Cover image for The juridical unconscious : trials and traumas in the twentieth century
Title:
The juridical unconscious : trials and traumas in the twentieth century
Author:
Felman, Shoshana.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
viii, 253 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780674009318

9780674009516
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library K346 .F45 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

Death, wrote Walter Benjamin, lends storytellers all their authority. How do trials, in turn, borrow their authority from death? This book offers a groundbreaking account of the surprising interaction between trauma and justice.

Moving from texts by Arendt, Benjamin, Freud, Zola, and Tolstoy to the Dreyfus and Nuremberg trials, as well as the trials of O. J. Simpson and Adolf Eichmann, Shoshana Felman argues that the adjudication of collective traumas in the twentieth century transformed both culture and law. This transformation took place through legal cases that put history itself on trial, and that provided a stage for the expression of the persecuted--the historically "expressionless."

Examining legal events that tried to repair the crimes and injuries of history, Felman reveals the "juridical unconscious" of trials and brilliantly shows how this juridical unconscious is bound up with the logic of the trauma that a trial attempts to articulate and contain but so often reenacts and repeats. Her book gives the drama of the law a new jurisprudential dimension and reveals the relation between law and literature in a new light.


Summary

Death, wrote Walter Benjamin, lends storytellers all their authority. How do trials, in turn, borrow their authority from death? This book offers a groundbreaking account of the surprising interaction between trauma and justice.

Moving from texts by Arendt, Benjamin, Freud, Zola, and Tolstoy to the Dreyfus and Nuremberg trials, as well as the trials of O. J. Simpson and Adolf Eichmann, Shoshana Felman argues that the adjudication of collective traumas in the twentieth century transformed both culture and law. This transformation took place through legal cases that put history itself on trial, and that provided a stage for the expression of the persecuted--the historically "expressionless."

Examining legal events that tried to repair the crimes and injuries of history, Felman reveals the "juridical unconscious" of trials and brilliantly shows how this juridical unconscious is bound up with the logic of the trauma that a trial attempts to articulate and contain but so often reenacts and repeats. Her book gives the drama of the law a new jurisprudential dimension and reveals the relation between law and literature in a new light.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

Felman (literature, Yale Univ.) presents a wonderful contribution to interdisciplinary legal scholarship generally and to the study of trials in particular. Drawing sources from history, literature, psychoanalysis, and political theory, Felman describes and analyzes two of the most celebrated trials of the 20th century--the trials of Adolph Eichmann and of O.J. Simpson. She eschews the usual historical or legal analysis, preferring instead to see trials as points at which trauma enters law. The author regards these celebrated trials as moments in which the expressionless seek voice and in which law confronts its own inability to give them a voice. In these cases, Felman argues, "the court either intentionally gives a stage to the expressionless of history or unintentionally and unconsciously enacts the expressionlessness and is forced to witness it and to encounter it: legally to deal with it." Felman's approach opens up a new conversation about the way law speaks to and about historical injustices. It will quickly become a classic. Summing Up: Essential. General readers and upper-division undergraduates and above. A. D. Sarat Amherst College


Choice Review

Felman (literature, Yale Univ.) presents a wonderful contribution to interdisciplinary legal scholarship generally and to the study of trials in particular. Drawing sources from history, literature, psychoanalysis, and political theory, Felman describes and analyzes two of the most celebrated trials of the 20th century--the trials of Adolph Eichmann and of O.J. Simpson. She eschews the usual historical or legal analysis, preferring instead to see trials as points at which trauma enters law. The author regards these celebrated trials as moments in which the expressionless seek voice and in which law confronts its own inability to give them a voice. In these cases, Felman argues, "the court either intentionally gives a stage to the expressionless of history or unintentionally and unconsciously enacts the expressionlessness and is forced to witness it and to encounter it: legally to deal with it." Felman's approach opens up a new conversation about the way law speaks to and about historical injustices. It will quickly become a classic. Summing Up: Essential. General readers and upper-division undergraduates and above. A. D. Sarat Amherst College


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The Storyteller's Silence: Walter Benjamin's Dilemma of Justice
2 Forms of Judicial Blindness, or the Evidence of What Cannot Be Seen: Traumatic Narratives and Legal Repetitions in the O. J. Simpson Case and in Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata
3 Theaters of Justice: Arendt in Jerusalem, the Eichmann Trial, and the Redefinition of Legal Meaning in the Wake of the Holocaust
4 A Ghost in the House of Justice: Death and the Language of the Law Abbreviations
Notes
Index
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The Storyteller's Silence: Walter Benjamin's Dilemma of Justice
2 Forms of Judicial Blindness, or the Evidence of What Cannot Be Seen: Traumatic Narratives and Legal Repetitions in the O. J. Simpson Case and in Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata
3 Theaters of Justice: Arendt in Jerusalem, the Eichmann Trial, and the Redefinition of Legal Meaning in the Wake of the Holocaust
4 A Ghost in the House of Justice: Death and the Language of the Law Abbreviations
Notes
Index

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