Prof. Dr. Greta Olson

Justus Liebig University Giessen

Prof. Dr. Greta OlsonCurriculum Vitae

Greta Olson studied philosophy and studio art at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, as well as art history and philosophy at University College London and holds a master’s degree in philosophy and English from the University of Freiburg. There she also received her PhD in English, philosophy, and comparative linguistics as well as the venia legendi in American and English literature and cultural studies for her habilitation thesis “‘Criminal Beasts’ and the Rise of Positivist Criminology – From Shakespeare to Dickens”. From 2000 to 2002 Greta Olson worked as a lecturer at the University of Freiburg and was a guest lecturer at the Universities of Innsbruck (2001) and Basel (2003). From 2002 to 2003 she was a guest professor in American studies at the University of Bonn. In 2004, she became assistant professor under the auspices of a German Research Foundation grant at the University of Freiburg, before she moved to Giessen, where she became Professor of English and American literature and cultural studies at Justus Liebig University in 2009. Professor Olson is a general editor of the European Journal of English Studies (EJES), and, with Jeanne Gaakeer, the co-founder of the European Network for Law and Literature. Her research interests include Law and Literature/cultural approaches to law, the politics of narrative forms, critical US American Studies, and feminist and sexuality studies. Following a first research stay at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture” from April to September 2014, she was from April to September 2016, once again Fellow in Bonn.

Research Project

Law’s Pluralities: The Present and Multiple Futures of Law and Literature

Law’s Pluralities maps the current state of Law and Literature research, names central controversies, and describes viable trajectories of future research. The opening chapter argues that efforts to rebrand Law and Literature alternately as Law and the Humanities or as Law and Narrative are misguided and thus advocates instead for a cultural studies approach to law that is augmented by the insights of other “Law and X” or gap studies. Mapping the continuing, if highly erratic, influence of critical theory on legal research and practice, the second chapter then describes the “affective turn” in Law and Literature scholarship. Following out of the fundamental critique of the humanist subject that has been provided by feminism, critical race theory, posthumanism, and the new ontology, critical theorists display a new interest in exploring legal existence as non-narratively constituted, as embodied and as affectively produced.

The third chapter proceeds to ask, with Richard Sherwin, if law has indeed gone pop, by reviewing various versions of the CSI-effect thesis with its contention that the frequent viewing of forensic crime shows leads to a heightened expectation that incontrovertible scientific evidence will be presented in the courtroom and, in in this theory’s wider version, that heavy consumption of law-related series will alter viewer perceptions of legal processes more generally. Against vulgar versions of cultivation theory that suggest that more consumption automatically leads to more distorted opinions about law, the chapter argues for the relevance of comparative work in lex populi. Not only do viewers respond to fictionalized representations of law in highly varied fashions depending on their relative social positions and experiences within their legal settings, but the comparison of German and US American legal television series demonstrates that generically equivalent shows intervene in the cultures in which they are produced and transmitted quite differently. For instance, whereas Judge Judy (1996 – present) dramatizes a desire for punitive justice via Judge Judy’s public shaming of her pseudo litigants, the series’ German copy-cat Richterin Barbara Salesch (Judge Barbara Salesch, 1999-2012) provides a public negotiation of normative behaviors that is enacted through Judge Salesch’s insightful questioning of her witnesses and translation of legal concepts into lay terms. Arguably, a neo-liberal attitude towards personal responsibility is displayed in the US American series, while a trust in the efficacy and fairness of the legal system is encouraged in the German one. A comparison of the German dramatic comedy about a single women lawyer Danni Lowinski (2010 – 2014) with the American Drop Dead Diva (2009- 2014) again makes evident how generically similar texts respond to divergent sociolegal preoccupations. Whereas episodes in Danni Lowinski negotiate public concerns about the integration of Sharia family law in the German context and continuing problems of hostility towards non-ethnic Germans, the US series focuses on civil rights issues and features cases concerning discrimination based on prejudices about weight, homosexuality, and transsexuality.

Continuing the argument for comparatism, the fourth chapter names three historically diverse situations in which a people’s desire for a more equitable legal system led them to create an alternative normative order through aesthetic means; thus where legal and governmental institutions do not ensure civility and rights, as for African Americans in the period before 1965 of for many Brazilians in the present, the literary has a particularly powerful role to play. During periods of sociallegal contestation, fictional forms serve as alternative conveyers of narratives of citizenship and help to imagine forms of legal representation where they are lacking. Thus the chapter advocates for the enunciation of localized Law and Literatures that address the linguistic particularities and the non-translatability and heterogeneity of individual cultures; it thus contests the assumed universalism of North American models of research. In the conclusion, entitled “Why should we care?” the author attests to the continued viability of a pluralistically understood Law and Literature for legal education and practice.


Selected Publications

  • “The Turn to Passion: Has Law and Literature become Law and Affect?” Special Issue on “Legal Personhood” (hrsg. von Frans-Willem Korsten und Yasco Horstmann), Law and Literature 2016.
  • “Futures of Law and Literature: A Preliminary Overview from a Culturalist Perspective”, in: Recht und Literatur im Zwischenraum/Law and Literature In-Between: Aktuelle inter- und transdisziplinäre Zugänge/Contemporary Inter- and Transdisciplinary Approaches (hrsg. von. Christian Hiebaum, Susanne Knaller, Doris Pichler), Bielefeld: transcript 2015, 37-69.
  • “Towards a Comparative and Localized Study of Brazilian Law and Literature”, in: Direito e Literatura na Virada do Milênio/Law and Literature at the Turn of the Millennium (hrsg. von Sonja Arnold und Michael Korfmann), Porto Alegre: Editora Dublinense 2014, 15-38.
  • “‘Like a Dog’: Rituals of Animal Degradation in J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and Abu Ghraib Prison”, in: Journal of Narrative Theory 44.1 (Spring 2014): 116-156.
  • Narration and Narrative in Legal Discourse, in: Peter Hühn et al. (Hrsg.): Living Handbook of Narratology, Hamburg University Press 2014.
  • Criminals as Animals from Shakespeare to Lombroso. Law and Literature Series 8, Berlin und New York: De Gruyter 2013.
  • New Theories, Models and Methods in Literary and Cultural Studies: Theory into Practice (Hrsg. mit Ansgar Nünning), Trier: WVT 2013.
  • “Law is not Turgid and Literature not Soft and Fleshy: Gendering and Heteronormativity in Law and Literature Scholarship.” Special Issue on “Law and Humanities Futures” (Hrsg. von Marett Leiboff), Australian Feminist Law Journal 36 (2012), 65-86.
  • Obama and the Paradigm Shift – Measuring Change (Hrgg. mit Birte Christ), Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter 2012.
  • 9/11 Ten Years On (Hrsg.), Special Issue of Der Fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch 111 (May) 2011.
  • Current Trends in Narratology (Hrsg.), Berlin und New York: De Gruyter 2011.
  • ‘De-Americanizing Law-and-Literature Narratives: Opening up the Story’, in: Law & Literature 22.1. 2010.
  • ‘Law, Literature, and Language.’ European Journal of English Studies 11.1 (Hrsg. mit Martin Kayman), Routledge 2007.
  • In the Grip of the Law: Trials, Prisons and the Space Between (Hrsg. mit Monika Fludernik), Frankfurt: Peter Lang 2004.
  • Reading Eating Disorders: Writings on Bulimia and Anorexia as Confessions of American Culture. Frankfurt: Peter Lang 2003.

Books and Editions

  • Olson, Greta. From Law and Literature to Legality and Affect (Oxford UP, 2022).
  • Olson, Greta, Daniel Hartley, Mirjam Horn-Schott, and Leonie Schmidt, eds. (2018). Beyond Gender: Futures of Feminist and Sexuality Studies – An Advanced Introduction.London: Routledge. Reprinted as a paperback (2019).
  • Olson, Greta and Jan Alber, eds. (2018). How to Do Things with Narrative: Cognitive and Diachronic Perspectives. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter. Reprinted as a paperback (2019).
  • Olson, Greta, and Sarah Copland, eds. (2018). The Politics of Form. Abingdon: Routledge.

Journal Articles, Book Chapters, and Encyclopedia Articles

  • Olson, Greta and Laura Borchert (2022). “Transing” / “Narrative Authority, Affective Unreliability, and Transing Law” Research Handbook in Law and Literature. Ed. Daniela Gandorfer, Cecilia Gebruers, and Peter Goodrich. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 378-400.
  • Olson, Greta (2021). “Afterword - Trans* Time and the Internationalization of Trans Studies.” Trans* Time: Projecting Transness in European (TV) Series. Ed. Danae Gallo González. Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag. 191-202.
  • (2021) Interview with Michael Knipper about the value of teaching, transferring knowledge between the sciences, BlackLivesMatter and health as a human right for the podcast “Research LAB” (1 July 2021)
  • Olson, Greta (2020). “Being in Uncertainty: Thinking the Coronavirus Pandemic.” In the Realm of Corona Normativities. A Momentary Snapshot of a Dynamic Discourse. Ed. Werner Gephart. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann. 425-32.
  • Olson, Greta (2020). “Love and Hate Online – Affect Politics in the Era of Trump.” Violence and Trolling on Social Media: History, Affect, and Effects of Online Vitriol. Ed. Sara Polak, and Daniel Trottier. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP. 156-70.
  • Olson, Greta with Janna Wessels (2020). “Imag(in)ing Human Rights: Deindividualizing, Victimizing, and Universalizing Images of Refugees in the United States and Germany.” The State of Human Rights: Historical Genealogies, Historical Controversies, and Cultural Imaginaries. Ed. Kerstin Schmidt. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. 249-64.
  • Olson, Greta (2020). “Being in Uncertainty: Thinking the Coronavirus Pandemic.” The Corona Crisis in Light of the Law-as-Culture Paradigm. The Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture.” 22 April 2020.
  • Interview with Greta Olson (2019). Dieter Axt. “Feel Empowered to Tell Your Own Legal-Cultural Story.” Anamorphosis 5.1: 317-28.
  • Olson, Greta (2019). “Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. (mult.) Herbert Grabes (1936-2015) in Memoriam.”, The European Society for the Study of English, 5 July 2019, No pag.
  • Interview with Greta Olson (2018). Wolters, Laura, and Stefan Mörchen. “‘Too White, Too Straight, Too Rich.’ Ein Gespräch mit Greta Olson über #MeToo.” Mittelweg 36 27.4: 54-67.
  • Olson, Greta (2018). “Questioning the Ideology of Reliability in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Towards a Critical, Culturalist Narratology.” Narratology and Ideology:Negotiating Context, Form, and Theory of Postcolonial Narratives. Ed. Divya Dwivedi, Henrik Skov Nielsen, and Richard Walsh. Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP. 156-172.
  • Olson, Greta (2018). “On Narrating and Troping the Law: The Conjoined Use of Narrative and Metaphor in Legal Discourse.” Narrative and Metaphor in the Law. Ed. Robert Weisberg and Michael Hanne. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 19-36.
  • Olson, Greta, and Mirjam Horn-Schott (2018). Introduction: “Beyond Gender: Towards a Decolonized Queer Feminist Future.” Beyond Gender: Futures of Feminist and Sexuality Studies – An Advanced Introduction. Ed. Greta Olson, Daniel Hartley, Mirjam Horn-Schott, and Leonie Schmidt. Abingdon: Routledge.1-23.
  • Olson, Greta (2018). “Loving Feminism: Negotiating Differences in the Classroom.” Beyond Gender: Futures of Feminist and Sexuality Studies – An Advanced Introduction. Ed. Greta Olson, Daniel Hartley, Mirjam Horn-Schott, and Leonie Schmidt. Abingdon: Routledge.156-178.
  • Olson, Greta and Jan Alber (2018). “Monika Fludernik and the Invitation to Do Things with Narrative.” How to Do Things with Narrative: Cognitive and Diachronic Perspectives. Ed. Greta Olson and Jan Alber. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter. 1-14.


  • Greta Olson/Elisabeth Lechner. “#Feminist - Naming Controversies and Celebrating Points of Connection and Joy in Current Feminisms.”Special Issue on Patriarchal backlashes to feminism in times of crisis. Ed. Florence Binard and Renate Haas The European Journal of the Study of English 26.2 (Taylor & Francis).
  • Olson, Greta. “Legal Facts, Affective Truths, and Changing Narratives in Trials Involving Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo.” Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory. Ed. Paul Dawson and Maria Mäkelä, London and New York: Routledge, 182-209.
  • Olson, Greta. “Metaphoric Fictionality in Poems about Migration and in Anti-Immigration Discourse.” Fictionality and Literature. Eds. Henrik Skov Nielsen, Jim Phelan, Simona Zetterberg Gjerlevsen, Richard Walsh, Lasse Raaby Gammelgaard, Stefan Iversen, Louise Brix Jacobsen. Ohio State UP.
  • Olson, Greta. “Why Rechtsgefühle? Why do people have impassioned feelings about justice and the law? The Turn to Affect in Legal Studies” Feelings about Justice/Law: The Relevance of Affect to the Development of Law in Pluralistic Legal Cultures // Rechtsgefühle. Die Relevanz des Affektiven für die Rechtsentwicklung in pluralen Rechtskulturen. Ed. Thorsten Keiser, Greta Olson and Franz Reimer. Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag.