Spring 2023


Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-104


Austin D. Sarat (Section 01)


Murder is the most serious offense against the legal order and is subject to its most punitive responses. It gives meaning to law by establishing the limits of law’s authority and its capacity to tame violence.  Murder is, in addition, a persistent theme in literature and popular culture where it is used to organize narratives of heroism and corruption, good and evil, fate and irrational misfortune. This course uses law, literature, and popular culture to develop their skills in reading, critical analysis of texts, and writing

We will examine the legal definition of homicide and compare that crime with other killings which law condemns (assisted suicide) as well as those it tolerates (killing in self-defense) or itself carries out (police use of lethal force and capital punishment). We will explore various types of murders (e.g. school shootings, terrorism, serial killing and genocide) and inquire into the motives of those who commit these acts. In addition, we will consider representations of murder in literature and film.  Can such representations ever adequately capture murder, the murderer, and the fear that both arouse? In addition to numerous court cases course materials will include Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, Toni Morrison, Beloved, and Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem as well as such films as Menace 2 Society, Unforgiven, and Silence of the Lambs. Throughout, we will ask what we can learn about law and culture from the way both imagine, represent, and respond to murder.

This is an intensive writing course. We will focus on the fundamentals of writing style and of helping students develop clear and persuasive writing styles. Along with regular in class writing, frequent short papers will be assigned. Students will be expected to attend regular writing consultations.

Preference to first-year students. Limited to 12 students. Spring Semester. Professor Sarat.

How to handle overenrollment: Will select students with demonstrated need for intensive writing course

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: written work, class participation in discussion, readings.

LJST 104 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CLAR 100
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CLAR 100


Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023