AWARDS & HONORS

© 2017 by Kevin Curran. 

August 24, 2017

“Legal Ecologies” is a roundtable session I co-organized with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen for MLA 2018 in New York. The session is co-sponsored by MLA’s Law and Humanities Forum and Ecocroticism and Environmental Humanities Forum 

The Anglo-American legal tradition is fundamentally anthropocentric and individualist. As the legal philosopher Desmond Manderson observes, criminal law, contract law, property law, and even constitutional law all start “with the assumed primacy of ‘I’,” the “I” which is independent and autonomous, born with a set of natural, unassailable rights to life, liberty, and property. Both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke believed that humans were by nature independent and self-governing and that the first and most basic duty of any legal system should be to protect this primary freedom. This basic acceptance of the primacy of the “I” persists in the most influential legal thought of our own time, too, linking together the otherwise very different work of theorist...

August 24, 2017

I will be directing a seminar called “Object Lessons in Renaissance Personhood” at the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Los Angeles, CA, March 28-31, 2018.

The concept of personhood has a long and contentious history. It dates back to antiquity and in our own time underpins debates about abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights. In early modern England legal personhood was established through Magna Carta, which guaranteed that no free man should be harmed in person or property, save in accordance with the law of the land. This seminar starts with the premise that personhood is not just inward looking, a legal expression of agency and sentience, but also outward looking, a legal fiction designed specifically to curate interactions among people, property, and institutions, and to manage the sometimes blurry boundaries between these three categories. Participants in this seminar will think about personhood from the outside in rather than from the inside out, and o...

August 24, 2017

“Object Lessons in Personhood” is a roundtable session I organized for the MLA Law and Humanities Forum. It will take place on Thursday, January 5, 2017, at the MLA convention in Philadelphia. Featuring object lessons on chair, body, mail-coach, will, canoe, child soldier, and cloud, the session explores how theoretical issues surrounding legal personhood–questions of consent, responsibility, rights, and freedom–manifest themselves at the level of substance, form, and environment. Our aim is to establish a material archive for personhood and model new ways of putting legal studies into conversation with other thriving subfields in the humanities.

Presiding: Kevin Curran, University of Lausanne

CHAIR

Stephanie Elsky, University of Wisconsin, Madison

In Margaret Cavendish’s closet drama The Religious (1662), Mistris Odd-Humour, a gentleman’s daughter, refuses to relinquish her childhood chair, thus rendering herself unsuitable for marriage. Cavendish represents her attachment to this object...

August 24, 2017

On September 28, 2016, I’ll be directing a workshop called “The Legal Imagination: Archive, Practice, Concept” at the University of Geneva. A short description is below.

Between 1400 and 1700, English legal culture underwent massive changes on a number of fronts: textual, professional procedural, jurisdictional. With this in mind, this workshop invites participants to consider two basic questions: (1) how did law shape fundamental aspects of thought and experience in the late medieval and early modern periods? And (2) what sort of evidence exists to help us address this subject? In the course of our discussions, we will engage with a range of important methodological issues. For example: how do we pursue an archivally based study of legal culture without reducing law to a sub-species of social or political history? What aspects of law leave a recoverable material trace and what aspects do not? Do philosophy and theory provide critical resources that can work in concert with historical m...

August 24, 2017

Read my short piece commissioned for the Edinburgh University Press blog in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It’s called “Shakespeare’s Questions.” (I’m developing ideas dor a short book of the same title.)

August 24, 2017

A session for RSA 2016 in Boston.

Session Organizer: Kevin Curran (University of Lausanne)

Session Chair: Ayesha Ramachandran (Yale University)

Cosmopolitan Hospitality in The Merchant of Venice

Kevin Curran (University of Lausanne)

Abstract: The Merchant of Venice is Shakespeare’s most determinedly cosmopolitan play, presenting an array of border crossings and visitations among a religiously, nationally, and ethnically diverse community of friends and enemies. This paper explores the role of hospitality in cosmopolitan political life—the way greeting, feasting, and accommodation are used to manage encounters between insiders and outsiders in the play. Particular attention is given to the idea of “cosmopolitan hospitality,” which Immanuel Kant defined in Perpetual Peace (1789) as “the right of a foreigner not to be treated with hostility.” In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare takes up some of the same questions about curating political space that interest Kant in his essay. Impo...

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August 24, 2017

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