Film, Myth, and the Law
Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-52
Austin D. Sarat (Section 01)
(Analytic Seminar) The proliferation of law in film and on television has expanded the sphere of legal life itself. Law lives in images that today saturate our culture and have a power all their own, and the moving image provides a domain in which legal power operates independently of law’s formal institutions. This course will consider what happens when legal events are re-narrated in film and examine film’s treatment of legal officials, events, and institutions (e.g., police, lawyers, judges, trials, executions, prisons). Does film open up new possibilities of judgment, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into law’s violence? We will discuss ways in which myths about law are reproduced and contested in film. Moreover, attending to the visual dimensions of law’s imagined lives, we ask whether law provides a template for film spectatorship, positioning viewers as detectives and as jurors, and whether film, in turn, sponsors a distinctive visual aesthetics of law. Among the films we may consider are Inherit the Wind, Call Northside 777, Judgment at Nuremberg, Rear Window, Silence of the Lambs, A Question of Silence, The Sweet Hereafter, Dead Man Walking, Basic Instinct, and Unforgiven. Throughout we will draw upon film theory and criticism as well as the scholarly literature on law, myth, and film.
Requisite: LJST 01 or 10 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Sarat.
If Overenrolled: Priority given to LJST majors. Others admitted to balance by class year and major.
Offerings2013-14: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012