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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.

Research interests

  • 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'.


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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