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Letters, Law, and Sovereignty

ENGL 799.301
Tuesdays 12-3:00 pm


In this seminar we will examine recent American studies scholarship on law and literature in the long 19th century. In this work it is possible to see a shift from an emphasis on citizenship and nation to other forms of sovereignty and political belonging. Because literary conventions are situated in a slant relation to legal protocols, critics have discovered in narratives, poems and theatrical performance an archive of claims about justice and political community that exceed the logics of law proper. These include notions of dissensus, the commons, and religious insurgency, among others.


Along with reading some key theorists (Mignolo, Agamben, Frederici, and Ranciere are possible candidates), we will read primary texts and critical analyses of selected topics such as the poetics of justice, aesthetics and democracy, indigenous sovereignty, the politics of the commons, and law and extra-legal violence. Authors may include Hawthorne, Apess, John Marrant, the poets of Les Cenelles, Whitman, Gertrudis Avellaneda, Jacobs, Crane, Chesnutt, Zitkala-Sa.


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