Karl Shoemaker, University of Wisconsin at Madison & IAS

The Devil's Justice

Date: 
Tue, 05/08/2007
Location: 
4:30 PM, 203 Scheide Caldwell House

"In the late middle ages, depictions of the devil pursuing his hellish interests through law were rather popular, circulating in several manuscript traditions. Surprisingly little scholarly attention has been given to these tales of the devil's litigiousness, in large part because nineteenth-century legal historians dismissed the texts as frivolous, and even sacrilegious. Yet these texts are actually wonderful vehicles for probing social justice at the intersection of law and religion, and carry many themes of interest to legal scholars generally, not just historians. My project attempts to rehabilitate these texts (which have never been translated into English) and show how they illuminate key questions of justice, sovereignty and the rule of law."

Karl Shoemaker earned a B.S. in Business from Liberty University and, after a brief stint playing professional baseball in Italy, earned a J.D. degree from Samford University and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation, "Medieval Sanctuary Law: Changing Conceptions of Law, Crime and Punishment," examines the right of sanctuary for crime across the major legal traditions of medieval Europe.

Professor Shoemaker is an interdisciplinary legal scholar whose research focuses on medieval legal history. He also has a strong interest in historical and philosophical developments in criminal law and punishment. He teaches courses in medieval legal history, medieval history generally, and the history of punishment. He also teaches an undergraduate criminal justice course.

In 2000, Professor Shoemaker was the recipient of the North American Conference on British Studies Dissertation Travel Fellowship which he used for six months of manuscript research in legal records of the twelfth- and thirteenth-century English royal courts. He was also a member of the Institute for Historical Research in London. In spring 2001, he was a Research Fellow at Berkeley's Robbins Civil and Religious Law Library. He has regularly participated in legal history research projects and conferences sponsored by the Max-Planck-Insituts Europaische Rechtsgeschichte, Istituto di storia del diritto italiano, and the Conseil de la Region Languedoc-Roussilon. He has published articles in journals such as Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung Rechtsgeschichte and the Cumberland Law Review, among others, as well as a chapter in Pain, Death, and the Law (University of Michigan Press, 2001). One of his recent articles examined the development of medieval criminal procedure after the abolition of the divine ordeal. He has also served as an associate editor of the California Supreme Court Historical Society Journal.

Professor Shoemaker also holds an appointment in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, teaches in the Legal Studies major, and has affiliate appointments in Religious Studies and Medieval Studies.