27.1 | Human Rights and Literature

Whereas the first declarations of human rights addressed the citizens of individual countries, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) has transgressed national borders in addressing a universal community. Increasingly, universal human rights discourse has become the grounds on which we negotiate cultural and religious differences and base our common humanity.

However, our assumed universality begs many questions. What connects all humans, if not much-studied national, ethnic, religious, or other communal affiliations? And if the UDHR assumes the human to naturally be the rights-holding person it addresses, making him/her both the premise and the outcome of the UDHR, what does this mean for the humanity of those who do not hold these rights? Furthermore, the connection between literature and human rights still lacks much attention. Human rights constitute a certain discourse of humanity; does literature operate from within such a discourse, or does it challenge or reject it? Does the connection between literature and nationalism inhibit the possibility of literature to connect a transnational community? What framework can encompass all literary works, and all humans, without erasing difference?

In this issue of FRAME, five scholars set out to examine the construction of the human rights discourse through the lens of the textual, investigating the ways in which the discourse has been both narrowly endorsed and critically broadened in cultural and literary narratives.


Elizabeth S. Anker | Bodily Vulnerability, the Human Rights of Immigrants, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful
Abstract and PDF

Daniel Listoe | A Double-Negation: Allegory and the Re-inscription of Human Rights
Abstract and PDF

Alexandra Schultheis Moore | “Not to Arouse Your Pity”: Situated Engagement and Human Rights in Dangarembga’s “The Letter”
Abstract and PDF

Loes van der Voort | Incorporating the Impossible: Female Suicide Terrorism in Before We Say Goodbye
Abstract and PDF

Rajini Srikanth | Quiet Prose and Bare Life: Why We Should Eschew the Sensational in Human Rights Language
Abstract and PDF

Due to the popularity of this issue, it is no longer possible to order a hard copy.

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