This is the official blog space for “Trauma and Testimony: Literature, Religion, and Human Rights.”
This course surveys the relationship between literature, theology, and the legal spaces of human rights. We will chart the complex ways that concepts like “compassion,” “witnessing,” and “dignity” became transposed out of various religious discourses into different aesthetic forms, and how such aesthetics came to engage with an emergent legal rights frameworks. Though the seminar proceeds somewhat chronologically, covering several landmark 18th and 19th century literary texts and their political instantiations, the primary focus will be more on recent literary relationships to different “rights” spheres, including disability, labor, indigenous sovereignty, and the environment. Special attention will be given to the novel as a genre, and the peculiar ways that this particular kind of fictional writing has been privileged (problematically?) as having a special correlation with notions of individual rights.
Along the way, we will survey some of the critical and theoretical terrain of the “law-and-literature” movement, and seek to understand some of the debates about interdisciplinarity between legal and literary spheres. As 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Human Rights Program at the University of California, Berkeley, our seminar will also take advantage of some of the commemoratory lectures, films, and art events taking place at Cal throughout the spring