Law and Literature. Human rights in literature.

Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg & Alexandra Schultheis Moore (eds.)

Theoretical perspectives on human rights and literature

Foreword by Joseph R. Slaughter.

Routledge, New York, 2012, xvi, 302 pp.

ISBN: 9780415890977


What can literary theory reveal about discourses and practices of human rights, and how can human rights frameworks help to make sense of literature? How have human rights concerns shaped the literary marketplace, and how can literature impact human rights concerns? Essays in this volume theorize how both literature and reading literarily can shape understanding of human rights in productive ways. Contributors to Theoretical Perspectives on Human Rights and Literature provide a shared history of modern literature and rights; theorize how trauma, ethics, subjectivity, and witnessing shape representations of human rights violations and claims in literary texts across a range of genres (including poetry, the novel, graphic narrative, short story, testimonial, and religious fables); and consider a range of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights and their representations. The authors reflect on the imperial and colonial histories of human rights as well as the cynical mobilization of human rights discourses in the name of war, violence, and repression; at the same time, they take seriously Gayatri Spivak’s exhortation that human rights is something that we «cannot not want,» exploring the central function of storytelling at the heart of all human rights claims, discourses, and policies.

Table of contents

Foreword, Joseph R. Slaughter


Introduction Human Rights and Literature: The Development of an Interdiscipline, Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg and Alexandra Schultheis Moore

I. Histories, Imaginaries, and Paradoxes of Literature and Human Rights

1: «Literature,» the «Rights of Man,» and Narratives of Atrocity: Historical Backgrounds to the Culture of Testimony, Julie Stone Peters

2: Enabling Fictions and Novel Subjects: The Bildungsroman and International Human Rights Law, Joseph R. Slaughter

3: Top Down, Bottom Up, Horizontally: Resignifying the Universal in Human Rights Discourse, Domna C. Stanton

4: Literature, the Social Imaginary and Human Rights, Meili Steele

5: Intimations of What Was to Come: Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones and the Indivisibility of Human Rights, Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg

6: Paradoxes of Neoliberalism and Human Rights, Greg Mullins

II. Questions of Narration, Representation, and Evidence

7: Reading the Living Archives: The Witness of Literary Art, Carolyn Forché

8: Narrating Human Rights and the Limits of Magical Realism in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, Elizabeth S. Anker

9: Complicities of Transnational Witnessing in Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Wendy Kozol

10: Dark Chamber, Colonial Scene: Post-9/11 Torture and Representation, Stephanie Athey

III. Rethinking the ‘Subject’ of Human Rights

11: Human Rights as Violence and Enigma: Can Literature Really Be of Any Help with the Politics of Human Rights?, Nick Mansfield

12: Imagining Women as Human, Hephzibah Roskelly

13: «Disaster Capitalism» and Human Rights: Indra Embodiment and Subalternity in Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People, Alexandra Schultheis Moore

14: Do Human Rights Need a Self? Buddhist Literature and the Samsaric Subject, Gregory Price Grieve

IV. Epilogue Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg and Alexandra Schultheis Moore

Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg is an associate professor of English at Babson College, where she teaches courses in international literatures and human rights. She is author of Beyond Terror: Gender, Narrative and Human Rights (2007) as well as articles in books and in journals such as Callaloo, South Atlantic Review, and Peace Review.

Alexandra Schultheis Moore is associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the author of Regenerative Fictions: Postcolonialism, Psychoanalysis, and the Nation as Family (2004) as well as essays in edited collections and journals including Contemporary Literature, South Asian Review, Peace Review, and Genders.

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