Law and Literature

Course Description

How is law a form of literature, and how does literature relate to law? What can we understand when we bring literary analysis to bear on legal opinions and legal issues? What do law and literature have to do with each other? This course considers these questions by considering how law and literature contribute jointly to our sense of justice and our understanding of injustice. Through novels, poetry, film, legal writings, and legal opinions, we examine how law and literature create interrelated narratives that shed light on issues like identity, sexuality, injury, policing, speech, and silence. Together, we will work to discover connections between interpretation and world-making—that is, between how we read, respond to, and understand a story or event and how this understanding generates our sense of justice and our notions of responsibility.

The guiding principle of this course is that law is not a distinct field cordoned off from everyday life but a set of interpretive practices that are part and parcel of the culture in which they grow. Literature, film, and television are part of the legal world we live in, and the work of interpreting legal cases is not limited to lawyers and judges but is an ethical obligation that we all share as legal subjects. Using techniques of close reading—attending to tone, imagery, cadence, and subtleties of language—students will be invited to think about how law and literature share common ground in addressing some of the urgent questions of our time. Rather than thinking about how the law is represented in literature, they will be encouraged to consider how legal and literary texts tell stories about ethical problems—that is, how their combined force shapes our sense of justice and injustice.

During the course, you will:

• Navigate literary works and legal opinions in terms of both content and form
• Use close reading techniques to interpret literary and legal texts
• Identify questions and problems at the heart of diverse literary and legal narratives
• Observe how cultural and historical issues are addressed or adjudicated in literature and law
• Make a case for or against matters of justice and injustice drawing on legal dimensions of literature and literary dimension of law
• Discover collectively and collaboratively how to discern questions of justice at work in a narrative that is not necessarily/explicitly legal; to see the law at work in art, and vice-versa

This class focuses on literary techniques to understand the underpinnings and stakes of legal questions. Through weekly discussion posts and essays, as well as a nontraditional final project of their own design, students will develop their critical thinking, communication, and writing skills. After completing this course, students will be prepared for introductory college-level literature classes, as well as classes across the humanities.


There are no prerequisites for this course.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: July 11, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 4 Weeks
Meeting Times: Online- Mostly Asynchronous
Status: Closed
Format: Online
Instructor(s): Ravit Reichman
Course Number: 10309