6552 Law and Literature

ENG6552HF    L0101    

Law and Literature    

Stern, S.    


Course Description

O.W. Holmes: “The life of the law has not been logic but experience.”

O.Wilde: “Experience is the name we give to our past mistakes.”

Each week we will read several articles, along with several short stories and novels during the term. We will begin with a consideration of some of the questions and criticisms that scholars have recently raised as they have sought to justify or reorient the field. We will then look at some of the specific problems connecting law and literature at various points since the Renaissance. After a more intensive look at current theoretical debates, we will take up various problems at the intersection of law and literature: legal fictions, forms of legal writing and explanation, and the regulation of literature through copyright law. Next we will focus on two legal problems that have also occupied literary thinkers: the problem of criminal responsibility and literature’s ability to document human thought and motives, and the question of privacy in criminal law, tort law, and fiction. We will end by considering possible future directions for law and literature. The course requirements will include a final paper and two or three response papers for presentation in class.

Course Texts

Each unit includes some required readings and a number of suggested sources for students who are interested in doing further research in a particular area.

Some of the questions we will discuss include:

  • How does literature use or respond to legal structures, themes, and analytical techniques, and vice versa?

  • How does literature portray legal institutions and processes?

  • What can literature bring to the performance of legal tasks, including legal narrative?

  • To what extent can literary critical accounts of narrative structure and coherence explain the role of narrative in law, and where do these accounts fall short?

  • What is achieved and what is missed by positing literature as law’s “other” (e.g., as the imaginative and ethical alternative to legal rules and constraints)?

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

  • The course requirements will include a final paper (80%),

  • a 2-3 page response paper for presentation in class (10%)

  • and regular class participation (10%).


Term: F-TERM (September 2024 to December 2024)
Date/Time: Wednesday, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm (2 hours)  NB: FIRST MEETING OF THIS COURSE WILL MOST LIKELY BE SEPTEMBER 4, 2024 - to be confirmed
TBA (LAW building TBA)
Delivery: In-Person