Fall 2022

Law and Love

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-349  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-349


Martha M. Umphrey (Section 01)


[Analytic Seminar] (Offered as LJST 349 and SWAGS 349) At first glance, law and love seem to tend in opposing directions: where law is constituted in rules and regularity, love emerges in contingent, surprising, and ungovernable ways; where law speaks in the language of reason, love’s language is of sentiment and affect; where law regulates society through threats of violence, love binds with a magical magnetism. In this seminar, placing materials in law and legal theory alongside theoretical and imaginative work on the subject of love, we invert that premise of opposition in order to look for love’s place in law and law’s in love. First we will inquire into the ways in which laws regulate love, asking how is love constituted and arranged by those regulations, and on what grounds it escapes them. In that regard we will explore, among other areas, the problematics of passion in criminal law and laws regulating sexuality, marriage, and family. Second we will ask, how does love in its various guises (as philia, eros, or agape) manifest itself in law and legal theory, and indeed partly constitute law itself? Here we will explore, for example, sovereign exercises of mercy, the role of equity in legal adjudication, and the means that bind legal subjects together in social contract theory. Finally, we will explore an analogy drawn by W. H. Auden, asking how law is like love, and by extension love like law. How does attending to love’s role in law, and law’s in love, shift our imaginings of both?

 Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester.  Professor Umphrey.

How to handle overenrollment: LJST Majors given preference

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on close reading of a wide variety of texts including visual analysis, written work, and class participation.

LJST 349 - LEC

Section 01
W 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM CHAP 101

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
The Symposium Hackett 1989 Plato Amherst Books TBD
Billy Budd and Other Stories Penguin 1986 Herman Melville Amherst Books TBD
The Oedipus Cycle Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1977 Sophocles Amherst Books TBD
Lolita Perigee 1980 Vladmir Nabokov Amherst Books TBD
Civilization and Its Discontents W.W. Norton, 2010 Sigmund Freud Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Spring 2021, Fall 2022