Law and Literature

Term: Spring 2010

Subject Code: GLIB

Course Number: 5633

The connections between law and literature have intrigued judges, lawyers, law professors, and literary scholars alike. The law has been seen as an intricate web of texts governed by codes and subject to interpretation whereas literature has been viewed as a means to portray legal debates and controversies, to critique the interpretations and applications of the law, and to consider the ethical bases upon which legal systems stand. This course focuses on the study of law in literature. Considering the question of justice in all its complexity, we examine fictional accounts of real and imagined trials.  We cover mythological trials, such as the trial of Orestes; political trials, including the ancient trial of Socrates in Athens and the contemporary trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem; and existential trials in which all of humanity seems to be in the dock. Through our study of the intersections between law and literature, we reflect on essential questions concerning guilt and responsibility, crime and punishment, judgment and redemption, and the problem of evil. Works include Aeschylus’ Oresteia, Plato’s Apology, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Kafka’s The Trial, and Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem.

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