In this first Romano Guarnieri Lecture in Italian Studies, Claudio Magris talks about the intersections between law and literature. The lecture is introduced by Harald Hendrix, Head of the Department of Modern Languages and Professor of Italian Studies at Utrecht University.
“Allà se lo haya cadauno con su pecado ,” says Don Quixote, seeing the chain of galley slaves; “No es bien que los hombres honrados sean verdugos de los otros hombres ”. Under very different skies and in very different ages literature seems permeated by a denial of law, which it rejects. Novalis, the German romantic who proposes to poeticise or poetically redeem the All, writes in one of his fragments: “Ich bin ein unjuristischer Mensch, ohne Sinn und Bedürfnis für Recht”. This attitude of poetry – understood in the widest sense as every kind of artistic creation – towards law is not reducible to a free, anarchic revolt of the imagination against the rules and logic of the legal codes. Every artist worthy of the name has always known that there is no more iron rule than that which presides over artistic creation. Indeed, considered from this angle there is an affinity, if anything, between literature and law, thanks to the similarity between law and language, often pointed out as similar to that between jurisprudence and grammar. In 1907 Croce noted, in an essay on the philosophy of law, the similarity between the work of the grammarian and that of the jurist.