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HS Law and Literature : Course Description

Course Description ^top

subject area: literature
language: English

recommended literature:
Kieran Dolin, A Critical Introduction to Law and Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Law and literature seem to be mutually exclusive - while the one is based on the establishment of 'fact', the other is based on 'fiction'. However, as sign systems, both legal and literary worlds are constructed by and depend for their existence on words; both aim to create or impose order. In this seminar, we will explore the interdependence of law and literature as closely linked fields from the early modern period to the Victorian Age. We will approach 'law and literature' as an interdisciplinary field and analyse how legal norms are reflected (or subverted) in literature's engagement with questions of law and justice. Topics will include the questions of revenge and equity (John Webster, The White Devil), usury and justice (William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice), the 'Gothic' establishment of the English constitution (Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto), and the criticism of the English legal system in Charles Dickens's Bleak House. Literary analyses will be supplemented by several theoretical and historical sessions.

Please note that attending this course entails a heavy reading load. Apart from the primary texts, you will have to read theoretical material. As it is the longest text of this course, you should have finished Bleak House by the beginning of the winter term. Additionally, all course members are expected to join an expert group that is responsible for the structuring of one session.

Reading List ^top

(1) John Webster, The White Devil
(2) William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
(3) Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto
(4) Charles Dickens, Bleak House
A reader with mandatory material and background reading for the expert groups will be available via StudOn.