Kenji Yoshino, NYU School of Law

The Choice of the Three Fathers: Henry IV, Falstaff, and the Lord Chief Justice in Shakespeare's Henriad

Mon, 02/08/2010
4:30-6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 

We hope you will join us for a LAPA Seminar with Kenji Yoshino, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law.  His commentators will be Peter Brooks, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar and Lecturer with the rank of Professor in Comparative Literature and the University Center for Human Values, and Bernadette Meyler, LAPA Fellow and Professor of Law and English at Cornell University.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Professor Yoshino writes:  "This paper is a chapter of a book tentatively titled Justice in Shakespeare, which looks at themes of justice in the plays.  This chapter examines the difficulties of attaining legitimate sovereignty by focusing on the terrible choice Hal must make among his three "fathers" in the four plays known as the Henriad:  his biological father Henry IV, his tavern "father" Falstaff, and his legal "father" the Lord Chief Justice.  It challenges the conventional wisdom that Hal's famous rejection of Falstaff is an embrace of King Henry IV.  It instead maintains that Hal rejects not only Falstaff, Shakespeare's most sublime scofflaw, but also his father, who is an anti-legal figure in his own right because he usurped the crown.  The paper contends that Hal solves the problem of becoming a legitimate sovereign by embracing the Lord Chief Justice, who in his nameless rectitude embodies the law, as his surrogate father.  The paper concludes by raising questions about what this choice suggests about the relationship between sovereign (or executive) legitimacy and the rule of law, in Shakespeare's time and our own."

Kenji Yoshino is the inaugural Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law.  HIs fields include constitutional law, civil-rights law, and law and literature.  A graduate of Harvard, Oxford, and Yale Law School, he taught at Yale Law School from 1998 to 2008, where he served as both Deputy Dean and the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor of Law.  He has published broadly in academic journals such as the Columbia Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and Yale Law Journal , as well as in more popular venues such as The L.A. Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.  He is a regular contributor to NPR and a variety of television programs.  His first book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights, was published by Random House in 2006.  His second book, tentatively titled Justice in Shakespeare, will be published later this year.

Peter Brooks joined the Princeton faculty after many decades of teaching at Yale, where he was Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature. He has published on narrative and narrative theory, on the 19th and 20th century novel, mainly French and English, and, more recently, on the interrelations of law and literature.  He is the author of several books, including Henry James Goes to Paris (2007), Realist Vision (2005), Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature (2000), Psychoanalysis and Storytelling (1994), Body Work (1993), Reading for the Plot (Knopf, 1984), The Melodramatic Imagination (1976) and The Novel of Worldliness (1969). He co-edited, with Paul Gewirtz, Law's Stories (1996) and, with Alex Woloch, Whose Freud?  (2000). He is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Comparative Literature and Yale Journal of Law & Humanities.  His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, London Review of Books, Critical Inquiry, New Literary History, Yale Law Journal, and elsewhere.  He is currently at work on a project called "The Enigma of Identity."  Brooks has served as a visiting professor at Harvard University, the University of Texas, Austin, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Bologna, and the Georgetown University Law Center, and as Visiting Lecturer at Yale Law School.  He was a visiting scholar at Stanford Law School in 1994.  During the 2001-2002 academic year, he was Eastman Professor at Oxford University, and Fellow of Balliol College . He was University Professor at the University of Virginia from 2003 to 2006, teaching in the English Department and the Law School.  At Princeton, he teaches in Comparative Literature and the University Center for Human Values.

Bernadette Meyler is the inaugural Mellon/LAPA Fellow in Law and Humanities and Professor of Law and English at Cornell University. Her scholarship focuses on the intersections between constitutional law and the common law, British and American legal history, law and literature, and law and religion. She also inaugurated a Law and Humanities Colloquium at Cornell.  Meyler received her AB from Harvard, JD from Stanford, and Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Irvine, where she was the beneficiary of both a Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Study and a Chancellor's Fellowship.  Prior to entering law teaching, she clerked for the Honorable Judge Robert A. Katzmann on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  While at LAPA, Meyler will be completing a book on common law originalism.  In it, she contends both that originalism should take into account the disparate strains of colonial and British common law circulating at the time of the founding, and that originalist interpretation should treat the common law backdrop of the Constitution not as providing determinate answers but instead as posing a set of questions for judges to answer from the vantage point of the present.