Prof. Mara Santi (University of Ghent) on Law & Literature

Dear students,

this week’s classes will be devoted to the topic of Law & Literature. Prof. Mara Santi, Associate Professor of Italian Literature at the University of Ghent, will be our first guest speaker.

Titles of the lectures:

March 11th: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… – Law and Literature in the Mirror of Interdisciplinarity
March 12th: …and they lived happily ever after – Narration and Narrativity between Law and Literature
March 13th:  “la giustizzia: na macchina! No strazzio, la giustizzia – Literary case studies


J. Stone Peters, Law, Literature and the Vanishing Real: on the Future of an Interdisciplinary Illusion, in PMLA,120.2 (2005), 442-452.

A. Gearey, Law and Narrative, in “Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory”, London and New York 2006, 271-275.

J.D. Velleman, Narrative Explanation, in “The Philosophical Review”, 112.1 (2003), 1- 25.

You can read Prof. Santi’s CV here: CV_MS_ENG

4 thoughts on “Prof. Mara Santi (University of Ghent) on Law & Literature

  1. Elena Francis says:

    I really appreciated Prof. Mara Santi’s lessons last week. I think that these kind of lessons are very useful for us students because we are not used to participating in interactive, dynamic and funny lessons in which we can be very involved and in which we can partecipate easily. By means of these lessons I gained the chance to reflect about the similarities and the differences between law and literature and i realized that there are a lot more elements in common than i originally thought. Infact, law and literature are both a source of national identity. We have understood this thanks to the texts about narratology and stories and through the video of B. Obama’s speech and the funny one about “I promessi sposi” in ten minutes. We have learned a lot of things about narrative texts and a lot of theories. We have also learned that, potentially, stories are everywhere and that also in the field of law there are a great quantity of stories. When there is a crime, for example, there are different virtual narratives to follow: one story is a story of guilt. The other one is a story of innocence.
    But, the most relevant point of these lessons is that law and literature have something in common: law, as much as literature, is not only an instrument, through which we can solve problems, but it is also something that produces identity. From this point, and in particular after the projection of Obama’s speech video, i reflected about the concept of national identity. The situations in italy and in the USA seem very different. I think that in Italy there is no sense of union, no national identity, no common feelings. Instead, in the USA, the context is completely different and we realize it in President B. Obamas’ speech, whose words are words of hope for the future of the American people, words of cohesion of a Nation. We can see the President as a guide for the Americans, a leader who places trust in people in rebuilding the Country after the painful events of the 11th of September 2001, and against terrorism. He frequently uses the word “we”, referring to the community of the American people.
    Maybe these different situations are the consequence of a different historical background. Italy is an old country where wars have been fought since the time of the Roman Empire and even before that. A country which was first dominant and then dominated and ruled by other Nations. A country with an ancient and strong culture. The USA, a recent and young country, created in a short time compared with Italy and Europe in general – ‘The Old World’ – with a recent cultural development, based on the European one. And maybe it is for this reason that the Americans seem more cohesive and unified compared to Italians, because they didn’t have to suffer centuries of wars and social problems, which divided the country. In the end, i think that maybe this different historical background is also the reason of the birth of two different legal systems, civil and common law. Maybe Italians have the necessity to count on written and certain law, and Americans are sure about their sense of union and they can base their legal system on previous judicial decisions and on the opinions of the jury, which is another important distinction between the two Countries. The jury is very important in the US: the opinion of it’s citizens is fundamental in the result of a trial. In Italy the jury does not have the same importance and influence on the judge’s decision, because we want to anchor the final choice of the judge on written law. And from this fact we can grasp the meaning of the different feelings and sensibilities of the two Nations.


  2. Chiara Casuccio says:

    When prof. Mara Santi explained us the three elements of narrative: the end, the script/ frame, and the theory of mind, suddentely a parallel appeared in my mind. What I’m about to say should be taken with the grain of salt because like every religious topic this could be a slippery slope, and this doesn’t want to be an “absolut” for everyone.
    Anyway, I think that one of the most representative examples of how the end is so important to the whole story, making it understandable to us, is the Gospel : we could not understand the Jesus Christ’s story, His miracles, his aims and also His own person without knowing the end of the story: the Resurrection. But there’s more; I could not be a catholic if I didn’t know the end of the story; there would be no meaning of the rules Jesus gave us if we didn’t know that one day our bodies will live again just like Jesus’ body did. Of course, to me, this is not “just a story” but is something I believe in, but I think that a similar discourse can be made for the ones who don’t believe who, at last, thank to the ending of the narration , will be able to understand WHAT we believe in.



    I would like to spend a few words about the question that professor Mara Santi did “do you think that there’s a hero in Italian literature?” Well, In my opinion we have never had a charachter which symbolised fully the figure of the hero. Many of our writers ,such as D’Annunzio or Italo Svevo,focused only on some aspects of human personality and in a certain way they made their characters more human than so many other artists. For example,Svevo,who embraced naturalism,represented his main characters Emilio Brentani,Alfonso Nitti and Zeno Cosini as incapables to manage even the easier events of their own life,they’re won by life. On the other side,D’Annunzio,tried to represent his characters with the qualities of Nietzsche’s Übermensch,they are fighters but in the end,as it happens for Svevo,they’re won by life. Mostly all of the italian writers represented man as a man and even it he tries to become a hero he fails. Jacopo Ortis killed himself because it was no more possible to realise his ideals and also the woman he loved refused him. Adriano Meis/Mattia Pascal at the end of the book hid himself in a library to avoid letting everybody discover his real identity. In greek literature the heroes were warriors,brave and intelligent chief,such as Achilles or Ulisses. The more people they killed,the more honour they recived. I think it still happens nowadays in certain cases. One of the most actual is the case of Chris Kile,the “American Sniper”. He killed hundreds of people,man,women and children,but he is considered a hero because for him they were enemies and he was working to “obtain freedom for the native popoulation and for everybody” (not my words)
    I think that an heroic man could be found in french literature. I’m talking about Roland,main character of the “Chanson de Roland” one of the most famous chanson de geste. He is brave,he defeats his land and his honour and he is faithful to his emperor Carlo Magno.
    In my opinion,at the end,a hero could be considered a men who defeats the other people, who tries to fight a disease or try to heal someone else,a man who takes care of his family and who tries to do the best as he can. You don’t necessarily need to have super powers to make good actions


  4. Ada Maria Corrado says:

    I would like to spend a few words on one of my personal role model: the main character of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch.
    In this book the author explores civil rights and racism in the Southern United States of the 1930s. Through the eyes of Scout, we learn about her father Atticus Finch, an attorney who hopelessly strives to prove the innocence of a black man, Tom Robinson, unjustly accused of rape.
    The story of the arrest and conviction of Tom Robinson exemplifies the way the law had failed African-Americans in the South before the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
    Lee dissects the failure of jurisprudence through the thoughts of Scout and Atticus.
    In particular Atticus is the expositor of Lee’s ideas about the purpose of the law. Atticus understands that lasting legal change will not succeed unless people’s hearts also change and unless the law becomes flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances.
    The author suggests that bending the law a little bit is appropriate and is preferred over strict adherence to rigid rules; that bending the law is a higher task than simple arrangements among disputing parties: it requires searching for the higher purpose that is involved. And it is clear that Atticus always chooses to uphold a higher purpose, yet demonstrating that bending the law involves making moral choices: the motive for bending the law must never be arbitrary or biased.
    Atticus is steady in his search for the higher moral purpose in every aspect of life: he thinks that defending an innocent man, preventing hatred of others from a corrupt society and protecting innocent songbirds (the “mockingbirds” of the title) are all ways of living out his conscience, his moral obligation. In his every act, Atticus opposes hatred, racism and common prejudice.

    Examples of Atticus Finch’s impact on the legal profession are plentiful.
    He is considered a model of integrity for the legal profession. He has become something of a hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person. The Alabama State Bar erected a monument to Atticus in Monroeville, marking his existence as the “first commemorative milestone in the state’s judicial history”.
    An article in the Michigan Law Review claims, “No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession,”
    In 2008, Lee herself received an honorary special membership to the Alabama State Bar for creating Atticus who “has become the personification of the exemplary lawyer in serving the legal needs of the poor”.


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