Fall 2013

Law, Speech, and the Politics of Freedom

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-230

Formerly listed as: LJST-30

Moodle site: Course


Martha M. Umphrey (Section 01)


In the United States, the idea of free speech is held to be both a political and moral ideal. The First Amendment makes freedom of speech a centerpiece of liberal democratic values and processes, and thus of American identity itself. But what, precisely, do we mean when we link the ideas of freedom and speech? What kinds of speech, and what kinds of freedom, are implicated in that linkage? Correlatively, what does it mean to “censor”? Drawing upon political philosophy, literary theory, court cases, imaginative writing, and examples from contemporary culture, this course will explore the multiple meanings of “free speech,” their legal regulation, and their deployment in American public culture. Why should we value “free” speech? Who do we imagine to be the speaker whose speech is or ought to be free: the man on the soapbox? The political protester? The media conglomerate? The anonymous chat-room inhabitant? What does it mean to say that various kinds of speech may be dangerous, and under what conditions it might be conceivable to shut down or regulate dangerous speech, or conversely to promote “politically correct” speech in either formal or informal ways? How do speech forms (for example, parody, poetry, or reportage) differ, and should some garner more legal protection than others? Can silence be considered a kind of speech?

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Umphrey.

If Overenrolled: Upper class students will be given preference.

Cost: 45.00 ?


2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013