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Bienen, Leigh B.

 Person

Leigh Buchanan Bienen, senior lecturer at the Northwestern School of Law and wife of Northwestern University president Henry S. Bienen, joined the School of Law in 1995, the same year her husband took office. She lectures in the areas of criminal law, juries, and law and social science, and has additional areas of interest and expertise in capital punishment, sex crimes, and rape reform legislation. In addition, she is a prolific writer of fiction, mainly short stories and plays.

Her literary education began as an undergraduate at Cornell, where she studied with Vladimir Nabokov and Herbert Gold, and her career as a fiction writer and playwright began at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Bienen received a B.A. with honors in English from Cornell in 1960, and an M.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1963. Bienen wrote fiction and worked as an assistant to Saul Bellow while her husband was completing his graduate studies at the University of Chicago between 1965-1966. She obtained her J.D. from the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey in 1975.

Bienen spent two years in Uganda (1963-1965) with her husband while he was doing field work for his graduate degree and working as a visiting professor at Makerere College in Kampala, Uganda. During this time she worked on a literary journal in the region, Transition. Soon after returning from Uganda, Bienen moved to Princeton, where her husband had obtained a professorship. Bienen returned to Africa while in law school--she spent time in Nigeria while her husband was at the University of Ibadan (1972-73) in Ibadan, Nigeria. She spent that time doing research and observing all levels of Nigerian trial courts dealing with homicide cases, focusing on Western Nigeria. She was able to use her experience researching capital punishment in Nigeria upon her return to Princeton, where she obtained a grant to conduct research on capital punishment in Mercer County, New Jersey.

After graduating from law school in 1975, Bienen taught at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and at Boalt Hall at U.C. Berkeley. She also worked as a research attorney at the Center for Rape Concern at Philadelphia General Hospital, a lecturer in the Women's Studies program at Princeton, and at the Australian Institute of Criminology.

In 1977, Bienen became Assistant Deputy Public Defender and Director of the Special Projects Section in the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate. She worked as a public defender in Trenton, New Jersey for 15 years.

Bienen became Senior Lecturer in the Northwestern University School of Law in 1995, and from 1998-2003, Bienen directed the Chicago Historical Homicide Project initiative. This initiative involved scanning and interpreting a log of more than 11,000 homicides maintained consistently and without interruption by the Chicago Police Department over the course of 60 years, from 1870 to 1930. Bienen was also project director for the Life and Times of Florence Kelley in Chicago project during 2007.

Bienen has pursued a dual career as a lawyer/law educator and fiction writer for many years. Her fiction (short stories and plays) has often drawn upon her legal researches for source materials, and her legal work, as researcher and professor, reflect her literary training. Such books as Crimes of the Century and the Chicago Historical Homicide Project represent a melding of the two disciplines. During her tenure as a public defender, she took brief respites to spend time writing at artists' communities. Bienen was the Resident Fellow of The MacDowell Colony in 1979 and 1981, and spent time at Yaddo (1984) as a writer.

Her law-related publications include two books: Crimes of the Century, (Northeastern University Press, 1998), and Jurors and Rape, (1980). Articles authored by Bienen include "Rape I-IV," (Women's Rights Law Reporter), "A Question of Credibility," (California-Western Law Review, 1983), "Mistakes," (Philosophy in Public Affairs, 1978), "A Good Murder," (Fordham Urban Law Journal, 1993), and "Helping Jurors Out," (Indiana Law Journal, 1993), as well as numerous others. Her most recent book, Murder and its Consequences: Essays on Capital Punishment in America, was published in 2010.

As a fiction writer, she has published stories and essays in TriQuarterly, The Ontario Review, Transition, Ploughshares, Mississippi Review, New England Journal of Theatre, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. A short play of hers was included in Winters' Tales 1994, McCarter Theatre's New Play Festival. A published collection of her fiction, The Left-Handed Marriage, was published in 2001 by Ontario Review Books. Her short stories include "The Circus Comes to Kampala," "First Secretary Kamau," "My Life as a West African Grey Parrot," "Point of View in Bangkok," "Self-Evident Truths," and many others. Her plays include "Acting Out" and "Bodies."

Bienen is a board member of the Lookingglass Theatre, in Chicago.
Citation
Author: Benn P. Joseph

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Leigh Buchanan Bienen Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 17/39
Abstract Leigh Buchanan Bienen, senior lecturer at the Northwestern School of Law and wife of Northwestern University president Henry S. Bienen, joined the School of Law in 1995, the same year her husband took office.  She lectures in the areas of criminal law, juries, and law and social science, and has additional areas of interest and expertise in capital punishment, sex crimes, and rape reform legislation.  In addition, she is a prolific writer of fiction, mainly short stories and plays....