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Crimes and Desire: The Laws of Love in United States Literature and Film

ENGL 286.900
instructor(s):
T 5-8

As the framers of the Constitution imagined a nation, they attempted to unify not only thirteen different states but many different people with conflicting self-interests. In part to regulate self-interest, law in the United States has historically imposed social boundaries, separating people into categories -- slave and free, immigrant and citizen, black and white, savage and civilized, man and woman. Often, these categories determined not only what rights one had but if one had rights at all. By considering fiction in which love and desire create trouble for the characters, this course examines how boundaries between people were created, maintained and contested. By considering literature and film together, the course encourages participants to analyze both how the law has been represented by fictional methods and what historical conditions have motivated certain depictions of the judicial process.

Authors may include Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Brockden Brown, Lydia Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Mark Twain, James Weldon Johnson, Sui Sin Far, Kate Chopin, Ann Petry, Chester Himes and James Baldwin. Films may include Touch of Evil and Lone Star.