Keynote Meaning in a World of Trouble

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference contributionAcademic


The origin of the institution that is law is poignantly portrayed by Aeschylus in the third part of the Oresteia. The passion of Agamemnon to depart for Troy in order to demand satisfaction for the wrong done to his community by Paris when the latter abducted Helena, led him to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. This, in turn, roused the girl’s mother Clytaemnestra’s passionate hatred and the desire to take revenge on Agamemnon. She killed him when he returned home after the Trojan War. Years later she is killed by her son Orestes who fulfills his duty to avenge his father. He pleads his case before the goddess Athena who institutes a professional law court in order to settle disputes between people. From then on, words are the new instruments to ensure non-violent, fair relations between people. However, while words are the lawyer’s tools of trade, this fact does not guarantee success in translation or representation of a dispute or “the world as we know it”. And neither does it guarantee success in interpretation as a decipherment of meaning. What is more, it does not guarantee justice. What if one is unable to tell one’s story in an adequate way, for example when one is traumatized or when one experiences a cultural gap? How can one then be heard? Or, turned the other way around, what if one’s narrative is not sufficiently “heard” because the hearer is prejudiced and gives a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s words? I aim to address these and other issues by means of the findings of my research in the interdisciplinary field of Law and Literature that probes the linguistic similarities between the two disciplines, on the premise that achieving justice (or, more modestly put, reasonable solutions to disputes) depends to a large degree on our perceptual capacities, our sensitivity to language (both in form and content), our imagination and our willingness to suspend disbelief.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2016
Event5th European Collaborative Practice Conference "Beyond Words" - Amsterdam
Duration: 28 May 2016 → …


Conference5th European Collaborative Practice Conference "Beyond Words"
Period28/05/16 → …


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