HONR 208L

This course will examine the treatment of legal themes in literary texts as part of a broader consideration of the relationship between literature and the law. We will compare and contrast how literature and the law address “questions that matter,” including individual morality, the purposes of criminal punishment, and racial and gender equality. Students will consider how literary texts, like legal texts, have power to influence politics and society. Many readings will invite consideration of “the other” in literary texts and the treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system. Readings will include such classic texts as AntigoneThe Merchant of Venice, “A Jury of Her Peers,” The Trial, and “The Lottery.” We will discuss the continuing relevance of these readings for vexed contemporary questions such as civil disobedience, the causes and prevention of crime, acquaintance rape, and ethical choices faced by lawyers in litigation. We will also examine the treatment of trials in literary texts and view some high-quality film depictions of trial scenes in texts that we study. We will also discuss a handful of judicial decisions to illustrate how the courts have decided litigation “about” or “over” literary texts (for example, censorship of allegedly obscene works, and tort cases involving books that gave erroneous advice).