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Peer-Review Record

Edmond Picard and the Congo Free State: A Study in Law and Literature

Humanities 2023, 12(1), 17;
Reviewer 1: Fabrice Leroy
Reviewer 2: Alex Demeulenaere
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Humanities 2023, 12(1), 17;
Received: 5 November 2022 / Revised: 30 January 2023 / Accepted: 31 January 2023 / Published: 2 February 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinarity in the Humanities)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report


This an interesting and original article. The intersection of law and literature is well defined and offers a novel perspective to the discussion of colonialism in literature. At first glance, the discussion of the three Anglo-American texts at the end seems a little tacked on and superficial, to the extent that these are well known literary pieces that have been commented upon at length; however, their law & literature components have not often been presented in this perspective (in connection to Picard’s dual role or as overlapping characteristics of the three texts).


Picard’s philosophy of law and racist/nationalist bias are well defined in the introduction. On the concept of Juridocracy, it should perhaps be noted that the Belgian Symbolist movement was also dominated by the “bourgeoisie de robe” (the social class of wealthy jurists). Two missing texts in the bibliography, which would be useful to understand the interplay between social forces and literature in late nineteenth-century Belgium, are Jean-Marie Klinkenberg & Benoît Denis, La Littérature belge. Précis d’histoire sociale (Bruxelles : Éditions Labor, 2005) and Jean-Pierre Bertrand et al. Histoire de la littérature belge 1930-2000 (Paris : Fayard, 2003), both of which contain substantial information on Picard as a promoter of a Belgian nationalist myth.


When discussing the literary aspects of Picard’s legal writings (p. 9), it would seem that the rhetorical element may be worth mentioning, in addition to narrative devices. As the author shows, Picard’s distortion of legal texts relies on clever tricks that are not narrative but semantic in nature. The section of the article on “Consultation délibérée” is excellent in this regard. Rhetoric is a common dimension to law and literature.


The section on “En Congolie” is equally interesting. Perhaps it should be noted more clearly that Picard’s phantasmagory of Africa re-stages a first-hand travel experience, but also reiterates many existing literary tropes of colonialism (the devouring continent, its animalistic savages, etc.). Similarly, the article perceptively alludes to Picard’s “blindness” to the contradictions of his own socialism (for instance in blaming capitalism for atrocities that his own world view tends to otherwise support). Perhaps a few more lines expanding on these elements could provide more analysis of these paradoxes?


As mentioned above, I initially wondered if the last section of the article legitimately belonged to the main discussion. However, what justifies their presence is the author’s clever discussion of law elements in these fictions, as counterparts to Picard’s reverse devices. Although the three texts studied in this section are well-known items of the (anti)colonial canon, their discussion here is justified and logical, because of the unique critical perspective under which they are examined.

Author Response

Dear reviewer,

Thank you so much for your helpful comments and suggestions. They are greatly appreciated.

I was also worried that the Anglo-American sections might feel tacked on, but your feedback has given me more confidence about that. I have also added a bit more to those sections, setting them somewhat more directly in dialogue with Picard's texts.

The texts you recommended were very useful in giving context to Picard and Belgian nationalist myth. I have incorporated them into the text and the bibliography.

I have also added a bit more about Picard's use of rhetorical devices in his legal writings, as suggested.

When it comes to En Congolie, I expanded the passage on the contradiction between Picard's avowed socialism and the capitalism inherent to the colonialist project he supported, providing some more analysis of that. I also talked a bit more about the tropes of colonialist writing that Picard re-uses, setting this in conversation with some themes in postcolonial studies (per the recommendation of one of the other reviewers). 

Please let me know is you think that this is satisfactory or if more could be done here.

Reviewer 2 Report

Interesting comparison of law and literature, yet two important aspects should be improved:

- on a theoretical level, this topic (law/literature) should be brought in relation with postcolonial theory.

- on the redactional level, text should be read by an English native speaker and there should by a correction of the coherence of citation (with/without foortnote) and punctuation.

Author Response

Dear reviewer,

Thank you so much for your helpful comments and suggestions. They are greatly appreciated.

Per your recommendation, I have attempted to set the article in dialogue with concepts and writers of postcolonial theory, making connections here to the law and literature aspect of the article.

I have also had the article proofread by a native English speaker and made the appropriate corrections.

Please let me know if you think that it is satisfactory or if more work needs to be done here.

Reviewer 3 Report

Comments for author File: Comments.pdf

Author Response

Dear reviewer,

Thank you so much for your helpful and detailed feedback on the article. It is greatly appreciated.

You are absolutely right that the section on law and literature seemed a bit tacked on at the end and that this dimension needed to be incorporated throughout the text. In this revision, I have sought to integrate both texts and analysis from a law-and-literature perspective throughout the entire article rather than saving this for the end. Per your comment, I have included a number of more recent works on law and literature that I found relevant, including Brooks' Seduced by Story among others. I have added more analysis of the texts by Picard, as well as the Anglo-American texts, while highlighting points of contact between them and connections to concepts in law-and-literature sources that work toward my thesis.

In addition, I have pared down sections that do not have much, if any relevance, to my argument, particularly when it comes to Picard's biographical details and some of the longer quotes in that section.

In the Consultation délibérée section, I have also cut some portions about which I had little to say and integrated some longer quotes into the body of the article.

In the more literary sections, I have kept a number of block quotations because I felt that it was the only way to give something of the artistic/literary "flavor" of each of the texts in question (and their authors' styles). However, I have tried to provide more substantial analysis in each case rather than letting the quotes stand on their own. In the case of the Anglo-American texts, I have also added more comment on the variation among the texts and their differing effects, as you suggested.

I am grateful to you for finding and listing a number of typographical and grammatical errors, along with some awkward sentence structure/phrasing throughout the text. I have gone through and corrected each instance.

Please let me know if you think that this is sufficient or if there are further revisions to make here.

Round 2

Reviewer 3 Report

It is ready for publication after a run-through by the journal's editorial team - a missing space, Weisberg v. Weisburg, some extra blank lines, a misaligned paragraph, etc.

Author Response

Thank you so much! I have made the necessary corrections, per your instructions and those of the editorial team.

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