I lived principally in the country as a girl, and passed a considerable time in Scotland. I made occasional visits to the more picturesque parts; but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy.

Mary Shelley, preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

Dundee had an embryonic role in the creation of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Approaching the northern fringes of the United Kingdom, Dundee’s ‘eyry of freedom’ helped shape the imaginary that would result in Shelley’s famous text, and the infamous and unnatural conglomeration that it unleashed upon the world. Shelley’s reconstituted monster, created by Dr Frankenstein in his experimentations with the fringes of life, has become a cultural icon from page to stage to screen, and beyond. In taking it as inspiration for the theme of the Critical Legal Conference 2020, Frankenstein’s monster is reformulated as a rich and productive concept that encounters many of the multiple and profound tensions of modern law.

Frankenstein’s monster is typically characterised by the joining together of dead parts to constitute a reanimated whole, brought (back) to life by the power of modern science. As a conceptual figure, it thus becomes a notion of both unity and separation, of life and death, and of the power of reason to structure and animate otherwise individual and decaying parts. Rendered as a form of law—as a Frankenlaw—it conjures questions of detachment and community, of touching and separation, of independence and being bound, of unity and corporation, of the rational resolution of multiplicity—and of the modern social order: a divided whole, a community of atomistic modern subjects under a single, sovereign hierarchy.

Partaking in critical legal studies at Dundee, in the temporal shadow of Mary Shelley’s nascent imagination, it seems appropriate to let the theme of Frankenlaw permeate our reflections. To think with Frankenlaw is to encounter questions of corporate personhood, of the relationship between life and science, of bodies and their parts, of post-state or post-sovereign modes of power, of law as dead things (texts, buildings, victims) compiled and brought to life in different ways, of the possibility of unifying plurality, of community and modern subjecthood. It is an invitation and an opportunity to construct new concepts and modes of legal thought out of dead and useless ones, to animate our encounters with law in controversial and provocative ways, to seek to go beyond the boundaries of reason and modernity and see what we find.

Huddled around the thought of law, the dark of the uncritical creeping in, we shall make ghost stories of our own—we shall conjure for one another our own terrifying and inspiring visions … of Frankenlaw!

Plenary Information


This is a call for streams for CLC2020, hosted by the University of Dundee from 3-5 September 2020.

Conveners of streams, thematic panels, or other activities will submit their proposals under the current call by 29 February 2020. The call for individual papers will then be released in March 2020, with papers being submitted directly to the conveners of the streams and accepted on a rolling basis until the deadline in June 2020.

Stream conveners will then provide the organisers with the details of the speakers and papers for their stream’s panel(s). As in previous years, there will be a ‘general stream’ with no particular theme that will be convened by the conference organisers.

Indicative Topics or Themes

Below are some suggestions of the possible kinds of streams or themes that might be derived from Frankenlaw. These are not intended in any way to prescribe what the streams for the conference will be. The final streams will be constituted from those that are submitted, not from the below list.

  • Law as a separated whole
  • Community and division
  • Ethics of critique, and/or of going beyond
  • Law and corporeality
  • Politics, law, and technology
  • The power and limits of reason
  • Law at boundaries of life/death/human
  • The idea of localising law and theory

Submission Instructions

To propose a stream , please submit the following to CLC2020@dundee.ac.uk by 29 February 2020:

  • A 200 to 300 word abstract or outline of your proposed stream
  • Names and affiliations of the stream’s convener(s)
  • A single email address for the communicating convener
  • The email address to be used for paper submissions (if different from above)
  • You are welcome to propose a stream in an alternative or non-traditional format. Include brief details of your proposed format and any requirements alongside your abstract.

A PDF form is available here, to use if you wish.

Any queries or information, contact: CLC2020@dundee.ac.uk