Advertisement

Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 163–183 | Cite as

Feminist Literary Theory and the Law: Reading Cases with Naomi Schor

  • Marco WanEmail author
Article

Abstract

This article brings together feminist literary theory and law by approaching a number of U.S. Federal cases on sex equality in light of the work of the renowned feminist literary critic Naomi Schor, and shows that literary theory constitutes an under-explored resource for feminist legal critique. Schor’s writings constitute a sustained rumination on the relationship between reading and feminism. Drawing on writings on language and the body by key French feminist theorists, Schor advances a method of interpretation which she terms, provocatively, ‘clitoral reading’, and which focuses on the place of details relating to women’s bodies and desires within literary and cultural discourses. In the course of her career, she analysed texts from domains as diverse as literature, philosophy, visual art, the history of fashion, and photography. I will demonstrate that her work can make a valuable contribution to legal studies by using it as an interpretative lens to re-examine U.S. Federal court judgments.

Keywords

Law and literature Feminism Interpretation Sex equality Constitutional law 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am especially grateful to Janet Halley for her encouragement and her comments. I would also like to thank Senjuti Chakraborti, Andrew Counter, Başak Ertür, Wendy Gan, Christopher Hutton, Douglas Kerr, Julia Kuehn, and Stewart Motha for their input on an earlier version of this paper.

References

  1. Apter, Emily. 1992. Clitoral Hermeneutics. In Feminism and Psychoanalysis: A Critical Dictionary, ed. Elizabeth Wright, 50–51. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Balkin, Jack M. 1989. The Footnote. Northwestern University Law Review 83: 275–320.Google Scholar
  3. Burke, Carolyn, Naomi Schor, and Margaret Whitford (eds.). 1994. Engaging with Irigaray: Feminist Philosophy and Modern European Thought. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Caldwell, Paulette M. 1991. A Hair Piece: Perspectives on the Intersection of Race and Gender. Duke Law Journal 47: 365–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cixous, Hélène. 1976. The Laugh of the Medusa. Trans. by Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. Signs 1: 875–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1989. Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. U of Chicago Legal Forum 1989: 139–167.Google Scholar
  7. Ford, Richard T. 2008. The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  8. Heilbrun, Carolyn, and Judith Resnik. 1990. Convergences: Law, Literature, and Feminism. Yale Law Journal 99: 1913–1957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Heinzelman, Susan. 2010. Riding the Black Ram: Law, Literature, and Gender. Stanford: Stanford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Irigaray, Luce. 1985a. Speculum of the Other Woman. Translated by Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Irigaray, Luce. 1985b. This Sex Which is Not One. Translated by Catherine Porter. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kalsem, Kristin. 2012. In Contempt: Nineteenth-century Women, Law and Literature. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kristeva, Julia. 1986. About Chinese Women. In The Kristeva reader, ed. Toril Moi, 138–160. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Krueger, Christine L. 2010. Reading for the Law: British Literary History and Gender Advocacy. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lacey, Nicola. 2008. Women, Crime and Character: From Moll Flanders to Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Martin, Douglas. 2001. Naomi Schor, Literary Critic and Theorist, Is Dead at 58. New York Times, 16 December.Google Scholar
  17. Nussbaum, Martha C., and Alison L. LaCroix (eds.). 2013. Subversion and Sympathy: Gender, Law, and the British Novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Robson, Ruthann Robson. 2013. Dressing Constitutionally: Hierarchy, Sexuality, and Democracy from Our Hairstyles to Our Shoes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schor, Naomi. 1985. Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Schor, Naomi. 1995. Bad Objects: Essays Popular and Unpopular. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Schor, Naomi. 2007. Reading in Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Still, Judith. 2007. French Feminist Criticism and Writing the Body. In A History of Feminist Literary Criticism, ed. Gill Pain and Susan Sellers, 263–282. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ward, Ian. 2012. Law and the Brontës. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  24. Watt, Gary. 2013. Dress, Law and Naked Truth: A Cultural Study of Fashion and Form. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  25. Yoshino, Kenji. 2005. The City and the Poet. Yale Law Journal 114: 1835–1896.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hong KongHong KongChina

Personalised recommendations