07 October 2013
ARTICLE: Friedman on Law and the Modern Condition
Lawrence Friedman, ‘Introduction’ to Friedman (ed) Law and the Modern Condition: Literary and Historical Perspectives (2013)
Using fiction as a lens through which to view particular developments in the law, each of the essays in the new book, 'Law and the Modern Condition: Literary and Historical Perspectives' (Talbot Publishing, 2013), discusses a work of literary fiction — some classical (the tale of Ruth in the Bible, the fiction of Franz Kafka and Herman Melville, the plays of William Shakespeare) some modern (the post-September 11 fiction of William Gibson, Ken Kalfus, Claire Messud, Ian McEwan and Helen Schulman) — that concerns, directly or indirectly, the historical development of the law. This exploration of legal history through fiction pays particular attention to its relevance to our present circumstances and our growing concerns about terrorism and civil liberties. Each essay considers the legal lessons about the fictional event or events at its core, lessons that tell us something worth remembering as we continue to chart law’s evolution. These lessons, like those that may be found in all great literature, necessarily extend beyond the historical confines of the characters and plot and background of each story to embrace the modern condition — which, as these great stories suggest, is and always has been the only condition.