Law and Literature Weekend Seminar

Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

Law and Literature Weekend Seminar:Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" October 14 - 15, 2022 

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In its unparalleled run of 26 years, the Alumni College’s Law and Literature Weekend Seminar has relied on a highly effective model: gathering professors and participants to study a single work of literature from legal, ethical, and literary perspectives. The results can be exhilarating. Each fall, the School of Law chooses a compelling text, assembles a team of professors, invites participants to Lexington, and clears the way for a unique sharing of ideas and responses. 

The Law and Literature program for 2022 will focus on Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), the story of a young scientist whose unorthodox experiments end up creating the famed “monster.” But is it rather Dr. Victor Frankenstein who, in his reckless hubris, is the real monster in the book? The young scientist’s ambition and ruthless pursuit of knowledge has become a contemporary image of science out of control and the need for ethical limitations on scientific discovery. Shelley also explores family relationships and the effects of alienation from society—the reason the outcast “monster” becomes a murderer.

For participants interested in the law, the novel raises currently important issues of regulating science and technology. Is AI (artificial intelligence), including the trend toward automated decision-making in legal contexts, our own out-of-control “monster”? Has the technology on which companies like Facebook are based gone too far without legislated boundaries? Beyond concerns with science and technology, the novel includes depictions of injustice in unsympathetic criminal courts: two innocent characters are condemned to death, one on weak evidence and one for his religious beliefs alone, and another has his property cruelly confiscated. This Gothic tale is sure to inspire much discussion.

Teaching in the program will be law professors Brian Murchison and Joshua Fairfield, English professor Taylor Walle, philosophy professor Erin Taylor, and Dave Caudill from Villanova Law School. As a bonus to practicing attorneys, the 2022 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.

Contact Us

Office of Lifelong Learning
Washington and Lee University
204 W Washington Street
Lexington, Virginia 24450