Maria Aristodemou, Senior Lecturer in Law, Birkbeck University of London
DOES THE LETTER OF THE LAW ALWAYS ARRIVE
AT ITS DESTINATION?
Thursday 30 April, 1-3 p.m.
(1.00 sandwich lunch, 1.30 talk)
This lecture uses Balzac's short story "A Study in Feminine Psychology" as a springboard from which to explore what position the letter of the law occupies in a subject's psychic space. Through this tale of a mis-addressed declaration of love, the paper examines how the law and the signifier arrest the subject, and what freedom, if any, the subject has to manoeuvre around this position. Are subjects condemned, as Balzac seems to suggest in this tragi-comic tale, to never fully find, let alone assume, their own satisfying place "before the law"? Or that they can never do so without some embarrassment and/or pain? Further, if the letter of the law always arrives at its destination, if the subject is always arrested by the signifier, what hope is there for protest or critique?
Preferable is a reading of one or even two short stories before the talk, in particular Balzac's A Study in Feminine Psychology which will be focused on. The other story is Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter, which is in the background of the talk. The speaker will try to go through them briefly.
Maria Aristodemou, LLB (Bristol) LLM (Cambridge), is a Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck. Her research is interested in the interrelation of law and culture and, more specifically, how literary and other cultural narratives reflect and shape ideas about justice, norms and rules within society. It employs continental critical theory, in particular feminist, psychoanalytic and postcolonial approaches, to address texts ranging from Greek myths to contemporary writing, film and popular music.
She has published her book Law & Literature: Journeys from Her to Eternity with Oxford University Press in 2000.