Poetic Justice: Legal, Ethical, and Aesthetic Judgments in Literary Texts (2015)

Poetic Justice: Legal, Ethical, and Aesthetic Judgments in Literary Texts

13th International Connotations Symposium

You can find the articles that followed up this symposium in its special issue behind the link.

July 26 - July 30, 2015
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen Schloss Hohentübingen, Fürstenzimmer


Sunday, July 26

19:00h Welcome Dinner


Monday, July 27

8:50 Pickup at the Hotel (by one of our student assistants) and walk to castle

9:15 Matthias Bauer (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) & Burkhard Niederhoff (Ruhr Universität Bochum): Welcome by the Editors of Connotations

9:30-10:30 Angelika Zirker (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen): Poetic Justice: Legal, Ethical, and Aesthetic Judgments in Literary Texts – An Introduction

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break


11:00-12:00 David Fishelov (The Hebrew University Jerusalem): Poetic (In-)Justice in Comedy

12:00-13:00 Maik Goth (Ruhr Universität Bochum): Debauchery Rewarded: The Problem of Poetic Justice in Four English Adaptations of Terence’s Eunuchus, 1675-1778

13:00-14:00 Lunch


14:00-15:00 Shuli Barzilai (The Hebrew University Jerusalem): Retribution and Redistribution in Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s Retelling of “Jack and the Bean-Stalk”

15:00-16:00 Timo Stösser (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen): The Poet-Judge and the Poet Judged: Aesthetic Judgment and Poetic Justice in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading and Lolita

16:00-16:30 Coffee Break


16:30-17:30  Penelope  Geng  (University  of  Southern  California):  The  Treachery of Poetic Memory: Misremembering the Trial of Mary Stuart in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

17:30-18:30 H. Michael Buck (Indiana Wesleyan University): Poetic Justice and the Resolution of Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian

19:00 Dinner at Restaurant Casino


Tuesday, July 28


9:00-10:00 Ralph Grunewald (University of Wisconsin-Madison): Imagining Guilt and Innocence in Law and Literature

10:00-10:30 Coffee Break

10:30-11:30 Susan Ang (National University of Singapore): Measure for Measure: Geoffrey Hill’s Poetic Justice

11:30-12:30 Tammy Amiel Houser (Open University of Isreal): Justice and Story-Telling in Ian McEwan’s Fiction

12:30-13:30 Lunch


13:30-14:30 Eike Kronshage (Chemnitz University of Technology): Closure, Open Endings, and Poetic Justice

14:30-15:30 Armelle Parey (Université de Caen-Basse Normandie): Poetic Justice in A. S. Byatt’s Possession

15:30-16:00 Coffee Break


16:00-17:00 Arthur F. Kinney (The Massachusetts Center of Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies): Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness

17:00-18:00 Susanne Gruß (Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg): “Clermont must author this just tragedy”: The (In)Justices of Early Modern Revenge Tragedy

19:00 Dinner at Restaurant Kelter


Wednesday, July 29


9:00-10:00 Martina Bross (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen): Hamlet and Poetic Justice

10:00-10:30 Coffee Break

10:30-12:00 King Lear:

Maurice Charney (Rutgers University): King Lear: Edgar’s Speech after His Combat with Edmund

John Cox (Hope College): King Lear: Prayer and Providence

12:00-13:00 Thomas Kullmann (Universität Osnabrück): Poetic Injustice in Shakespeare’s King Lear and The Tempest

13:00-14:00 Lunch break (Snacks)

14:30 Excursion to Lichtenstein Castle


Thursday, July 30


9:00-10:00 Harrison C. Otis (Patrick Henry College, Purcellville, VA): Finding the Lush Place: The Problem of Moral Judgment in Waugh’s Scoop

10:00-10:30 Coffee Break

10:30-12:00 Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead:

Neil W. Browne (Oregon State University): Participatory Grace: Calvinism, Pragmatism, and the Ethics of Grace in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead

Mary McCampbell (Lee University): “There is No Justice in Love:” Paradox and Participation in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead Novels

12:00-13:00 Judith Saunders (Marist University, NY): Wharton’s “Xingu”: When Characters Reject Poetic Justice

Call for Papers

The first textbook definition of the concept of poetic justice goes back to Thomas Rymer’s The Tragedies of the Last Age Consider’d (1678). According to him, the term signified “the distribution, at the end of a literary work, of earthly rewards and punishments in proportion to the virtue or vice of the various characters” (Abrams, Glossary of Literary Terms 299-300). The introduction of virtue and vice into the concept immediately refers to a moral dimension; on aesthetic grounds, however, it was soon (and has continued to be) criticized.

Poetic justice, as examples from literary texts across the genres illustrate, may be realized in various ways – and sometimes the term may mean much more than the distribution of earthly rewards and punishments. Literary texts may suggest or even envision a justice never to be established in real life. But literary texts may likewise abstain from offering judgments at all, whereas the real world is full of them. In these cases, they may make us recognize vindictiveness dressing up as the pursuit of justice; or, as in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, they may show us the absurdity of passing judgment. Are human beings entitled to pass judgement at all, or should this be left entirely to God? If this is a valid question, the relation of human, divine and poetic justice should be taken into account.

The symposium does not primarily aim at the connection between literature and the law which has recently met with increased attention in literary studies. Rather, we are interested in papers that combine reflections on poetic justice with close readings of literary texts in the field of literature in English.

Questions to be asked may include the following:

  • Is the relationship between crime, punishment and justice an example of literature mirroring real life, or does it primarily give evidence to literary art producing “another nature”?
  • Is poetic justice the reason for our satisfaction with tragic action? What are the stylistic and semantic features of a text that suggest a particular idea of poetic justice, i.e. what is it that makes us see justice as an aesthetic quality?
  • What is the relation between the representation of law and justice and the kind of justice provided or withheld by the action of the story, play, or poem?