Curriculum Guide · Courses
Law and Literature Seminar
Professor Sara Schotland
J.D. Seminar 289 | 2 credit hours
This course will examine the treatment of legal themes in literary texts as part of a broader consideration of the relationship between literature and the law. The course will compare and contrast how literature and the law address "questions that matter," including individual morality, criminal law and the justice system, and racial and gender equality. Students will consider how literary texts, like legal texts, have power to influence politics and society. Many readings will invite consideration of "the other" in literary texts and the treatment of minorities in the judicial system. Readings will include such classic texts as Antigone, The Merchant of Venice, Billy Budd, Native Son, A Jury of Her Peers, The Trial, and The Lottery. We will discuss the continuing relevance of these readings for consideration of vexed contemporary questions such as civil disobedience, the death penalty debate, and ethical choices faced by lawyers in litigation. We will also examine the treatment of trial in literary texts and view some high-quality film depictions of trial scenes in the texts that we are studying. Students will be exposed to contemporary critical theory that has questioned and in some significantly modified traditional readings of the judgments of canonical texts, as well as to the contributions of feminist scholarship and the cultural study of law movement. We will also examine a handful of judicial decisions to illustrate how the courts have addressed litigation involving literary texts (for example, censorship of allegedly obscene works, and tort cases involving books that gave erroneous advice).
Students may not receive credit for this seminar and Law and Humanities Seminar or Judicial Themes in Literature Seminar or Jurisprudence in Literature Seminar.