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Sem: Law & Literature (LAW-819-001)
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This 3-credit seminar will meet on Thursday afternoons. Goals for the semester will include: learning to make arguments about what and how various kinds of texts mean; exploring new (and old) perspectives on the legal profession and legal institutions; comparing literary (and filmic) visions of the role of law in social life, the nature of justice, etc.; and focusing attention on law’s relations with class, race, and gender.
In advance of each class meeting, students will submit informal reflections on the week’s readings (a page or less), responding to a question posed by the instructor. These will account for 15% of the final grade; another 15% will be attributable to class participation (regularity, pertinence, originality); and the remaining 70% will be based on a 10-page final paper addressing a topic to be agreed upon.
1. What is law?
o Gilgamesh (Babylonian epic poem) - William Mason trans.
o Law Like Love (poem) – W.H. Auden
o Neuromancer (novel) – William Gibson
2. Law’s limits
o Merchant of Venice (play) – William Shakespeare
o Measure for Measure (play) – William Shakespeare
o The Devil’s Law Case (play) – John Webster
3. Civic violence and the goals of law
o Young Goodman Brown (story) – Nathaniel Hawthorne
o My Darling Clementine (movie) – John Ford
o The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (movie) – John Ford
o Red Harvest (short novel) – Dashiell Hammett
4. Regulating class struggle
o North and South (novel) – Elizabeth Gaiskell*
5. Visions of professionalism (I)
o Orley Farm (novel) – Anthony Trollope*
6. Visions of professionalism (II)
o Bartleby (short novel) – Herman Melville
7. Idealizing lawyers
o Young Mr. Lincoln (movie) – John Ford
o Selected Mr. Tutt stories – Arthur D. Train
8. Visions of in/justice (I)
o Billy Budd (short novel) – Herman Melville
9. Visions of in/justice (II)
o They Won’t Forget (movie) – Mervyn Leroy
o Fury (movie) – Fritz Lang
o Try and Catch me (movie) – Cy Enfield
10. Race and justice
o Benito Cereno (short novel) – Herman Melville
o Pudd’nhead Wilson (short novel) – Mark Twain
11. Trials (I)
o The Lady from Shanghai (movie) – Orson Welles
o The Trial (movie) – Orson Welles
o Anatomy of a Murder (movie) – Otto Preminger
12. Trials (II)
o The House of Grief (non-fiction) – Helen Garner
13. Domestic relations
o The Palm Beach Story (movie) – Preston Sturges
o The Awful Truth (movie) – Leo McCarey
o My Favorite Wife (movie) – Garson Kanin
14. Lawyer jokes
Questions: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-274-4216.
Textbooks and Other Materials
The textbook information on this page was provided by the instructor. Students should use this information when considering purchases from the AU Campus Store or other vendors. Students may check here to determine if books are currently available for purchase online.
Students will be supplied with electronic copies of some of the literary texts and all of the films. They should plan to buy, borrow or steal the items marked in bold below (no particular editions are recommended, so whatever’s available is OK. E-books are fine -- there’s a $10 Kindle edition of the Helen Garner book, for example).
Most of the primary readings are relatively short, but the two (wonderful) nineteenth century novels marked with asterisks are on the long side. Enrolled students might want to consider getting an early start on these. There will be a list of suggested secondary readings, as well.
First Class Readings
Not available at this time.