Last fall, the W&L Law School hosted its 19th annual alumni seminar focusing on topics in law and literature. The program featured Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel García Márquez, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Márquez's novella, a partly journalistic detective story, recreates a murder that took place in Colombia in 1951. Told from the point of view of a reporter returning to the scene of the crime 27 years later to interview those who were present, the story suggests communal responsibility for the death of a man wrongly accused of destroying a bride's reputation and her family's honor. The trial of the twin brothers who committed the murder is thus eclipsed as the narrator puts the local society on trial. Teaching in the program were W&L Law professor Eric Luna, along with former colleague Dave Caudill, English professor Marc Conner and Spanish professor Mónica González García. The weekend program, running from late Friday afternoon through midday Saturday, again earned high praise from participants. The Law School co-sponsors the program each fall with the W&L Alumni College.
In its 20th year-the longest-running program of its kind in the country-the Law and Literature Seminar will turn to a classic work of English fiction, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. On its initial publication in 1891, Hardy's novel was greeted with hostile reviews for its scandalous portrayal of rape and its cynical view of English class structure. Even more distressing to his critics were Hardy's elevation of a simple, virtuous, though often naive young woman to heroic victimhood, his condemnation of the motivations of the men in relations with women, and his thinly veiled indictment of those institutions-religious and legal-designed to protect the innocent. One can only conclude that Tess of the d'Urbervilles, like so many great works of literature, was ahead of its time. Through Tess, we'll discuss Hardy's insights into late 19th-century British society, as well as the relevance of his story for contemporary criticism of law's shortcomings. The program will again be led by Dave Caudill and Marc Conner, with two guest faculty from W&L.
As a bonus to practicing attorneys, the program will again seek approval for two hours of Continuing Legal Education ethics credit. The program is open to anyone interested in literature-you don't need to be an attorney to attend.