The workshop in Law and Literature is designed to highlight innovative work in law and the humanities generally and particularly work on legal history, doctrine, and theory, in relation to narrative, genre, and literary representation.


The Law & Humanities Workshop
University of Toronto Out in Law


 Professor Joseph Bristow (English, UCLA)
The Blackmailer and the Sodomite: Oscar Wilde on Trial

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
12:30 – 2:00
Room FA3, Falconer House

At a telling moment during the prosecution of Oscar Wilde for committing acts of "gross indecency" with other men, the members of the jury wished to know whether they could accept evidence from sex workers and extortionists who had been convicted of homosexual blackmail. In response, the Solicitor-General, Sir Frank Lockwood, informed them: "The genesis of the blackmailer is the man who had committed these acts of indecency with him. And the genesis of the man who commits these foul acts is the man who is willing to pay for their commission. Were it not that there are men willing to purchase vice in this most hideous and detestable form there would be no market for such crime, and no opening for these blackmailers to ply their calling." This paper explores the relations between "acts of indecency" and the career of "the blackmailer" during the three trials that resulted in the sentencing of Wilde to two years in solitary confinement with hard labor.

 A light lunch will be served.


The trial of Oscar Wilde

See previous years’ events.

Past workshop participants have included:

Stanley Fish, Florida International University – "The Intentional Thesis Once More"
Mark Rose, University of California, Santa Barbara – "The Public Sphere and the Emergence of Copyright"
Mary Nyquist, University of Toronto – "Hobbes on Slavery, Gender, and Despotical Rule"
Bradin Cormack, University of Chicago – "A Power To Do Justice"
Bruce Hay, Harvard Law School – "Earl Warren's Theater of the Absurd"
Judith Resnik, Yale Law School – "Representing Justice: An Iconography of Norms"
Lorna Hutson, University of St. Andrews –  "Law and Likelihood in Shakespeare"
Gregg Crane, University of Michigan –  "Confronting Moral Dilemmas in a Skeptical Moment: Literary Realism, Legal Realism, and Pragmatism"
Bernadette Meyler, Cornell Law School – "Imagining Revolution in The Laws of Candy"