2016 Law and Literature reading list

The New English Bible, Oxford Study Edition

Guantanamo Diary, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Albert Camus, The Stranger

Kamel Daoud, The Meursault Investigation

Janet Malcolm, The Crime of Sheila McGough

Njal’s Saga (on-line version is fine)

Glaspell’s Trifles, available on-line

Year’s Best SF 9, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, used or Kindle edition is recommended

The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories, by Franz Kafka, edited and translated by Joachim Neugroschel

In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Henry Abbott

Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Novels and Stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, volume 1, also on-line

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

Moby Dick, by Hermann Melville, excerpts, chapters 89 and 90, available on-line

Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman

The Pledge, Friedrich Durrenmatt

Ian McEwan, The Children Act

We also will see some films and cover some very short on-line readings, as I will distribute at the appropriate times; your papers may draw on these as well.


@E. Harding - according to traditional Christian theology, you're going straight to hell where you will burn forever for your infidelity. No chance for even purgatory. Somehow it feels good to write that about you, lol.

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Is I, Robot there just because of the Three Laws?

As rules for moral behavior go, they are not that useful. So much needs to be defined. What is a human? What is harm? What is in those human's ultimate self interest? How do you balance harms?

Should a robot allow a human to smoke? Should a robot allow another human to passively smoke - even if that human wants to? Shouldn't he throw himself on the cigarette to put it out?

All I can say is that eunuchs live longer than non-castrated males. What happens if you tell a robot that?

I expect I Robot contains a lot about the response of society and governments to robots. This is especially true as it is a collection of disparate short stories. Bicentennial man> jumps to mind, but that will not be the only one.

And while the Three Laws are, I suspect, useless we are starting to face the kind of issues they were designed to address. Self-driving cars facing an unavoidable crash might end up in trolley-problem like situtaions where they must choose whom to kill. Engineers are already thinking about how to pre-program rules for those cars (http://www.technologyreview.com/view/542626/why-self-driving-cars-must-be-programmed-to-kill/).

Self-driving cars will do Trolleyology no end of good and it will be interesting to see what engineers end up doing. Paying a lot of money in jury trials I expect. Juries naturally throw money at locals in wheelchairs when the other side is a large out-of-state multinational. The engineers will sound callous whatever they do.

Is Asimov useful for understanding how societies might react to robots? He is one of the few people I can think of who tries. But I think he is a little too Aspie to understand how most people think. The emerging problems seem unrelated to anything he thought. He had read Frankenstein - and read it correctly - so he thought people would be afraid of robots. But mostly they seem creeped out. Hence the "uncanny valley".

Although I can never touch The Bicentennial Man ever again because of the film. Seriously, people, I don't like to speak ill of the dead but who in their right mind would cast the late Robin Williams?

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Why Year’s Best SF 9? I'm guessing because it has an especially strong line-up (Butler, Strauss, Wolfe). Vol. 11 features Cory Doctrow's response to "I, Robot."

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Would Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Demons, or "The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor", or Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich be any more arbitrary or any less relevant for 2016?

So much the Man of the Moment in so many other ways: why nothing from Kit Marlowe here? Doctor Faustus alone would do, surely.

Nothing by Simenon, Maigret novella or roman durs?

No revival of Georg Buchner's Danton or Woyzeck?

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In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Henry Abbott

A cock and bull memoir by a career criminal told in the form of letters to Norman Mailer. This was published 35 years ago. The reaction to it said something not very sweet about our literary intelligentsia (and less Mailer than the knuckleheads who reviewed it). Why bother with it now?

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Why not Billy Budd?

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The Golden Age, John C Wright.

Gibbons' history of Rome is surprisingly engaging. I'm sure Tyler and Alex have read it already, of course.

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Art Deco, you are a hard man to please. No offense intended. Is there anything that comes up to your high standards?

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How about "Things Fall Apart" by Achebe?

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