Where the Wild Things Are: Finding the Wild in Law

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My purpose in this article is to consider what is wild in existing law and I shall start in a somewhat unconventional fashion, with a children’s book. Maurice Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are is a prize-winning classic tale which has always been popular and which has, no doubt, become even more well-known with the 2009 release of the movie with the same title.
A cursory search of legal databases suggests that, thus far, environmental law
scholars have not utilised this story in developing critiques of existing environmental laws, although the title of the book has been appropriated by some authors. On the other hand, a leading figure in the law and literature movement, Professor Desmond Manderson, has argued that this text constitutes young children as legal subjects and instils in them an understanding of the ‘meaning, function and interpretation of law’. If Manderson’s emphasis on the importance of such stories as a mechanism for social control is justified, then surely it is worthwhile to consider how such texts construct our relationship with the wild (as well as our relationship with law). In the first part of this article, I shall use this text as a starting point in identifying some pivotal assumptions about the nature of the wild and the nature of human interaction with the wild, and then consider whether such assumptions also underpin Western legal constructs of the wild.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence
EditorsPeter Burdon
PublisherWakefield Press
ISBN (Print)978 1 86254 946 3
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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