Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought


Law, Jurisp & Social Thought

101 The Social Organization of Law

(Offered as LJST 101 and POSC 218 [LP] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015].)  Law in the United State is everywhere, ordering the most minute details of daily life while at the same time making life and death judgments.  Our law is many things at once--majestic and ordinary, monstrous and merciful, concerned with morality yet often righteously indifferent to moral argument.  Powerful and important in social life, the law remains elusive and mysterious.  This power and mystery is reflected in, and made possible by, a complex bureaucratic apparatus which translates words into deeds and rhetorical gestures into social practices. 

This course will examine that apparatus. It will describe how the problems and possibilities of social organization shape law as well as how the social organization of law responds to persons of different classes, races and genders.  We will attend to the peculiar way the American legal system deals with human suffering--with examples ranging from the legal treatment of persons living in poverty to the treatments of victims of sexual assault. How is law organized to cope with their pain?  How are the actions of persons who inflict inquiries on others defined in legal terms? Here we will examine cases on self defense and capital punishment. Throughout, attention will be given to the practices of police, prosecutors, judges, and those who administer law's complex bureaucratic apparatus.

Limited to 100 students. Fall semester. Professor Sarat.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2020

103 Legal Institutions and Democratic Practice

This course will examine the relationship between legal institutions and democratic practice. How do judicial decisions balance the preferences of the majority and the rights of minorities? Is it possible to reconcile the role that partisan dialogue and commitment play in a democracy with an interest in the neutral administration of law? How does the provisional nature of legislative choice square with the finality of judicial mandate? By focusing on the United States Supreme Court, we will consider various attempts to justify that institution’s power to offer final decisions and binding interpretations of the Constitution that upset majoritarian preferences. We will examine the origins and historical development of the practice of judicial review and consider judicial responses to such critical issues as slavery, the New Deal, and abortion. The evolving contours of Supreme Court doctrine will be analyzed in the light of a continuing effort to articulate a compelling justification for the practice of judicial intervention in the normal operation of a constitutional democracy.

Limited to 50 students. Spring semester. Professor Douglas.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

105 Race, Place, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 105 and BLST 147 [US].) Understandings of and conflicts about place are of central significance to the experience and history of race and race relations in America. The shaping and reshaping of places is an important ingredient in the constitution and revision of racial identities: think of “the ghetto,” Chinatown, or “Indian Country.” Law, in its various manifestations, has been intimately involved in the processes which have shaped geographies of race from the colonial period to the present day: legally mandated racial segregation was intended to impose and maintain both spatial and social distance between members of different races.

The objective of this course is to explore the complex intersections of race, place, and law. Our aim is to gain some understanding of geographies of race “on-the-ground” in real places, and of the role of legal practices--especially legal argument--in efforts to challenge and reinforce these racial geographies. We will ask, for example, how claims about responsibility, community, rationality, equality, justice, and democracy have been used to justify or resist both racial segregation and integration, access and expulsion. In short, we will ask how moral argument and legal discourse have contributed to the formation of the geographies of race that we all inhabit. Much of our attention will be given to a legal-geographic exploration of African-American experiences. But we will also look at how race, place and the law have shaped the distinctive experiences of Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.

Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2012-13.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, January 2021, Fall 2023

107 The Trial

If media coverage is any evidence, it is clear that legal trials capture, and have always captured, the imagination of America. Trials engage us affectively and politically by dramatizing difficult moral and social predicaments and by offering a public forum for debate and judgment. They also “perform” law in highly stylized ways that affect our sense of what law is and does. This course will explore the trial from a number of different angles: as an idea, as a legal practice, and as a modern cultural phenomenon. What does it mean to undergo a “trial”? How do various historical trial forms--trial by ordeal or by oath, for example--compare with our contemporary adversarial form? What cultural and legal trajectories have trials followed in U.S. history? What narrative and structuring roles do trials play in literature and film? How do popular renderings of trials in imaginative texts and the media compare with actual trial practice, and perhaps encourage us to sit in judgment on law itself? In what ways do well-known trials help us to tell a story about what America is, and what kind of story is it?

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Umphrey.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

110 Introduction to Legal Theory

This course provides an introduction to the primary texts and central problems of modern legal theory. Through close study of the field’s founding and pivotal works, we will weigh and consider various ways to think about questions that every study, practice, and institution of law eventually encounters. These questions concern law’s very nature or essence; its relations to knowledge, morality, religion, and the passions; the status of its language and interpretations; its relation to force and the threat of force; and its place and function in the preservation and transformation of political, social and economic order.

Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Professor Sitze.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

120 Murder

Murder is the most serious offense against the legal order and is subject to its most punitive responses. It establishes the limits of law’s authority and its capacity to tame violence. Murder is, in addition, a persistent motif in literature and popular culture used to organize narratives of heroism and corruption, good and evil, fate and irrational misfortune. This course considers murder in law, literature and popular culture. It begins by exploring various types of murders (from “ordinary murder” to serial killing and genocide) and compares murder with other killings that law condemns (e.g., euthanasia and assisted suicide) as well as those it tolerates or itself carries out. It asks how, if at all, those who kill are different from those who do not and whether murder should be understood as an act of defiant freedom or simply of moral depravity. In addition, we will analyze the prevalence of murder in American life as well as its various cultural representations. Can such representations ever adequately capture murder, the murderer, and the fear that both arouse? The course will draw on legal cases and jurisprudential writings, murder mysteries, texts such as Macbeth, Poe’s “The Murders on the Rue Morgue,” Capote’s In Cold Blood, and Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, and such films as Hitchcock’s The Rope, Thelma and Louise, Silence of the Lambs, and Menace to Society. Throughout, we will ask what we can learn about law and culture from the way both imagine, represent and respond to murder.

Limited to 100 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Sarat.

2024-25: Not offered

136 Law Between Plato and the Poets

Ancient tragedy, ancient comedy, and Platonic political philosophy pose very different questions about the essence and basis of law, and about law’s relation to such matters as conflict, politics, guilt, love, suffering, action, justice, and wisdom. This course is a preliminary study of the relationships between these differing modes of inquiry. We will spend the first half of the course outlining the theories of law that govern select dramatic works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Aristophanes. In the second half of the course, we will trace the intricate way these theories are at once incorporated into and rejected by Platonic political philosophy, as exemplified by Plato’s Republic. Along the way, we shall weigh and consider competing versions of the “return to Plato” in contemporary philosophy. In addition to reading key works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and Plato, we will read contemporary texts by Giorgio Agamben, Danielle Allen, Alain Badiou, Hans-Georg Gadamer, René Girard, Martin Heidegger, Bonnie Honig, Bernard Knox, Nicole Loraux, Ramona Naddaff, Martha Nussbaum, Jacques Rancière, Leo Strauss, Jean-Pierre Vernant, and Simone Weil.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

143 Law's History

This course examines the ways in which historical thinking and imagining operate in the domain of law.  History and law are homologous and tightly linked.  Law in various guises uses history as its backbone, as a lens through which to view and adjudicate tangled moral problems, and as a means of proof in rendering judgment.  Questions of history and precedent are integral to an understanding of the way language and rhetoric operate in the very creation of legal doctrine.  Moreover, law’s use of history also has a history of its own, and our present understanding of the relationship between the two is a product of Enlightenment thinking.  Conceiving of history as one kind of “narrative of the real,” in this course we will explore the premises that underlie history’s centrality to law as we inquire after the histories that law demands, creates, and excludes, as well as the ways in which law understands and uses history to seek finality, and to legitimize its authority.

 Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Professor Hussain.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2024

206 Apartheid

(Offered as LJST 206 and BLST 217) The goal of this course will be to understand some of the problems posed for legal studies in the humanities by the emergence of the system of administrative and constitutional law known as apartheid. This system, which was designed to institute “separate development for separate peoples” in South Africa, is widely and rightly regarded to be among the most inhuman régimes of the 20th century. Yet even and especially today, more than a decade after its formal end in South Africa, apartheid’s social, economic, and epistemic conditions of possibility, as well as the place and function of lawyers, legal discourse, and legal scholars in the resistance to it, remains at best vaguely understood.

This course is designed to remedy this gap. Our inquiry will be at once specific and general. Under what economic and political conditions did apartheid come into being? What legal traditions and practices authorized its codification? What academic disciplines and intellectual formations rendered it intelligible and enabled its theorization? What specific arrangement of juridical institutions, practices, and theories together comprised the apartheid state? What was the place and function of law in the critique of and resistance to apartheid? What new and specific problems did apartheid pose for legal theory?

Limited to 40 students.  Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Fall 2019

212 Psychoanalysis and Law

Although psychoanalysis is not usually considered a part of the discipline of jurisprudence, its theories allow for comprehensive answers to the fundamental questions of jurisprudence, and its lexicon permits us to refer with clarity and precision to realities of juridical experience about which disciplinary jurisprudence remains silent. Psychoanalysis interprets law within a field defined by the vicissitudes and impasses of unconscious desire, giving us a way to speak about the pathologies that are constitutive of law’s normal operation, and this amounts, in effect if not in name, to a jurisprudence as compelling as it is unorthodox. At the same time, however, psychoanalysis also has been constrained, at key points in its history, by some of the very juridical forms and forces it seeks to analyze and to question, sometimes even to the point where those forms and forces have reappeared, internalized, within its own most basic theories and practices. If psychoanalysis allows for a comprehensive theory of law, so too then can law serve as an exemplary point of departure for the rethinking of psychoanalysis itself. The purpose of this course will be to pursue this twofold inquiry. After tracing the way that law emerges as a question within the thinking of Sigmund Freud, and considering the ways in which certain juridical problems and events are prior to and generative of Freud’s thought, we then will explore the various ways in which post-Freudian thinkers have not only applied but also rethought Freudian psychoanalysis in their own studies of law. 

Limited to 40 students.  Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2017

214 What's So Great About (In)Equality?

In our world, commitment to "equality" in one sense/form or another is nearly uncontested.  At the same time, the form that it should take, its normative ground, scope, limits and conditions, the ways in which it may be realized, and much else are deeply contested.  It is also the case that the world in which we live is characterized by profound, enduring and intensifying inequalities and numerous exceptions to the principle.  These may be justified with reference to various countervailing commitments that are accorded ethical or practical priority (desert, liberty, efficiency, political stability, ecological integrity, pluralism, etc.). This suggests that while for many "equality" may be normatively compelling, its realization may be subordinated to any number of interests and desires; or, to put it bluntly, there may be such a condition as too much equality or not enough inequality, privilege and "disadvantage."  This course treats these themes as they have arisen in distinctively legal contexts, projects and arguments.  It will engage a range of debates within political philosophy and legal theory as to the appropriate limits of equality.  While many forms and expressions of inequality have fallen into relative disfavor, some seem virtually immune to significant amelioration.  Among these are those associated with social-economic class.  Following general investigations of egalitarianism and anti-egalitarianism in social thought and legal history, we will devote closer attention to the legal dimensions of class inequality in contexts such as labor law, welfare and poverty law, education and criminal justice.  We will conclude with an examination of the limits of legal egalitarianism vis-à-vis international class-based inequalities under conditions of globalization and cosmopolitan humanitarianism. 

Limited to 40 students.  Omitted 2012-13.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2023

215 Jurisprudence of Occupation

This class is organized as an inquiry into the questions that are raised for jurisprudence by the specific cultural, spatial, and political experience of occupation.  In particular, we will examine the experiences of colonial occupation in twentieth-century India, South Africa, Malaya and Algeria, as well as contemporary occupations in the West Bank, Gaza, Iraq, and Afghanistan, focusing throughout on the continuities and discontinuities between the two.  Throughout the course, we will concentrate on the way in which the jurisprudence of occupation blurs many of the distinctions that modern, liberal jurisprudence seeks to maintain and justify--fusing, for example, everyday practices of governing (e.g., policing, census-taking, and policies of segregation) with distinctively military actions (e.g., air power, destruction of lives and infrastructure, and counterinsurgency campaigns). The questions we ask in this course will be both theoretical and historical.  What might the genealogy of colonial occupation have to teach us about aspirations and limits of the jurisprudence of contemporary occupation?  How, if at all, have paradigms of occupation changed with the advent of the era of decolonization, the introduction of tactics of sophisticated air power, the emergence of advanced communications technology, and the unprecedented temporalities and spatialities of economic globalization?  Additionally, we will examine how international law defines and regulates occupation.  What is occupation?  On what grounds does modern jurisprudence authorize and  constrain occupation?  What is the difference between a legal occupation and an illegal occupation?  Last but not least, we will ask what precedents, insights and lessons occupation provides for a more general understanding of law, governance, and conflict. 

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professors Hussain and Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

221 The State and the Accused

This course will examine the unusual and often perplexing means by which the law makes judgments about guilt and innocence. Our inquiry will be framed by the following questions: What gives a court the authority to pass judgment on a person accused of criminal wrongdoing, and what defines the limits of this authority? What ends does the law seek to pursue in bringing an accused to justice? What “process” is due the accused such that the procedures designed to adjudicate guilt are deemed fair? How do these standards differ as we travel from adversarial systems of justice (such as the Anglo-American) to inquisitional systems (e.g., France or Germany)? Finally, how has the process of rapid globalization changed the relationship between the state and the accused and, with it, the idea of criminal justice itself? In answering these questions, our investigations will be broadly comparative, as we consider adversarial, inquisitional, and transnational institutions of criminal justice. We will also closely attend to the differences between law’s response to “common” criminals and extraordinary criminals, such as heads of state, armed combatants, and terrorists.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students.  Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Douglas.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

224 Law and Social Relations: Persons, Identities and Groups

One of the foundational analytics governing law’s relationship to identity and personhood is the grand trope of public and private. As an historical matter, the public/private divide has demarcated the boundary of law’s authority: under a liberal theory of government, law may regulate relations in the public sphere but must leave the private realm in the control of individuals. The stakes associated with this line of demarcation are extremely high: those problems of identity and relation that are considered “public” are problems visible to law and subject to law’s authority; those that are considered private remain below the horizon of law’s gaze. Yet definitions of the public and the private are notoriously slippery and inexact, and their contours are inexorably on a train as an African-American, or a license to practice law as a white woman, was to experience a kind of discrimination that the law would refuse to see. In the twentieth century we no longer experience such officially-sanctioned harms but remain conflicted about the extent to which law should address other, more “private” interactions: verbal bigotry, family relations, sex.

This course will trace and explore the modes by which the public/private divide constitutes identities in law by examining the ways law defines the public, and does or does not regulate ostensibly “private” harms. Using both legal and non-legal texts we will map a history of social relations, particularly as they implicated deeply held assumptions about racialized, gendered, and sexualized bodies, and explore the shifting boundary between public and private as it has emerged in public debates over the meaning of equality, privacy, and free speech. To what extent does law’s authority remain constituted upon the public/private divide? To what extent are we now witnessing the redefinition, even the virtual elimination, of the private? And with what consequences for our social relations?

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2012-13 .  Professor Umphrey.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2023

226 Critical Legal Geographies

The spatiality of social life is a fundamental element of human existence, not least through its involvement with power of various sorts. Spatiality is also a significant--and problematic--dimension of law (think of sovereignty, jurisdiction, citizenship). At the same time, law is a significant force through which spatiality is produced, reinforced, contested and transformed. Law literally constitutes social spaces through constitutions, treaties, statutes, contracts, modes of surveillance and policing, and so on. As it does so, it constitutes itself as a force in the world. Law may also be an arena in which other social-spatial conflicts are played out and, provisionally, resolved. The course will consider both the changing spatiality of law (its scope, scale, limits; its vectors and circuits) and the changing legal constitution of other social spaces. This will be done through an engagement with contemporary socio-spatial and legal theories and through a survey of exemplary events and situations. Among the more specific topics we will consider are privacy and property; public space of speech and dissent; migration, displacement and sanctuary; colonialism and occupation. The contexts of our study will not be limited to/by American law but will include examples involving international law, forms of legal pluralism, and other legal-cultural contexts. The course will conclude with an investigation of globalization and the emergence of cyberspace and their posited effects on the very possibility of law as we have come to understand and experience it.

Requisite: LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

227 Law's Madness

We imagine law to be a system of reason that governs and pacifies a disorderly world. Indeed law derives much of its legitimacy from its relation to reason: it uses reason to justify the imposition of state violence even as it limits its own power, punishing only acts done by reasoning human beings. Any “mistakes” or “disruptions” are understood as unfortunate departures from an ideal rational system. And yet what if one were to reimagine law as constituted as much by its irrationalities as its rationality? To ask that question is to enter the language of psychoanalysis, and the theories proposed by Sigmund Freud to explain human irrationalities. This course, following Freud, theorizes law as emerging out of and actively engaging in repressions of fundamental drives or desires--both its own and those of the legal subjects who come before it. We will map some of the ways in which law understands legal subjectivity in relation to the capacity to reason, and draw upon Freud to put the idea of the “reasonable self” under some pressure. We will also consider the ways in which law’s authority may be conjured as an expression of the (sometimes violent) authority of the judge-father, and the limits of that authority as Freud understood them. Finally, we will speculate on the ways in which we make law an object of our own desire, which themselves depend upon the repression of law’s violence.

Requisite: LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Umphrey.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2022

230 Law, Speech, and the Politics of Freedom

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. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Umphrey.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2023

231 Social Movements and Social Change

This course examines social movements (and related phenomena) as integral elements of legal orders and as significant sources of legal transformations. Through interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and historical analyses, the course will explore the ways in which non-state actors engage formal legal institutions to shape or reform law, in order to affect the conditions of social life. Of particular interest are not merely desired changes in laws but resultant changes in the culture of law more broadly. The course will draw on a wide range of movements (historical and contemporary; “progressive” and conservative; broad-based and narrowly focused; American and non-American; local, national and global; North and South, activist and bureaucratic from “below” and from “within”; etc.) and study two or three in closer detail. The over-arching objective is to achieve a richer understanding of both the inner workings of “the law” and the dynamic life of law outside of formal institutions.

 Requisite: LJST 101 or consent of instructor. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

235 Law's Nature: Humans, the Environment and the Predicament of Law

“Nature” is at once among the most basic of concepts and among the most ambiguous. Law is often called upon to clarify the meaning of nature. In doing so it raises questions about what it means to be human.

This course is organized around three questions. First, what does law as a humanistic discipline say about nature? Second, what can law’s conception of nature tell us about shifting conceptions of humanness? Third, what can we learn by attending to these questions about law’s own situation in the world and its ability to tell us who we are? We will address these questions by starting with the environment (specifically wilderness). We will then expand our view of nature by examining legal engagements with animals (endangered species, animals in scientific experiments, and pets), human bodies (reproductive technologies, involuntary biological alterations, the right to die) and brains (genetic or hormonal bases for criminal defenses). Throughout, we will focus our attention on the themes of knowledge, control and change. We will look, for example, at relationships between legal and scientific forms of knowledge and the problematic role of expert knowledge in adjudicating normative disputes. We will also look at law’s response to radical, technologically induced changes in relations between humans and nature, and to arguments in favor of limiting such transformations.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2012-13.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

238 Law and Historical Trauma

Certain events in political history--revolutions, civil wars, transitions from authoritarian or totalitarian regimes to political democracy, or particular moments in the ongoing constitutional life of a nation--seem unusual in the breadth and depth of the break or rupture that they make from tradition, the past, and the ongoing self-understandings of a people. Those events pose a special opportunity and challenge for law. Can law repair the traumatic ruptures associated with revolution, civil war, and recent democratic transitions? In such moments does law provide a reassuring sense of stability that serves to maintain the underlying continuity of history? Or, does it compound the crisis of dramatic historical transformation by insisting on judging the past, bringing the losers to justice, and publicly proclaiming the “crimes” of the old order? What can we learn about law by examining its responses to historical trauma? To address these questions we will first examine the idea of trauma and ask what makes particular events traumatic and others not. Is trauma constitutive of law itself? Is law always born in traumatic moments and, at the same time, continuously preoccupied with responding to its own traumatic origins? We will then proceed comparatively and historically by focusing on a series of case studies including colonial revolution in Algeria, Aboriginal rights cases in Australia, slavery and civil war in the United States, and regime changes in South Africa, Germany, and Argentina. In each we will identify the part played by law and ask what we can learn about the capacities and limits of law both to preserve national memory and, at the same time, to build new social and political practices.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Hussain.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019

240 Law, God and Modernity

It is the hallmark of modernity that law is secular and rational, made by humans for their purposes. Modern law relegates the divine to the realm of private belief, while the modern state guarantees the uninterrupted observance of a multiplicity of beliefs. Yet secularism has never been an uncontested position and many philosophers have suggested that the sovereignty of the modern state is itself a worldly duplicate of religious understandings of god’s omnipotence. Today the connection of law and the sacred has taken on new urgency with the so-called “return of the religious,” most famously with the rise of political Islam but also with Christian movements in the west, and with the transformations of sovereignty through globalization. This course is a historical and cross-cultural examination of the relationship of law, sovereignty, and the sacred. It focuses on a range of topics: the understanding of secularism in general and the American doctrine of the separation of church and state in particular; the legal theory of Islamization; the meaning of orthodoxy, both legal and religious. It examines both the secular uses of the concept of the sacred, and the religious deployment of modern legal concepts. It asks how the proper names of law and god are used to anchor various normative visions.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Hussain.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Spring 2012

325, 352 Film, Myth, and the Law

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 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2012-13. See LJST 352. Professors Sarat and Umphrey.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021, Spring 2024

341 Interpretation in Law and Literature

(Analytic Seminar) Interpretation lies at the center of much 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 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.

Requisite: LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Douglas.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2020

345 Law and Political Emergency

(Analytic Seminar) This course introduces students to one of the more sustained problems in jurisprudence and legal theory: what happens to a constitutional order when it is faced with extraordinary conditions such as rebellion, war and terrorism. While it is generally agreed that rules, rights and procedures may be temporarily suspended, it is less clear which rights, and who decides on the suspension (the executive alone or in some combination with the legislature, with or without oversight by the courts). While these questions have now become familiar to us--and this course will guide students through the policy shifts and court battles in the United States since 9/11, from the issue of enemy combatants to the use of Guantanamo Bay as a detention center--we will take a more theoretical and historical approach to these questions. Thus we will look at the earliest use of some emergency techniques by the British in the colonies, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War and the notorious Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which has often been blamed for facilitating the rise of the Nazis. We will end by examining alternative methods for contending with emergency.  One class meeting per week.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Hussain.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2013

346 The Poetics of Possession

This class explores the connections between law and literature by considering how the past imagined and represented possession, authority, and identity when a range of modern theories that are available to us now were only beginning to emerge. We will take 16th- and 17th-century England as our case study, asking the following questions: What role did property play in constructing identity before the formation of the modern individual subject? How could identity be rooted in property before the emergence of modern theories of property? How did this period imagine the figure of the “author” in the absence of copyright law? Finally, what role did poets and playwrights have in defining the meaning of property and possession, authority and authorship, and to what extent is possession itself a poetic concept? This course will seek to address these questions by exploring legal and literary representations of temporality and personhood; spatiality, nationhood, and empire; and of the possibility (and impossibility) of transforming thoughts and imaginative creations into possessions. We will read parliamentary debates and legal theory and cases alongside utopian fictions, mock last will and testaments, romances, and stage dramas, focusing on these issues as literary problems whose resolutions involve both poetic techniques and an appeal to the artistic imagination. Finally, we will consider law and literature as domains of possibility wherein alternatives to possession – commonality, collaboration, friendship – are glimpsed and imagined, and thus provoke us to examine our own contemporary understanding of these central modern categories.

Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Elsky.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

349 Law and Love

(Research Seminar) 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?

Requisite: LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Umphrey.

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

350 Twentieth-Century American Legal Theory

(Analytic Seminar) The discipline of legal theory has the task of making law meaningful to itself. But there is a variety of competing legal theories that can make law meaningful in divergent ways. By what measure are we to assess their adequacy? Is internal coherence the best standard or should legal theory strive to accord with the extra-legal world? Then too, the institutions and practices of law are components of social reality and, therefore, as amenable to sociological or cultural analysis as any other component. Here again, many different kinds of sense can be made of law depending upon how “the social” is itself theorized. This course engages the theme of law and the problems of social reality by way of a three-step approach. The first part of the course presents an overview of the main lines of twentieth-century American legal thought. We begin with a study of legal formalism and the challenges posed to it by legal realism and its various successor theories. One focus of debate between formalism and its rivals is how much social realism should be brought to bear on legal analysis. Another question is: what kind of social realism should be brought to bear on the analysis of law. The second segment of the course provides a survey of some of the candidates. These include the Law and Society Movement, neo-Marxism and Critical Legal Studies. In the final segment we look at how these theoretical issues are given expression in connection with more practical contexts such as poverty law, labor law or criminal law.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to Juniors and Seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2024

354 The Crisis of Neoliberal Legal Theory

(Research Seminar) The theory of governance known today as "neoliberalism" is most often understood as a mainly economic policy.  Both its opponents and its proponents seem to agree that neoliberalism is best debated as an ensemble of practices (such as free trade, privatization, deregulation, competitiveness, social-spending cutbacks and deficit reduction) that emphasize the primacy of the free market in and for the arrangement of social and political orders.  But, particularly in its initial theorizations, neoliberalism was also, perhaps even primarily, a philosophic doctrine concerning the place and function of law in and for human civilization in general.  At the 1938 Walter Lippman Colloquium in Paris and then again at the inaugural 1947 meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Switzerland, the leading figures of what would later become known as neoliberalism criticized existing economic theories for neglecting basic questions of legal theory and argued that capitalism could not be saved from the perils of socialism and communism without a renewed understanding of, and insistence on, the rule of law.  In this course, we shall take this, the "legal theoretical" origin of neoliberalism, as a point of departure for understanding neoliberalism as a whole.  In the first half of the course, we shall seek to understand neoliberalism on the basis of the way it posed law as a problem for thought.  In relation to what alternate theories of law did neoliberalism emerge?  On what terms did neoliberals reinterpret the "classical" liberalism of Hobbes and Locke?  How did certain concepts of law figure into the way that neoliberal thinkers arrived at their understandings of the basic meanings of life and labor?  In the second half of the course, we shall explore the ways in which various critics of neoliberalism have sought to expose and to question the legal theories at its origin.  How might renewed attention to legal theoretical problems help us today in our attempt to think and act beyond neoliberalism's constitutive limits?  Our goal in all phases of the course will be to reconstruct neoliberal thought on its own terms in order to grasp better its contemporary incoherence, crisis, and dissolution.   Readings will include Samir Amin, Zygmunt Bauman, Michel Foucault, Milton Friedman, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, David Harvey, Friedrich Hayek, Maynard Keynes, Naomi Klein, Karl Marx, Ludwig von Mises, Alexander Rustow, and Saskia Sassen.

Requisite:  LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester; Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

356 Representing and Judging the Holocaust

(Research Seminar) This seminar will address some of the foundational questions posed by radical evil to the legal imagination. How have jurists attempted to understand the causes and logic of genocide, and the motives of its perpetrators? Is it possible to “do justice” to such extreme crimes? Is it possible to grasp the complexities of history in the context of criminal trial? What are the special challenges and responsibilities facing those who struggle to submit traumatic history to legal judgment? We will consider these questions by focusing specifically on a range of legal responses to the crimes of the Holocaust. Our examination will be broadly interdisciplinary, as we compare the efforts of jurists to master the problems of representation and judgment posed by extreme crimes with those of historians, social theorists, and artists. Readings will include original material from the Nuremberg, Eichmann, and Irving trials, and works by, among others, Hannah Arendt, Zygmunt Bauman, Christopher Browning, Primo Levi, and Art Spiegelman.

Requisite: LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Douglas.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

357 Property, Liberty and Law

(Research Seminar) What we call property is enormously important in establishing the nature of a legal regime. Moreover, an exploration of property offers a window on how a culture sees itself. Examining how property notions are used and modified in practice can also provide critical insights into many aspects of social history and contemporary social reality.

We will begin our discussion of property by treating it as an open-ended cluster of commonplace and more specialized notions (e.g., owner, gift, lease, estate) used to understand and shape the world. We will look at how the relation of property to such values as privacy, security, citizenship and justice has been understood in political and legal theory and how different conceptions of these relations have entered into constitutional debates. We will also study the relationship of property and the self (How might one’s relation to property enter into conceptions of self? Do we “own” ourselves? Our bodies or likenesses? Our thoughts?), property and everyday life (How are conceptions of property used to understand home, work and community?) and property and culture, (Do our conceptions of property influence understandings of cultural differences between ourselves and others? Does it make sense to claim ownership over one’s ancestors?). In sum, this course will raise questions about how property shapes our understandings of liberty, personhood, agency and power.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Spring 2024

374 Norms, Rights, and Social Justice: Feminists, Disability Rights Activists and the Poor at the Boundaries of the Law

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2023, Fall 2024

490 Special Topics

Independent Reading Courses. Reading in an area selected by the student and approved in advance by a member of the Department.

Fall and spring semester.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Independent work under the guidance of a tutor assigned by the Department. Open to senior LJST majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing and to work under the close supervision of a faculty member.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

Departmental Courses

217 Thinking Law with Shakespeare

Shakespeare is often hailed as the playwright-poet who ushered in modernity, in large part because of his staging of apparently modern concepts of jurisprudence at their moment of inception.  In this class, we will re-assess this image of Shakespeare through close readings of five plays (The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Richard II, Hamlet, and The Winter’s Tale). These plays grapple with legal and philosophical issues as wide-ranging as mercy and equity, the role of law in regulating sexuality, the possibility of rebellion in the face of tyranny, and the animating force of communal justice. But we will ask if, taken together, they constitute a theory of the promise, or limits, of modern law.  In tackling this question, this course will be interested centrally in matters of literary and theatrical practice.  Attention to, among other things, word play, genre (comedy, tragedy, history romance), performance, and audience will become the means by which we think law with Shakespeare.  In doing so, we will also re-think the genesis of modern jurisprudence and ask what it means to consider ourselves modern.

Limited to 30 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Elsky

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

348 Law And War

(Research Seminar) The traditional understanding of war involved the armies of two nation-states confronting each other on a battlefield. And other than general customs of a just war, the law was thought to have little to say about war. But in the last half century even as the traditional form of war has changed rapidly, as conflicts involving non-state actors (such as insurgency and terrorism) have increased, international law has developed an intricate set of rules regarding who can fight and what methods of fighting are legal.

This course explores the connection between different types of conflict and the norms and rules of international law that are used to regulate that conflict. In this course, we will take a historical approach. We will read classic theorists of war such as Clausewitz, Schmitt and Michael Walzer. We will examine the history of The Hague and Geneva Conventions. And we will focus on specific instances of war from nineteenth-century colonial conflicts and guerilla warfare, to the 1999 “humanitarian” intervention in Kosovo, to the various fronts in the contemporary “war on terror.” Throughout we will ask how changes in technology and law change the definition of war. How do legal definitions of war attempt to demarcate it from other forms of violent conflict such as insurgency or terrorism?

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Hussain and Douglas.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2018

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