Curriculum Guide · Courses
Literature and Law Seminar
J.D. Seminar 289 | 3 credit hours
The emphasis of this course is somewhat different than that of many other “Law & Literature” courses, a difference that I’ve tried to signal by calling the course “Literature & Law.” Rather than attempt an overview of this increasingly sprawling field, our focus in this seminar will be, at first blush, rather narrow: We will try to answer the question, “How does literature look at law?” Towards that end, with three exceptions (texts by Plato, Richard Posner, and St. Paul), we will read literary texts exclusively (and view a couple of movies along the way, too). The readings are organized in a more or less historical progression through the classical, Christian-era and modern periods. My hope is that presenting the material in this manner will help students to understand the ostensibly narrow question of literature and law in a much broader context of Western intellectual history. Thus, while the focus of the course will certainly be on the question of “law,” my goal is get students to see how that question pervades our culture at its deepest levels, and by the same token obtain a broader perspective on what we do and who we are as lawyers. A warning: the amount of weekly reading for this course may be more than most law students have come to expect from a law course. I think that it will be worth the effort – and that the readings will be a bit more enjoyable than in some other courses – but students should be aware that this is a seminar and it will not work unless all of us are prepared for each weekly class. Where movies are assigned, these must be watched before and outside of class, not in class. Finally, I am requiring that everyone who takes the seminar read and finish (or already have read in the past) Crime and Punishment one week prior to our first class discussion of that book. The novel is simply too long (and law students’ other course obligations typically too onerous) to try to read the book during the weeks that we devote to it on the schedule. For that same reason, I’m very strongly recommending (but not requiring) that students have finished the novel before the first class of the semester. Texts for the course include, in addition to handouts that will be distributed from time to time, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky) (Everyman's Library, 1993), Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays (trans. Robert Fagles, intro. Bernard Knox) (Penguin Classics, 2003), Herman Melville, Billy Budd and Other Stories (Penguin Books (reprint edition), 1989), and Franz Kafka, The Complete Stories (Schocken, 1995).
Students may not receive credit for both this course and the first-year elective, the Law and Literature and the upperclass courses, Jurisprudence in Literature or Law and Humanities Seminar.