 James Joyce: Conflict of Laws
    (pp. 45-72)

    In May 1989, a wealthy Saudi Arabian currency broker named Sheikh Abdul Ahmed Showlag died, leaving a large fortune for his heirs. Among the wealth he had accumulated in his lifetime were two deposits worth approximately £17.5m that were held in London banks. By the time of his death, these deposits had been transferred out of England into accounts held in Egypt and the Island of Jersey in the name of a Panamanian company wholly owned by Abdel Moniem Mansour, an Egyptian national and former employee and assistant of Sheikh Showlag.¹ On discovering that the funds were missing, Showlag’s executors...

  9. 5 Franz Kafka: Extraterritorial Criminal Law
    (pp. 73-94)

    It is common wisdom for international lawyers to consider the emergence of a political entity from colonial or dominion status to independence and sovereignty to connote full participation in the international legal system,¹ with all the rights and obligations that thereby attach.² Thus, for example, while English colonies prior to independence could exercise substantial self-government they did not possess international legal personality³ and could not exploit or regulate their resources and territory without some act of delegation from the imperial government.⁴ Likewise, provinces and states, as federal sub-units, typically lack the competence to legislate extraterritorially⁵ or to exhibit other external...

  10. 6 Mordecai Richler: Universal Jurisdiction
    (pp. 95-103)

    Two otherwise disparate events took place within weeks of each other in July 2001: the commencement of a war crimes investigation of Ariel Sharon, at the time the prime minister of the State of Israel, by a Belgian magistrate,¹ and the death by cancer of Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler.² The objective of this chapter is to exploit this coincidence and engage in some deeper reflection on the coming together of the international with the literary personality. The author of the satirical masterpiece,The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, may have more to tell us about the international scene than political specialists...

  11. 7 Vladimir Nabokov: Extradition to the Death Penalty
    (pp. 104-115)

    ‘Dying is an art ...’ said Sylvia Plath, ‘I do it exceptionally well.’¹ This chapter asks whether the same can be said of killing. Western democracies and human rights organizations have struggled for the past two decades with the question of whether to extradite fugitives to face capital punishment in America. It has been, to say the least, a difficult struggle.

    One would expect the death penalty to be addressed as a question of moral or legal philosophy. After all, a judicial hanging may be empirically indistinguishable from a lynching,² so that arguments about right and wrong must require some...

  12. 8 Jorge Luis Borges: The Break-up of Yugoslavia
    (pp. 116-132)

    The break-up of the former Yugoslavia turned out to be a time of opportunity for international law, with the chaos of civil strife creating the real possibility of rational and practical governance by transnational norms. In confirming the extinction of one state and protecting the territorial interests of several new ones, and in defining new humanitarian law and indicting war criminals, the international system promised to rise to the difficult occasion. Indeed, in the early 1990s, a new institutional environment was constructed by the European Community¹ and the United Nations² to deal with the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic...

  13. 9 Thomas Pynchon: Environmental Liability
    (pp. 133-149)

    Unlike previous chapters, which tend to cross the border between law and literature once, this chapter criss-crosses a number of different borders in multiple directions. The goal is to mirror the dizzying array of procedural doctrines under discussion with an equally dizzying set of literary and other comparisons. Contemporary international litigation is compared to a 1960s work of fiction by Thomas Pynchon.¹ Civil procedure generally, and one of its specific rules,² is compared to American social and intellectual structures, civil liability for polluting the environment on one side of the border is juxtaposed with the pollution of the civil liability...

  14. 10 Kurt Vonnegut: The Law of War
    (pp. 150-163)

    Like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, international law has come unstuck in time.¹ It has gone to sleep stressing a normative future based on state ‘obligations owed towards all the other members of the international community’² and has awakened in a bygone world in which the state is ‘susceptible of no limitation not imposed by itself.’³ The opposing time zones seem now to exist in unison. Thus, for example, the European Court of Human Rights, in examining the impact of the Torture Convention, can split 9:8 on whether national self-interest trumps universal rules of cooperation, or the other way around.⁴ Likewise,...

  15. Conclusion: For a New Scholarship
    (pp. 164-169)

    In its decision inAttorney General of Canada v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.,¹ the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit revisited, and affirmed, one of international law’s ripest chestnuts: the ‘Revenue rule.’² In doing so, the court parted from recent jurisprudence suggesting the inevitability of the rule’s modification,³ in the process demonstrating the futility of law reform for mending the perceived defects of international justice. The judiciary seems to have concluded, in other words, that the epithet for international law parallels that of contemporary literature in its sheer banality: ‘the world is neither significant nor absurd. It...

  16. Epilogue: Pound of Flesh
    (pp. 170-176)

    As I reflect now on literature and the law, I realize that there are two men that I have never been able to understand. One is Ezra Pound. All that honing of imagery, that pruning of Chinese blossoms, that stroking of Eliot’s withered stumps, only to end up in a land of wasted time. But that’s a subject for another day. The other one is Yuri Bezalel, who has been on death row in a Pennsylvania prison for several decades now. I travelled recently from my home in Canada to visit Yuri for the first time in years, intending to...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 177-268)
  18. Index
    (pp. 269-272)