Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Literature and Law

ENGL 066.001


This course will explore the complex relationships between literature and law, studying how each imagines and represents issues of war, violence, gender and sexuality, race, history and social belonging through a wide range of twentieth-century writings. Important questions will include: How do literary and legal writings represent testimony, apology, forgiveness, and reparation? How well do different forms of life correspond to the various legal theories and codes we’ll encounter, and how does literature challenge or corroborate these specifically legal persons, subjects, lifeworlds, and behaviors? Are there cases in which literature intervenes in jurisprudence, imagining or demanding its own model of law?


The course will pose such questions in relation to topics including military trials, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the rise of the nuclear age, space law, civil rights and human rights, and reparations and restorative justice. Our readings will move among novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, criticism, legal theory, court cases, and key documents of international law. Works may include Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony,” Orwell’s 1984, Coetzee’s Disgrace, Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, films such as Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour, and non-fiction by Rebecca West and Hannah Arendt.Requirements will include in-class writing assignments, a short paper, a midterm examination, and a longer critical essay.

Evening screenings on the dates posted below:

Thursday, October 11th 7-9:00 pm

Thursday, November 29th 7-9:00 pm

fulfills requirements
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major