Falmouth University Law

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Falmouth University Law

Whether it is an Oscar-winning turn from Kate Winslett in The Reader, Jack Nicholson chewing up the oak-panelled scenery in A Few Good Men, or a John Grisham page-turner by the swimming pool, the nation loves a good legal thriller.

Now the University of Plymouth, in a joint event with University College Falmouth, is to examine the love affair between film, fiction and the law at a special conference on Friday 4 September.

The ‘Law, Literature and Film Symposium’ will feature academics from a host of universities looking at issues such as the role of the vigilante, the part that luck and circumstance play in moral judgements and the fascination Hollywood has for the death penalty.

The keynote speaker will be Professor Melanie Williams, of the University of Exeter, who will present a paper on ‘Law and the Problem of Moral Luck in The Reader’.

Hugo Derijke, lecturer in law at the University of Plymouth, said the conference was one of the first in the UK to examine the relationships between the three fields.

He said: “People are drawn to the natural drama and suspense of the courtroom and are fascinated by questions of criminality and justice. We may not be so interested in the workings of the legal system but we do all have an innate sense of justice and fairness and of what is right and wrong.

“It is a complicated and slippery concept – one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter – and film and literature has a crucial role in exploring these issues.”

The conference will also focus on the future of the legal thriller itself. Co-organiser Dr Helen Thomas, principal lecturer in English at University College Falmouth, said:

“Since the 1980s and 90s, when we had an explosion in the number of courtroom dramas, we have seen the representation of the lawyer change into a character of dubious morality. We will ask the question ‘what next?’ for the legal thriller.”