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The Legal Imagination: Archive, Practice, Concept

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 methods in the study of law? And most importantly, what can literature and theater tell us about the legal imagination that other cultural artifacts cannot? These questions may be particularly relevant to those working on literature and law, but they are significant in a more general way, as well. They offer an opportunity for each of us to reflect on how we might develop an approach to medieval and early modern studies that is both historically rigorous and intellectually versatile.

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