This course explores the complex interactions between literature and the law. Even though the two disciplines may seem distinct, both law and literature are products of language and have overlapped in significant and interesting ways in history. Why do legal themes recur in fiction, and what kinds of literary structures underpin legal argumentation? How do novelists and playwrights imagine the law, and how do lawyers and judges interpret literary works? Could literature have legal subtexts, and could legal documents be re-interpreted as literary texts? We will think through these questions by juxtaposing novels, plays, court cases, and critical theory.
This course has three objectives. It introduces to students to the major issues and debates in a burgeoning field of interdisciplinary inquiry. It also develops their skills in close reading and critical writing. Most importantly, it establishes a dialogue between students of different disciplinary backgrounds and encourages them to question the fundamental assumptions of what they study.
We will meet for three hours every week. Each session will be a combination of student presentations and class discussion.
Class Participation and oral presentation (20%)
One mid-term essay (30%)
One final essay (50%)
(To be finalised but may be chosen from the following:)
William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice
Herman Melville: Billy Budd, Sailor
Oscar Wilde: 'The Decay of Lying'/The Picture of Dorian Gray