Research Objectives

"Does the law need literature?" and "Does literature need the law?" are the two overarching questions of this Collaborative Research Centre. The CRC thereby contributes to fundamental research on these two influential "value spheres" in Max Weber’s sense. Both have developed specific kinds of textual normativity for themselves, yet they are still positioned in a reciprocal relation. The CRC’s research focuses on this interdisciplinary association of law and literature, their respective disciplines, ideas and methods, as well as their social and cultural impact. In order to be able to map the interdisciplinary field of law and literature, the CRC considers three main categories that are indicative of the relation between law and literature: materialness, comparativeness and constitutiveness. These three categories lay the structural foundation for the project and form a subdivision into three individual research clusters within the CRC.

Research cluster A (materialness) looks at representations of law in literature and literature in law. The focus lies on literature as a subject of law and law as a subject in literature as well as on the specific criteria that enable or regulate the selection of material. One of the overall questions is what transformations follow from this mutual subjectification. Research cluster B (comparativeness) focuses on (historical) occurrences of the comparison of law and literature and extends its research objective towards different approaches to comparativeness in law and literary studies. The general research questions therefore include probing both similarities and differences between law and literature in order to reflect critically customary strategies of comparison as well as disciplinary particularities (comparison of comparison). Research cluster C (constitutiveness) investigates in how far literature serves not only as a testimony to existent law, but is also constitutive towards it through subverting, reforming or building it. In analogy, this area of the CRC asks in how far law is constitutive to literature through enabling, regulating or inspiring it.

Literary studies and law are brought together here as equal partners in a momentous academic collaboration unprecedented in the German research field. The interdisciplinary dialogue between the two aims at investigating and mapping this particular field of research in order to uncover systematic relations between these disciplines and to document particular illustrations. The project’s objective is to clarify crucial aspects of the specific nexus of law and literature. The CRC, which looks at a potential duration of 12 years of funded research, intends to work towards a further development of our modern understanding of both law and literature. We take on the challenges implied in fundamental as well as timely questions concerning the reciprocal relation between law and literature (first 4-year period), concerning Europeanisation, migration and globalisation (second 4-year period) and medial turns (third 4-year period).

The CRC aligns itself with the research premises of the American law-and-literature movement, but the project places a sharper emphasis on the specific cultural context and its 'Europeanness.' The interdisciplinary approach also places the CRC in the immediate vicinity of other disciplines such as sociology, political theory, anthropology and history as well as economics. The project aims at an even more profound understanding of law and literature as different, yet deeply connected entities that serve as fundamental pillars of the Western order of society.