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Photo of Emeritus Professor Melanie Williams

Emeritus Professor Melanie Williams

Emeritus Professor, formerly Professor of Literary Jurisprudence


I am interested in the mysteries of ‘human nature’ – of how the moral landscape of existence is negotiated, of how normative worlds are negotiated and how such issues may be understood especially in a world of secular values. Literature and film are the main sources of inspiration for these reflections. Having been located as an academic in the discipline of ‘law’, my work has of necessity reflected in particular upon how the moral life co-exists and engages with the institutions of law, however my interests cut across a range of questions concerning human existence, particularly problems of violence, sexuality, bioethics and mortality, from the historical, to the cultural, psychological, feminist/gender and now with a view to considering how these play out in global social and popular media.

Past publications have looked at the works of Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, John Fowles, E.M.  Forster, Lewis Jones, Iris Murdoch, J.M. Coetzee, W.H. Auden, Seamus  Heaney, R.S. Thomas and films such as ‘Straw Dogs, ‘Crash’ [adapted from the J.G. Ballard novel] and Bernhard Schlink’s ‘The Reader’.  Further work looks at the subject of the diaspora and the poetry of  Derek Mahon, Feminist Science Fiction and gender violence, gender, the natural and the supernatural, utopias and dystopias in philosophy and moral responsibility in literature, film, law and popular culture.

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  • Law, Literature and Philosophy
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Socio-legal theory

I have a strong interest in the use of language and literary devices in law, as well as the use of literary sources to explore notions of ‘legitimate' narrative. The interest in law and literature as an open-textured approach to the philosophy of law permits a fresh perspective upon ethico-legal doctrines and concepts.

So expressed, this may sound dry and perhaps a little abstract! - but overall it provides accessible new challenges to the law and an arena for other voices; the interdisciplinary approach permits tangential engagement with legal and philosophical analysis, with the law's account of ‘truth', ‘justice', ‘rights' and ‘doctrine'.

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2023 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2009 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 1999 |


  • Williams M. (2023) Coercive and controlling behaviour — Literary, psychological and legal interpretation and The Man Who Loved Children, Australian Journal of Family Law, volume 36, pages 173-194.


  • Williams ML. (2018) Law and Literature/Literary Jurisprudence, Great Debates in Gender and Law, Macmillan International Higher Education, 185-197.


  • Williams ML. (2017) The Diaspora of the Imaginary in Poetics and Politics, Diaspora, Law and Literature, de Gruyter, 171-186.


  • Williams ML. (2016) Law and Coercive and Controlling behaviour, from Tess of the d'Urbevilles to Helen Titchener in The Archers, Trinity St David Philosophy Colloquium.


  • williams ML. (2015) Law’s Impotence, Gender Violence and the Power of Feminist (Science) Fiction, Public Lecture Series, St Mary’s University, Twickenham.


  • Williams ML. (2013) 'Hardy and the Law', Thomas Hardy in Context, Cambridge University Press, 306-315. [PDF]
  • Williams ML. (2013) PLENARY 'Politics, poetics and the diaspora of the imaginary - 'Let the God not abandon us' - the poetry of Derek Mahon', Law and Literature in Diaspora Studies - "Villa Vigoni-Gespräch in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften" (im Rahmen einer Vereinbarung mit der DFG), Villa Vigoni, Como, Italy, 6th - 9th May 2013.
  • Williams ML. (2013) Imagining Freedoms, Public and Private – Feminist Science Fiction and Ideological Symbolism, The Public Life of Private Law’ ESRC Seminar Series, University Of Kent Canterbury Uk, 18th Jan 2013 - 1st Jan 2014,
  • Williams ML. (2013) Liminal Tensions in Public to Private Conceptions of Justice: Nussbaum, Woolf and the Struggle for Identity, Liminal Discourses: Subliminal Tensions in Law and Literature, De Gruyter, 53-72. [PDF]


  • Williams ML. (2012) PLENARY: 'Feminism, Literature and Human Rights: Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly and the Dark Heart of Culture', AIDEL International Conference, Verona – Literature and Human Rights, Verona Italy, 15th - 17th Nov 2012.


  • Williams ML. (2011) Justice in the Public-Private Domain: Nussbaum, Woolf and the Creative Individual, Nordic Journal of Law and Justice: Retfaerd, volume vol. 34, no. no 3/134. [PDF]
  • Williams ML. (2011) PLENARY: 'Justice in the Public-Private Domain: Nussbaum, Woolf and the Creative Individual', Concepts of Justice in Legal Research An International Conference, Odense, Denmark, 16th - 17th Sep 2010.


  • Williams ML. (2009) Keynote/plenary (funded by Swiss Scientific Research Council) ‘Law, The Reader and the Problem of Moral Luck’, Intersections of Law and Culture, Lugano, Switzerland.
  • Williams M. (2009) Law Narrative and the Normal Men, Current Legal Problems.
  • Williams ML. (2009) Socio-legal studies and the humanities – law, interdisciplinarity and integrity, International Journal of Law in Context, volume 2009, no. 5, pages 243-261, DOI:10.1017/S1744552309990103. [PDF]
  • Williams ML. (2009) Law, Narrative and the Normal Man, volume 62, pages 202-241.


  • Williams ML. (2007) ‘Literature, Law and' entry for the Encyclopedia of Law and Society: American and Global Perspectives ed. David C. Clark.


  • Williams ML. (2006) Only Connect: 'Howards End' and Theories of Justice, Law and Literature, volume Vol 18, no. No. 2, pages 253-280.


  • Williams ML. (2005) Law's Agent: Cultivated Citizen or Popular Savage?, Law and Popular Culture: Current Legal Issues, Oxford University Press, 212-226.
  • Williams ML. (2005) Death Rites: Assisted Suicide and Existential Rights, International Journal of Law in Context, volume 1, no. 2, pages 183-198, DOI:10.1017/S1744552305002053.
  • Williams Ayres Hyde Heinzelman Ward MLSMSS. (2005) Symposium – Intersections of Law, Literature and Culture: Roundtable discussion, Texas Weslyan Law Review, volume 12[1], pages 485-501.
  • Williams ML. (2005) Secrets and Laws: Essays in Law, Life and Literature, Routledge-Cavendish.


  • Williams ML. (2004) ‘Then and Now: The Natural/Positivist nexus at War: Auden's September 1, 1939', Journal of Law and Society, volume 2004, no. 1, pages 60-86.
  • Williams ML. (2004) Law's Agent: Cultivated Citizen or Popular Savage? The crash of the moral mirror, Law and Popular Culture: Current Legal Issues, Oxford University Press, 212-226.
  • Williams ML. (2004) An Ethics Ensemble: Abortion, Thomson, Finnis and the Case of the Violin Player, Ratio Juris, volume 17, no. 3, pages 381-397, DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9337.2004.00274.x.


  • Williams ML. (2003) A Lawyer drawn to fame - John van Druten, Cambrian Law Review, volume 34, pages 71-82.


  • Williams ML. (2002) Empty Justice: One Hundred Years of Law, Literature and Philosophy - Existential, Feminist and Normative Perspectives in Literary Jurisprudence, Cavendish.


  • Williams ML. (2001) ‘Ministering Otherness' –, Liverpool Law Review,, no. 2.


  • Williams ML. (1999) ‘Is Alec a Rapist? – Connotations of ‘Rape' and ‘Seduction': A Reply to Professor John Sutherland', Feminist Legal Studies, no. 7, pages 299-316.

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Professor Melanie L. Williams, Professor Emeritus, formerly Professor of Literary Jurisprudence, Exeter University, Professor and Reader Swansea University and Lecturer at the University of Aberystwyth and Birkbeck College, University of London. 

Professor Williams read Law at the University of Cambridge and a Masters in English Literature at the University of Sussex.  She has been Consultant to the Open University and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and editorial board member of the International Journal of Law in Context (Cambridge University Press) Law, Culture and Humanities (Sage) and Jurisprudence (Hart).

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