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N° 26, 2023 - Trial Literature, Literature on Trial, edited by Mathilde Barraband and Laurent Demanze

Proposal deadline: June 1, 2022

This issue is inscribed within the current development of studies on law and literature, and more particularly of the study of law in literature, with a special focus on the representation of the courtroom scene within contemporary French-language narratives. Although the representation of the trial in literature is not recent, for the past few years it has taken on a particular resonance. Law and literature share a practice of narration as the elucidation and interpretation of the world, and both demonstrate a complex and contradictory relationship to morality.

Similarly, D’autres vies que la mienne (2009) by Emmanuel Carrère, La confusion des peines by Laurence Tardieu (2011),  En procès (2016), Les Sorcières de la république (2016) by Chloé Delaume, Article 353 du code pénal by Tanguy Viel (2017), Récit d’un avocat (2017) and L’instruction (2021) by Antoine Bréa, La Serpe (2017) by Philippe Jaenada, Comètes et perdrix by Marie Cosnay (2021), Ritournelle by Dimitri Rouchon-Borie (2021) each mobilize in their own way juridicial and judicial processes to observe social conflicts. The trial often functions as a seismograph of society and it is within the framework of the judicial narrative that the symptomatic power of the cases is made visible. The representation of the trial can also be an opportunity to highlight the points of contact between the law and literature, as demonstrated by particular cases which explore moral dilemmas and crises of conscience which test ethical boundaries. Literary and judicial investigations are both linked to the need for understanding and call into question the capacity for empathy that each person possesses. Finally, courtroom narratives embody the tension, identified by Foucault in "Vie des hommes infâmes", between the individual and the state: trial narratives serve to describe and subvert the control and norms imposed by contemporary society by drawing our attention to marginalized figures.

Trial literature which shines a light on the law also serves as a literary indictment of judicial failures. These narratives constitute another type of argument, far from the courts, when the latter seem insufficient or plainly unjust. Sometimes, the writer is present in order to capture or provide another perspective on the trial of someone else. The figure of the writer as witness to a trial has not disappeared since Colette’s chronicles or André Gide’s Souvenirs de la cour d’assises, as demonstrated by the works of Jean Hatzfeld and Patrick Deville on the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and Cambodia or, more recently, by authors who have covered publicized trials such the France Télécom affair written about by Sandra Lucbert in Personne ne sort les fusils or the proceedings against those responsible for the 2015 Paris terror attacks recounted in Janvier 2015, le procès by Yannick Haenel and in a series of articles for Le Nouvel observateur by Emmanuel Carrère. Sometimes, however, the writer recounts a personal experience of a judicial proceedings gone wrong. American non-fiction (Maggie Nelson, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevitch) has paved the way for this highly remarkable use of literature as an alternative or as a response to an injustice that the courts have not been able to redress. But it is more particularly the freedom to openly speak brought about by the worldwide movements to denounce sexual assault that has led a number of women writers to attempt to use literature to question a judicial system that is normative and patriarchal and whose slow movement, proceedings and proposed reparations do not suit the victims (Chienne by Marie-Pier Lafontaine in 2019, Échos de Me Too by Martine Delvaux in 2020, Le Consentement by Vanessa Springora in 2020, L’arme la plus meurtrière by Francesca Gee in 2021, La Familia grande by Camille Kouchner in 2021). These authors do not write to testify as one would on the stand, but rather to take back control of their narratives and to counteract the prohibition on recounting such stories, to denounce the system, and to defend themselves. In fact, several of these narratives have given rise to lawsuits or even legislative debates, leaving their mark on recent jurisprudence that cites them as examples. Finally, other writers use literary texts as a form of documentation or of resistance in the face of legal turmoil, whether as victims or as the accused (Constance Debré,’s Love Me Tender, 2020 ; Édouard Louis’ Histoire de la violence, 2016). Some have also found themselves in the dock in cases directly related to freedom of expression (Procès verbal by Valérie Lefebvre-Faucher in 2019, Auteur maudit, maudit auteur by Yvan Godbout in 2021). Whatever the case may be, the writer invests in another relationship to the truth and also in another space and time away from the courtroom, in order to demand justice or perhaps even to redeem a condemned figure. This issue thus seeks to examine the forms of reparation that literature constructs: memorial reparation, judicial revision after the fact, intimate compensation, public indemnification.

Trial literature finally serves to put literature itself on trial, revealing the ethical dilemmas encountered by narratives based upon news stories or private lives (voyeurism, sensationalism, exhibitionism), and it raises the issue of the power and limits of literature. This contact with the law and its model of performative speech puts to the test not only literature’s capacity to speak the truth and share it with a community of readers, but also its capacity to have an impact on real life.

Possible avenues of inquiry

  • Taking into consideration the dramaturgy of the trial, which intensifies emotions in a restricted temporo-spatial framework, articles might explore intermediality and various generic effects: the courtroom drama is, are after all, a cinematic genre as well as a literary form in newspaper chronicles or series (E. Carrère, Y. Haenel, FL. Aubenas). How do trial narratives circulate among these distinct forms and how do they metamorphosize according to specific media and material constraints?

  • The courtroom is not a space apart from the world, but rather a privileged location for observing  contemporary society. Inspired by studies on news stories, we might consider the trial as a prism for the analysis of social and political dysfunction. How then can the analysis of a particular case lead to an analysis of contemporary life? And how do contemporary authors situate themselves with regard to various social debates (S. Lubert)?

  • Pleas, indictments and decisions put to the test the dynamics of empathy and the capacity to judge. Contributions might consider examining in a pragmatic way how trial narratives place the reader in the position of a hermeneutical figure free to judge according to his or her own convictions or else how they create a rhetorical machine to trap the reader (T. Viel, Ph. Jaenada)

  • Since the trial's ambition is not only to render justice, but to build a world where criminals and victims can live together, articles might consider the capacity of the trial to create a common space (J. Hatzfeld, P. Deville).

  • Narratives themselves may be considered to be a sort of tribunal or means of denunciation. How can literature claim to render justice, when institutions are described as failing (C. Kouchner, V. Springora, K. Tuil, C. Debré, V. Lefebvre-Faucher, Y. Godbout)?

Article proposals of around 300 words, in French or in English, are due June 1, 2022, and should be sent to (an editor will register you as an author and send you the journal’s MSWord template).

If your proposal is accepted, completed articles (using the template and following the journal’s author guidelines) are to be submitted to by December 15, 2022, for evaluation by the editorial committee of the Critical Review of French Contemporary Fixxion.

Selected bibliography:

BAILLEUX Antoine, BERNARD Elsa et JACQUOT Sophie (dir.), Les récits judiciaires de l’Europe, Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2019.

BARON Christine (dir.), Transgression, Littérature et droit, Poitiers, La Licorne, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013.

BARON Christine, La littérature à la barre. XXe XXIe, Paris, CNRS éditions, 2021.

BIET Christian, Droit et littérature sous l’Ancien régime, le jeu de la valeur et de la loi, Paris, Champion, « Lumière classique », 2002.

BIET Christian (dir.), Littératures Classiques, n° 40 (Droit et littérature), Champion, 2000.

CHABRIER Amélie, Les genres au prétoire. La médiatisation des procès au XIXe siècle, Parie, Mare & Martin, 2019.

CHAVEL Solange, Se mettre à la place d’autrui ; l’imagination morale, Rennes, PUR, « Raison publique », 2011.

DELAGE Pierre-Jérôme (dir.), Science-fiction et science juridique, Paris, IRJS, 2013.

DISSAUX Nicolas (dir.), Balzac, romancier du droit, Paris, LexisNexis, 2012.

DISSAUX Nicolas et RANOUIL Marine (dir.), Il était une fois… Analyse juridique des contes de fées, Paris Dalloz, 2018.

« Droit et littérature », Europe, n° 876, 2002.

FAGGION Lucien et REGINA Christophe (dir.), Récit et justice : France, Italie, Espagne, XIVe-XIXe siècles, Aix-en-Provence, PUP, 2014.

GARAPON Antoine et SALAS Denis (dir.), Imaginer la loi. Le droit dans la littérature, Paris, Michalon, 2008.

GRALL Catherine et LUCCIANI Anne-Marie (dir.), Imaginaires juridiques et poétiques littéraires, Amiens, CEPRISCA, 2013.

LAFAILLE Franck (dir.), Droit et littérature, Paris, Mare & Martin, « Droit public », 2015.

LEICHTER-FLACK Frédérique, Le laboratoire des cas de conscience, Paris, Alma éd., 2012.

MALAURIE Philippe, Droit et littéraire. Une anthologie, Paris, Cujas, 1997.

MAZEAU Pierre et PUIGELIER Catherine (dir.), Victor Hugo. Hommes de lettres, homme de droit, Mare & Martin, 2013.

MICHAUT Françoise, « Le mouvement Droit et Littérature dans le développement d’une science du droit aux États-Unis », Clio@Themis [en ligne], n° 7, mars 2014.

OST François, Raconter la loi. Aux sources de l’imaginaire juridique, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2004.

OST François, GERARD Philippe, VAN DE KERCHOVE Michel et VAN EYNDE Laurent, Lettres et lois. Le droit au miroir de la littérature, Bruxelles, Publication des facultés universitaires Saint-Louis, 2001.

Revue Droit & Littérature, LGDJ, 2017-.

SALAS Denis, Le tiers pouvoir. Vers une autre justice, Paris, Hachette, 1998.

SALAS Denis, Albert Camus, la juste révolte, Paris, Michalon, 2002.

SALAS Denis, Kafka. Le combat avec la loi, Paris, Michalon, 2013.

SALAS, Denis (dir.), La plume et le prétoire, quand les écrivains racontent la justice, Paris, La Documentation française, « Histoire de la justice », 2014.

TRAVERS DE FAULTRIER Sandra, Droit et littérature, essai sur le nom de l’auteur, Paris, PUF, 2001.

TRAVERS DE FAULTRIER Sandra, Gide, l’Assignation à être, Paris, Michalon, « Le Bien commun », 2005.

TOUDOIRE SURLAPIERRE, Frédérique, Le Fait divers et ses fictions, Paris, Minuit, « Paradoxes », 2019.

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