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Literature and Law

ENGL 066.001
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

Mark Twain once noted that "a fiction of law and custom" made some people "Negros" and other people "whites."  Twain's observation suggests that race is a "fiction" created when the juridical force of law comes together with the cultural force of custom.  Our class will explore this crucial intersection between literature and law.  We will examine the relationship between cultural production (novels, short stories, drama, film) and legal texts (juridical decisions, legislative acts, international treaties) in order to investigate how race and racial difference are produce, manage, and naturalized in nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history and culture.  Throughout the semester, we will pay special attention to processes of "naturalization"--the constitution of particular individuals as abstract U.S. citizen-subjects with the marking of others as "alien" or incapable of assimilation into the legal, economic, or cultural structures of U.S. society.  In the manner, we will consider the aesthetic and political limits of racial fictions attached to myths of U.S. exceptionalism and key concepts such as Manifest Destiny, the color-line, borderlands, segregation, passing, miscegenation, exclusion, internment, redress, affirmative action, and terrorism.