Literature and the Law: Trials in the European Imagination
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Course Number: NLIT 3844
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
In Kafka’s famous parable "Before the Law," a man spends his life waiting in front of a guarded gate, seeking access to the Law. What does the Law stand for, and why can't the man gain access to it? Kafka’s story is just one of many puzzling and intriguing representations of the law in literature. This course uses literary accounts of both real and imagined trials to take up the philosophical problem of justice. The literature includes mythological trials, such as the trial of Orestes; historical political trials, including those of Socrates in ancient Athens and Adolf Eichmann in modern Jerusalem; and existential trials, in which all of humanity seems to be in the dock. Through our readings, we reflect on fundamental questions about guilt and responsibility, crime and punishment, judgment and redemption, and the problem of evil. Works read include Aeschylus' Oresteia, Plato’s Apology, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Kafka’s The Trial, and Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem.
Course Open to: Majors Only
Open to Undergraduate students.