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Saturday, March 8, 2014


Dear students,

next week the classes will be held by prof. Conte on Wednesday and by me (Stefania Gialdroni) on Thursday and Friday. The first class will be devoted to the (strict) relationship between Law and History while the other two classes will be dedicated to the analysis of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice", a very classical topic of the Law in Literature strand. The readings will be provided as soon as possible as we are still writing the definitive version of the mailing list. In the meanwhile, you can find the following article on J-Stor, available online if you are using the RomaTre wifi ( 
D.J Kornstein, Fie Upon Your Law! in "Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature", 5.1 (1993): A Symposium Issue on "The Merchant of Venice", 35-56. 

Emanuele Conte: Law & History 

Suggested reading:
J.Q. Whitman, Bring back the Glory!, in "Rechtsgeschichte, 4 (2004), 74-81.  

Prof. Conte's CV
Professor of Legal History a the Università degli Studi di RomaTre and Directuer d'études at the EHESS in Paris. 
He graduated cum laude in 1983 at the University La Sapienza in Rome, and received his Ph.D in Medieval Legal History from the University of Milan. He has done rsearch at the Max-Planck Institut fuer Europaeische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main and the University of California at Berkley.  
He has held visiting professorships at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain), the EHESS in Paris, the University of Toulouse I (France), the University of Paris X Nanterre and the Ecole Normale Superieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Lyon (France). He has been visiting fellow at Berkley University (USA) and Cambridge University - UK (Peterhouse). 
He serves as a member of the board of direction of many academic journals and series in Italy, France, Spain and the UK. 
He has given many papers and lectures in Italy, Germany, France, UK, USA, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Argentina and Spain. His books and other publications focus mainly on medieval and modern legal history, on philology of legal texts and on the relationship between history and law in the 19th and 20th century. See also: 

Stefania Gialdroni: Shakespeare in Law
Brief Outline:
The lessons will focus on the following questions:
1) What was the role of Jewes in 16th-17th century Europe? What does it mean to be part of a minority?
2) What is usury? How was it regulated?
3) What was the relationship between law and equity in Shakespeare's England? What does equity mean? 

Suggested readings: 
D.J Kornstein, Fie Upon Your Law! in "Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature", 5.1 (1993): A Symposium Issue on "The Merchant of Venice", 35-56.

[Not compulsory!]: S. Gialdroni, La clausola penale tra finzione e realtà. Il caso limite di Shylock alla prova del diritto veneziano, del diritto comune e del common law, in "La pena convenzionale nella prospettiva storico comparatistica", Napoli: Jovene, 2013, 19-49. 

Dr. Gialdronis' CV:
Stefania Gialdroni is a temporary instructor in Legal History at the University of RomaTre, Law Department. She received her PhD in 2009 from the University of Milano-Bicocca and the EHESS in Paris ("co-tutelle"). In 2006 she entered the Marie Curie Program "Doctorate in European Legal Cultures". In the framework of this PhD, she spent one year at the London School of Economics and two years at the EHESS in Paris. She was awarded several scholarships from the MPIER in Frankfurt am Main where she also attended the International Max-Planck Research School for Comparative Legal History for one year. 
She has been teaching the course "Human Rights in Historical Perspective" at Arcadia University - Rome Center since 2011 and worked as a tutor in Legal Histor at the online University UniNettuno (2011-2012).
She published articles, essays and a book (East India Company. Una storia giuridica (1600-1708), Bologna: Il Mulino, 2011) on the history of commercial law and on Law and Literature. 
She has been assisting prof. Conte in the organization of the "Law and the Humanities" course at the RomaTre University since it was first created in 2008. 


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  2. Today in class we talked about legal history and Whitman’s article “Bring back Glory”
    Legal history is an indispensable key to understanding how governments, societies and even private groups have formally solved their problems over time, unfortunately like Whitman points out, nowadays law and historical law matter less than in the 19 century.
    I was surprised to learn there are law faculties in which there are no mandatory historical exams, this is my seventh historical exam and I think that each of them has helped me to understand the society in which I live. Whitman asks why legal history means less now than in the 19 century and what we can do to bring back the glory. In past very large characters have been educated according to the precepts of the history of law, for example, Marx and his theories have been very important for other disciplines: politic, philosophy and economic, without Marx we would live in a different world and without a doubt we can say that the role and the development of studies of the history of law have played a key role in the development of all other social disciplines. Maybe now law isn’t the mirror of the society because to understand the world in which we live we can rely on politic, economic and sociology but I think that the history of law is the history of society and for this reason legal history should have back its prestige and it should be taught in every law faculty.

  3. This morning we talked about "The Merchant of Venice",that rapresentes an example of "Law in Literature".In order to totally understand this Shakespeare's masterpiece,we firstly have to consider the difference between the Christian characters and Shylock.Apparently,the main difference between the Christian characters and Shylock is that the Christian characters regard relationship more valuable than the business ones,while Shylock is interested only in money.Merchants like Antonio lend money free of interest,and risk their wealth and their reputation for those they love,while Shylock's greed seems to be stronger than his love for his daughter.However,his insistence that he should have a pound of flesh rather than any amount of money shows that his resentment is much stronger than his greed.The Christian characters also present an ambiguous picture.Bassanio seeks Portia's hand first of all because he is in debt.Shylock argues that Jews are human being just as Christians are,but Christians such as Antonio hate Jews simply because they are Jews.So while the Christian character may talk more about mercy,love and charity,they do not always show these qualities in their behaviour.
    In this work symbols rapresent a very important feature.I'm referring especially to the three casket and the pound of flesh.The contest for Portia's hand reflects the culture and the legal system of Venice:it presents the same opportunities and the same rules to men of various nations,ethnic origins and religions.The hidden meaning of the casket test is fundamentally Christian.The correct casket is the lead one,and warns that the person who chooses it must give and risk everything he has. Several Christian teachings are here combined:the idea that desire is an unreliable guide and should be resisted,that appearance is often deceiving,and that people should not trust the evidence provided by the senses.The pound of flesh highlights two of the play's closest relationships:the fact that Bassanio's debt has to be paid with Antonio's flesh reflects their close friendship;on the other hand, Shylock's determination is strengthened by Jessica's elopement,as if he was trying to compensate for the loss of his own flesh and blood by taking it from his enemy.Lastly,the pound of flesh is a constant reminder of the rigidity of Shylock's world,where numerical calculations are used to evaluate even the most serious of situations.

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  5. Regarding the connection between Law and Literature, I spoke in class about "The stranger" by Albert Camus, I would like to explain here why I think it could be the precise example of this link.

    Meursault is the main character, his mother dies at the very beginning of the book, and he seems not able to show any feelings about his mother's death: even at her funeral he doesn't cry, and more, in his first person narrative view, he describes objectively other people's behaviour during the ceremony.
    The day after his mother's death he gets involved in a sexual intercourse with a colleague, and he seems perfectly at ease with that.
    Eventually, because of a strange series of circumstances, he involuntarily kills a man.
    Even at this point, he doesn't feel guilty, he doesn't show remorse or any pain about what he did.
    He gets incarcerated, and very quickly he gets used to it and shows a deep form of detachment during the trial, which ends with him being sentenced to death.
    Waiting for his execution he hopes that there will be loads of people participating to his death.

    "For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate."

    This novel is an incredible example of what Professor Skeel called Law and empathy -which is literature as a way to make jurists, judges and lawyers more aware of other people's feelings, to put themselves in somebody else's shoes, making them more human.

    Camus is an "écrivain engagé", as he claimed he wrote "The stranger" in order to stand up for every victim, anywhere in the world, He surely manages to convey his message, as -at the end of the book- the reader indeed tends to condemn the judges who sentenced Mersault to death and to feel empathy towards him, who never shows empathy in the whole story, as if it was a sort of circle of paradoxes.
    Camus wanted the reader to be aware of the danger of a legal system which punishes somebody for what he is, instead of for what he does: a man who isn't able to cry at his mother's funeral deserves to die.

    Camus was strictly criticized for having created a sort a sort of sterile environment with the specific aim of showing Meursault as a victim of a detached and inhuman justice: he commits murder which is the only crime which could justify a sentence of death, but at the same time the murder is an accidental crime, he didn't kill the man on purpose, so that the reader couldn't feel rage against the killer.
    Everything, according to the critics, was built deliberately to provoke the reader's empathy; and more, everything was built unrealistically, because an involuntary murder could'nt have justified the criminal's beheading.

    I think that was a specious disapproval. I mean, reality and truth accuracy don't relate to the art of writing and telling stories, they refer to journalism. Camus is a writer, a writer is an artist, the role of an artist is to wake up people's consciences: he perfectly reached the aim.

  6. Throughout the centuries, the relationship between law and equity has been considered very important in England. In fact, the Crown allowed both methods to prosecute legal cases. The first method prosecuted the law in accordance to the principles of common law, which was made up of precedents and statutes- some of which, like the Magna Carta of 1215, were impressively antique by 1600. The second method was allowed by the English Crown through the actions of the Court of Chancery, presided by the Lord Chancellor and Chancery judges, where judgements were made on the basis of equity. The principles of equity, instead of strictly following the parameters given by common law regulations, reflected the moral convictions of the members of the Court, in application of the true goal of the law, justice and fairness. It is therefore understandable how the conflict between the court of common rights and the court of equity was one of the most notable themes in English legal history.

    The Merchant of Venice represents the dichotomy between the role of common law, and the regulations deriving from it, and the appreciation of the English legal system towards the principles of equity. In fact, while Shylock believes in the righteousness of his claims, and pursues a ruling in his favor in respect of the bond included in the contract, Portia stresses the importance of the moral basis of equity. As we know, Shylock falls victim of the strict nature of English common law, which allows him to only take one pound of flesh, not an ounce more, without spilling any blood.