Narrativity and Social Signification in Contemporary American Narratives of the Law

Prof. Dr. Katja Kanzler (website)
Institute of English and American Studies
TU Dresden

This project interrogates legal fictions across different media for their self-confident/-conscious engagement with the narrativity that enables the law as well as literature and other narrative media to do their work and be socially effective. Fictional narratives of the law – within and beyond specialized genres like the courtroom drama – are uniquely capable of addressing questions of social concern. As a topos, the law invites reflections on social norms and order at what Gregg Crane calls “the nexus between particular histories and larger values such as justice and fair play.” On another note, the topos also calls for an engagement with the linguistic, narrative means by which the law enforces norms and maintains order, means that legal fictions both depict and employ in their own narrations. This project explores how contemporary American narratives use the law to negotiate social or cultural issues, by what textual means they seek to (politically) ‘activate’ their readers or audiences, and how they combine this with a reflection on the law’s as well as their own narrativity.