EVENT: ‘Posting’ the law: Emerging Narratives of Law and Justice within Social Media discourses

Presented by: Cassandra Sharp, Jason Bainbridge, Kieran Tranter, Kate Tubridy, Yvonne Apolo, Olivia Todhunter

Date:               15 September 2017
Time:              12.30 to 5.00pm
Location:         Building 67, Room 202 (Moot Court)

There is little doubt that new digital technologies have performed a dynamic function in metamorphosing culture, both positively and negatively. Public engagement within social media regarding issues of legality, political discourse, and identity serves to shape, (re)interpret and transform cultural expectations of law. This symposium seeks to invite specific reflection on the performance of social media in its role of transmuting or challenging understandings of law. The symposium is designed to particularly explore the work of narrative and/or discourse in the interaction of law and social media in contemporary communication. It will provide a frame within which law and social media scholarship can investigate themes such as: the role of discourse in transforming, mirroring, creating, and sustaining legal consciousness; the way law is framed (or questioned and critiqued) within social media narratives; and the extent to which meaning-making about issues of justice is complicated by social media platforms.

We warmly invite you to attend this event and to participate in discussions arising out the presentations.

Registration is free but places are limited.  Please register your intention to attend.

Legal Fables and Fables of the Law

A new book, Fables of the Law: Fairy Tales in a Legal Context, edited by Professor Daniela Carpi of the University of Verona, Italy, and Associate Professor Marett Leiboff  has just been released. The book, published as volume 13 of the book series Law and Literature by the German publisher De Gruyter, contains contributions from legal scholars, jurisprudents, and literature and cultural studies scholars based in Italy, France, the UK, Australia and Austria.

The collection features two members of the Law and Popular Cultures theme of LIRC: Marett Leiboff and Dr Luis Gómez Romero. As well as her role as co-editor of the collection, Marett Leiboff contributes two chapters. The first, as part of the introduction to the idea that the law might ‘fable’, is called ‘Fabulous Law: Legal Fables’  in which she considers the dangers that occur to legal interpretation when the materialities, or realities of the circumstances that shape law and its principles are divorced from its interpretation. Through an examination of the meaning and etymology of the notion of the fable and its variants, she considers the ways in which law’s interpreters make new, perhaps incorrect, meanings through the veil of reason and rationality. She uses a well-known fable, ‘The Wolf and the Lamb’ and its reading as an abstract claim of power, building on the reading of Louis Marian, to one grounded in law and its practices, and its injustices in a highly material sense.

Dr Luis Gómez Romero’s chapter begins the second part of the collection, Part I: Fabulising Law, entitled  ‘The Wondrous (Baroque) Gender Revolution, or the Rise and Fall of the Empire of Fairies’. Using Kantian ethics and the shaping of Enlightenment thought and practices, and the rise and loss of principles of justice and right, Gómez Romero draws on the fairytales published by Charles Perrault to consider the role that instruction in expectations of conduct and thought are shaped – including those of law and power. Gómez Romero reminds us that the fairytale in France was the plaything of the aristocracy, denied to children and workers, and only latterly allowed beyond that small circle into the wider social order. Drawn from the fairytales shaped in the salons of the aristocratic women of the court of Louis XIV of France, Perrault’s own version of the fairytales published at the end of the 17th century reshaped their purpose, taking on the role of instruction into civilité, as passed down through time – to obtain power and recognition.

Marett Leiboff’s second chapter, ‘The Good Old Rule, the Catspaw and a Two-Headed Baby’, appears in Part II: Contemporary Fables. Here, she builds on the meaning of fable, reason, and power that she developed earlier in the collection, to read how much a significant case like Doodeward v Spence has been fabled over time, We find that the facts as we retell them were not quite as they seem, and the patterns of thinking used by the courts speak to another French institution developed in the 17th century that remained tightly embedded into 19th century thinking – the Logic and Grammar of Port-Royal. We find strategies of power deployed by Griffith CJ over that of the reason shaped by the dissentient, Higgins J, and each justice uses the same reworked fable to amplify their reasoning. Neither member of the court identifies the text they use, and the meaning of the fable is shown, in the hands of present day lawyers, to mean something very different again.

Through the Looking Glass: the Framing of Law through Popular Imagination

Through the Looking Glass: the Framing of Law through Popular Imagination

Special Issue – GLR 24(3)

[This is an extract from the Introduction to this special issue of the Griffith Law Review 2015, guest edited by Dr Cassandra Sharp] 

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

– Alice[1]

It has been 150 years since the first publication of Lewis Carroll’s acclaimed children’s fiction Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and it remains a book that is appreciated widely across culture for its unique representation of the world. Indeed, the enduring quality of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, is evident in the way they have inspired creations of art, theatrical performances, judicial decision-making, cinematic portrayals, videogame plot development, and of course, the desire for adventure. The 150th anniversary reminds us of, not only the mesmeric impact of reading Alice’s adventures, but also the cultural ubiquity of ‘wonderland’ within the public imaginary.

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.

– Red Queen[2]

When Alice falls through the rabbit hole or steps through the looking glass, she becomes lost in worlds that provoke mystification and the abandonment of common sense. It is a moment of transition, a movement between that which is ‘real’, knowable and explicable, and that which is nonsensical, chaotic and potentially incomprehensible. It is a moment of encounter that requires Alice to abandon traditional assumptions and logic if she is to begin to comprehend the adventure that awaits. The reward for this abandonment is entrance to these bizarre and fascinating worlds, where everything seems to be inverted or refracted from what she once knew – time is personified and made unreliable, decisions precede events, and punishments are served before crimes are committed. As Alice struggles to understand these new constructed existences and orient herself in connection with the constructs of time, space and memory, she discovers that the familiar concepts of logic, predictability, and rationality can be so easily taken for granted.

In her search for meaning, order and reason, it would seem that in both worlds she encounters, law is prima facie absent. However, it is curious to recognize the familiar threads of law, weaved throughout Alice’s encounters within these beautifully chaotic worlds. In the worlds of Wonderland and the Looking Glass, there is an ever present concern about law, represented in the conflict between order and disorder, chaos and predictability, authority and arbitrariness. This concern stems from a fear that law might at times (or even frequently) be arbitrarily administered, or that justice might indeed be illogical, disjointed, or counterintuitive. Lewis Carroll works this anxiety to perfection in Alice’s juxtaposition between reality and the imaginary, and still 150 years later, his work continues to demonstrate the mutually constitutive relationship between law and popular culture.

Give your evidence,’ said the King; `and don’t be nervous, or I’ll have you executed on the spot.’

This did not seem to encourage the witness at all: he kept shifting from one foot to the other, looking uneasily at the Queen, and in his confusion he bit a large piece out of his teacup instead of the bread-and-butter.[3]

Just as Alice contemplated, and then explored, the worlds down the rabbit hole, and on the other side of the looking glass, this Special Issue of the Griffith Law Review (GLR) calls upon us to reflect on and encounter the concepts of law and justice as broadly framed within popular imagination, and to expose the inversions, mirrorings and refractions of law across which we stumble. In seeking to engage critically with contemporary cultural legal studies scholarship, this special issue showcases innovative methodologies and practices that contextualize the role of legal storytelling in the popular imagination. The articles are inter-disciplinary and methodologically diverse – yet each contribute to the greater discussion surrounding the transformation of legal meaning that resonates within the popular imaginary, and in combination, this special issue exhibits an incredibly diverse and rich interaction with law and humanities scholarship.

To read more from my Introduction to the Special Issue click here: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/ME4XbEEhIaHJnMWTNpuz/full#.Vw3hrZP5iRs

The wonderful contributions to the Special Issue are as follows:

Penny Crofts demonstrates how horror films can function as the cultural window through which to investigate criminal law’s transgressive concept of voluntariness. In a reading of the influential 1970s film The Exorcist, Crofts uses Regan’s transformation through possession as a mechanism by which to interrogate law’s expression and transgression of order.

Thomas Giddens provides a jurisprudential reading of Morrison and McKean’s graphic novel Arkham Asylum. In his contribution, Giddens critically analyses the juxtaposition of law’s reason with the ‘madness’ of Arkham, and describes a paradoxical encounter of ‘the meeting of reason and unreason in the context of justice’.[4]

Timothy Peters convinces us to appreciate the complexities of popular cultural narratives that demand a re-reading and re-encountering of legality. In exploring Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy as a narrative that opens the possibility for a different grounding of trust, law, and justice, Peters reads Batman as a Christological figure that ‘makes strange’ the traditional superhero mythos as well as the narratives they tell of justice, law and legality.

Dale Mitchell provides a thorough and detailed critical examination of the legal and feminist dimensions of She-Hulk. Mitchell argues that, defined by binaries and constructed through real world and imagined patriarchal forces, She-Hulk (as lawyer and ‘hulking green enforcer’) by necessity splinters the law to protect her client’s interests, thereby demonstrating her resistance to law’s patriarchal order. Mitchell argues that by embodying the monstrous feminine, Jen represents the promise of a different encounter with law – one that turns rejection by the law into something that challenges it.

Michael Barnett and Cassandra Sharp take their moment of encounter to the world of video games. In analysing the Infamous series, which positions Cole McGrath as the superpowered protagonist in a self-contained post-apocalyptic world that is chaotic, broken and absent of legal sanction and protection, Barnett and Sharp demonstrate that the game (through both mechanic and narrative) reinforces a legal consciousness that requires morality to be fulfilled in the law. Reading both the bifurcated narrative, and ‘moral mechanic’ jurisprudentially, they argue that Infamous reflects a normative privileging of natural law, and that this reinforces understandings of the relationship between power, law and morality.

Cassandra Sharp interrogates the way ‘revenge’ and ‘justice’ are entwined in the television series Revenge. Just as Alice quickly realises that in a world without meaning, the search for truth and order is misguided and futile, the character of Emily Thorne progressively demonstrates that in a world that values retribution, the search for justice is often atavistic yet pathologised. Using Revenge as case study, Sharp contends that it is the consistent Hollywood apposition of retribution and revenge as divergent forms of ‘justice’ that belies a conspiracy with law to pathologise the human desire for payback.

To check out this Special Issue click here:http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rlaw20/24/3

By Senior Lecturer Dr Cassandra Sharp


[1] Carroll (1865), Chapter 10: ‘The Lobster Quadrille’.

[2] Carroll (1871), Chapter 2: ‘The Garden of Live Flowers’.

[3] Carroll (1865), Chapter 10: ‘Who Stole the Tarts’.

[4] Giddens (2015), [p 8].