Law and Literature Weekend Seminar: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations October 27-28, 2017

In its unparalleled run of 24 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.

Our program in 2017 will feature Charles Dickens' 13th novel, "Great Expectations." While Dickens' beloved novel is widely praised by scholars as "the most admired and most discussed of Dickens' works," it has also been described, curiously, by George Bernard Shaw as both "consistently truthful" and "more seditious than Marx's ‘Das Kapital'." Drawn in part from the author's own life, the story traces an orphan's journey from England's desolate marsh country to London's realm of wealth and position. In Pip, we witness colossal ambitions handicapped by meager self-knowledge. His early strivings and ultimate awakening bring him into contact with some of English literature's most memorable characters, including the escaped convict Magwitch, the strange recluse Miss Havisham, and the cynical criminal lawyer Jaggers. One of the novel's compelling themes is the gap between the promises of the legal system and the reality of unequal justice under the law. Like Shakespeare, Dickens sought to convey the human condition in all its dimensions, high and low; again like Shakespeare, his best work portrays the law as an emblem of what is at once man's glory and his affliction.

Teaching in the program will be law professors Brian Murchison and J.D. King, English professor Marc Conner, and Dave Caudill from Villanova Law School. As a bonus to practicing attorneys, the 2017 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.