Subproject B01

B01 Literary Forms of European Legal Culture in Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Studies of Law and Literature in Central and Eastern European Societies from a Comparative Perspective

The idea of a ‘Europe of Law,’ or a ‘European Legal Identity’ is equally crucial for the Eastern part of this continent. This is why the PIs of B01 aim at a comparative analysis of West and East European texts that prove vital for research on law and literature. The historical focus lies on the 19th and 20th centuries, but some of the general lines of investigation will be followed through to the present.

1) Law as Literature. On this history of sources of law as literary forms. a) In what sense if law ‘like’ literature? Founding narratives of European Constitutions; b) Historiography as source of law

2) Literary Communications on Law: a) Literature as Medium and Defense towards Juridification (Poland, Russia, Ukraine); b) The early crime novel in Western Europe and the Russian Empire

Ronald’s Dworkin’s study How Law is Like Literature poses the question how distinctive parallels between literary and legal texts can be construed as constructive for both literary studies and law outside a common law jurisdiction. Written constitutions often include implicit foundation narratives that draw a line between the old and the new era. The project covers new ground as research on East European constitutions is still at its early beginnings. Besides such narratives underlying written constitutions, the PIs are also interested in the corresponding context of a normative appropriation of texts through historiography as a source of law. This evokes both the notion of traditional rights over texts as well as narrative myths. The project applies this approach to Ukrainian texts. From the early modern age through the late 18th century a series of historiographical texts emerges that seem to have normative, quasi-constitutional subtexts.

As an analysis of a literary communication about law, the project places a particular focus on legal acculturation as a problem and shows a specific interest in the role of what can be considered belle-lettres in this context; especially in countries with a state-controlled public. The question is how authors in Russia, Ukraine and Poland fictionalize juridification or try to ward it off, for instance through ethical maximalisms. While Russian authors tend to be interested mostly in spectacular criminal trials, Ukrainian authors show a different approach towards the law and questions of justice through legal practice in civil society and the lawyer character. The project follows these developments in Ukrainian literature into the 20th century, including narratives written during socialism and 1960s-dissedent culture. This vast historical framework can also be applied to Polish literature. While the Russian juridical reform in 1864 leads to decades of debates about how to evaluate the juridification process – often taken a nihilistic stance – the Polish authors of the time tend to regard the law as an instrument of social modernization and a means to restore an independent nation. Another focus within this part of the project – also comparing East and West European literatures – lies on potential parallels between forms of juridification and the rise of the crime novel in the 19th century. It is perfectly possible to consider the genre of the crime novel as an element of communications on the law; especially when, such as is the case in Émile Gaboriau’s “romans judiciaries,” the solving of the crime is expressed with explicit references to proper legal terms. The comparison of West and East European narratives will also include less canonical texts (such as Polish narratives) that illustrate more complex legal notions such as “feigned offence” or “fraud prevention.” The PIs would like to show that the crime novel becomes a popular medium of law reflection at this moment in time.

Head

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Lohsse
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Institut für Rechtsgeschichte
Universitätsstraße 14-16, JUR 326
48143 Münster
Tel.: +49 251/83-22780
Email: Prof. Dr. Sebastian Lohsse

Prof. Dr. Alfred Sproede
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Institut für Slavistik
Bispinghof 3a, Raum 209
48143 Münster
Tel.: +49 251/83-24570
Email: slavistik@uni-muenster.de

Prof. Dr. Irina Wutsdorff
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Institut für Slavistik
Bispinghof 3, Raum 211
48143 Münster
Tel.: +49 251/ 83-24570
Email: irina.wutsdorff@uni-muenster.de

Research Assistants

Tetyana Dagovych
Melanie Foik
Fryderyk S. Zoll