Honors | Law and Literature (HON)
H204 | 8202 | Perry Hodges
What motivates judges when they decide a case? How do they reconcile
the rule of law with the ideals of justice? By studying works of
literature as well as legal cases, we will explore these and other
questions central to the fields of law and literature. Judges and
storytellers struggle to give shape to human experience, relying on
similar rhetorical strategies to shape their tale or make their
case. But those of us outside the law rarely have a chance to see
how this struggle evolves. In this course we will look behind the
scenes at the ways narrators in both law and literature address the
issues they have in common: the conflict between the individual and
society, the influence of the past (history and legal precedent),
problems of textual meaning, and questions concerning morality and
human motivation. We will also be looking at actual legal cases in
an effort to understand the way our legal system works and the
social practices and images that influence it.
Readings will be selected from the works of Sophocles, Plato,
Shakespeare, Melville, Hawthorne, Glaspell, Kafka, and Athol
Fugard. Legal cases will focus on the issue of free speech, and one
film will be shown. Requirements: several short written assignments,
a mid-term, and a final paper.
Students from all disciplines are welcome. No special knowledge of
law is necessary.