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New Course Supplement 2016


COLT 49.04 Law and/as Literature

Ever since the exclusion of poets from Plato’s Republic, literature has often been accused of being dangerous and useless to society. Law, on the other hand, with all of its sovereign splendor and control over society, is considered to work at the behest of the status quo. Although sharing the same medium (the written text), law and literature seem to be worlds apart. This class will probe the intricate relationship of law and literature, both the representation of the law in literature (as in Oedipus, Michael Kohlhaas, Billy Budd, In the Penal Colony, The Trial) and how law itself in its rhetoric and theatricality is a kind of literature (particularly the courtroom drama): in other words, law as literature. Whether it be the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the testimony and court documents in the Eichmann Trial (see Arendt), or certain major Supreme Court decisions, the law cannot escape its figurative, theatrical, political and even criminal dimension. The conflicted and yet close relation of law and literature in its various permutations lies at the heart of this class. While representation of trials in literature may reflect self-consciously upon the political and legal thrust of the literary text, trials of literary works question the literature’s status as legitimate object of scholarly inquiry. What are the accusations to which literary studies have had to answer? Is the law confined to the prohibiting, limiting and controlling part in this relationship while literature can operate as the transgressor of norms or as the playground for textual and societal experiments? The class will thus have to consider the inherent excess (or lawlessness) within the law itself while at the same time addressing literature’s normative and disciplining effects.

Distributive and/or World Culture

Dist:LIT; WCult:W

The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.