Welcome to the OHELL blog

Welcome to the official blog of The Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1500-1700. We have set up these webpages and this blog for your use as contributors to the volume.

We hope that you will all find them a helpful and convenient source of information and updates about various aspects of the whole project, as well as a source of information about one another’s topics, and a means through which you can communicate with one another.

The Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1550-1700 is unusual among the Oxford Handbooks series in that it is explicitly interdisciplinary. Over forty contributors from different scholarly fields – mainly from Departments of Law, History and English Literature – have been asked to address major topics of common concern (such as ‘property and person’, ‘empire’, ‘law and polity’, ‘print and orality’) from a legally-inflected point of view.

It is partly the Handbook’s interdisciplinarity, and partly the fact that it aims not so much to be a handbook to an existing field as to constitute and map out that field, that has prompted us to want to foster dialogue and debate among contributors from different disciplines.

We will do this in part through the conference[s] we are planning for April 2015, and partly through these webpages, which include contributors’ departmental addresses and emails, and partly through this blog.

You will have noticed that the Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature gives us the inauspicious but unforgettable acronym OHELL, which no doubt describes how we will all feel as the deadline for the submission of our volume approaches.

About the Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature   

The time is ripe for bringing leading scholars together to formulate a more integrated and legally informed set of approaches to British and Anglo-American history, politics and literature in the period 1500-1700.

In literary studies, it is now thirty years since new historicism and cultural materialism reinvigorated the question of how literary artefacts interact with modes of political, legal and religious subject formation.

In Anglophone literary study, deconstructive and Foucauldian approaches greatly illuminated analogies between law and performativity, or law and theatre. Too often, however, this work seemed to become caught in the unfortunately reductive double bind of ascribing the law’s mystical authority to the power of theatre, and of ascribing the power of theatre to that of performance alone.

In response to the productive encounter between law and literature, but with a dissatisfaction at the answers offered by the new historical and cultural materialist approaches, a number of scholars of early modernity have been working to explore, in more nuanced and more local ways, the pervasive but elusive connections between the workings or practical mechanics of legal governance and those of the literary imagination.

These scholars have drawn attention the affective dimensions of legal language and to the deployment of classical forensic rhetoric in both legal practices and literary texts. They have attended to the implications of jurisdictional plurality and the literary, spiritual and political implications of the participatory dimension of English judicial administration. They have analysed the ways in which legal arguments were made, and explored what this can tell us about social and political relationships.

It is this innovative work that has opened up the conceptual space for the present project, a collection that even ten years ago would have been inconceivable.

Project Webpages and Blog 

Contributing to a volume of essays implies teamwork and participation, but in practice it is usually an isolated and isolating task. We hope, however, that setting up webpages and a blog for the Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature will go some way to enabling contributors both to stay up-to-date and informed about aspects of the volume’s progress and, if they wish, to contact one another about specific shared points of interest and inquiry.

The deadline for completed essays in draft form is February 1, 2015, and deadline for essays in their final, polished form is July 1, 2015.

Conferences are planned on the papers for April (Princeton) and May (St Andrews) 2015Please watch the conference pages for more information.

Bradin Cormack

Lorna Hutson


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *