Spring 2019

Interpretation in Law & Literature

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-341

Formerly listed as: LJST-41


Lawrence R. Douglas (Section 01)


(Analytic Seminar) Interpretation lies at the center of legal and literary activity. Both law and literature are in the business of making sense of texts—statutes, constitutions, poems or stories. Both disciplines confront similar questions regarding the nature of interpretive practice: Should interpretation always be directed to recovering the intent of the author? If we abandon intentionalism as a theory of textual meaning, how do we judge the "excellence" of our interpretations? How can the critic or judge continue to claim to read in an "authoritative" manner in the face of interpretive plurality? In the last few years, a remarkable dialogue has burgeoned between law and literature as both disciplines have grappled with life in a world in which "there are no facts, only interpretations." This seminar will examine contemporary theories of interpretation as they inform both legal and literary understandings. Readings will include works of literature (Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf) and court cases, as well as contributions by theorists of interpretation such as Spinoza, Dilthey, Freud, Geertz, Kermode, Dworkin, and Sontag.

Recommended requisite: LJST 110. Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors. Spring semester. Professor Douglas.

If Overenrolled: Priortiy given to LJST Majors


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2020