Many of the central preoccupations of literature--gathering facts, weighing evidence, seeking confessions, assigning punishment, advocating opinions, witnessing trials--are also central issues in law. During the past year (2020), the coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions on social freedoms, protests for racial justice and First Amendment rights, changes in the Supreme Court and electoral politics have made citizens and aspiring citizens radically aware of ways that law deeply touches the cultural fabric.
This course examines literary texts that register the reach of law as well as legal texts that bear upon the human lives, authorial sensibilities, ethical judgments, even stylistic choices dramatized in fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry, film, and popular culture. It will concurrently pay attention to the tools of rhetoric, discourse, persuasion, and argumentation in critical writing and civic conversation about literature and law. Students will have options to choose topics for independent and/or small group research and presentations.
Readings will include selections from an array of American and transnational authors, such as Shakespeare, Wollstonecraft, Melville, Tolstoy, Zitkala-Sa, Kafka, Camus, Baldwin, Cleaver, Symborska, Kingston, Lorde, Hamid, Sotomayor, and samples from banned books. Legal writings will include foundational documents such as the Canadian Charter and the US Constitution; matters pertaining to intellectual property and individual freedom; and decisions impacting race, immigration, indigenous rights, criminal justice, the environment, gender. The expression of diverse opinions will be expected and respected.