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. 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. In the realm of emotion and imagination, these boundaries often proved to be unenforceable. By considering fiction in which love and desire create trouble for the characters, this course examines how legal and social boundaries between people were created, maintained, transgressed 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, Lydia Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Mark Twain, E. Pauline Johnson, Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, Ann Petry, Chester Himes and James Baldwin. Films may include Jefferson in Paris, The Innocents, Touch of Evil, Devil in a Blue Dress and Lone Star.