The Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought Major Program

The Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought (LJST) places the study of law within the context of a liberal arts education. The Department offers courses that treat law as a historically evolving and culturally specific enterprise in which moral argument, distinctive interpretive practices, and force are brought to bear on the organization of social life. These courses use legal materials to explore conventions of reading, argument and proof, problems of justice and injustice, tensions between authority and community, and contests over social meanings and practices. In addition, the curriculum of LJST is designed to foster the development of a substantive focus for student interests in the study of law and skills in analysis, research, and writing as well as capacity for independent work.

Learning Goals

Upon completion of the LJST major, we expect our graduates to have attained a nuanced understanding of law as a subject of liberal inquiry, attending to the ways law combines moral argument, interpretive practice and force in regulating social life; to have learned the history and development of legal orders in the United States, while also coming to appreciate law in its broader cross-cultural, historical, and global dimensions; to be able to write and speak about legal phenomena with precision, clarity, creativity and analytic rigor; to have developed sophisticated independent research skills; and to be able to use their legal learning and the skills they develop in their vocational and civic lives.

Major Program

A major in Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought consists of a minimum of nine courses, for students in the classes of 2021 and 2022.  For students in the classes of 2023 and 2024 the minimum requirement is ten courses.

 ** A student who would graduate in 2021 but takes time off and graduates in 2021E would need 9 courses. 

If the student graduates in 2022, they still would need 9. If they became a 2022E they would need 10.

Offerings in the Department include courses in Legal Theory (these courses emphasize the moral and philosophical dimensions that inform legal life and link the study of law with the history of social and political thought), Interpretive Practices (these courses emphasize the ways law attempts to resolve normative problems through rituals of textual interpretation), Legal Institutions (these courses focus on the particular ways different legal institutions translate moral judgments and interpretive practices into regulation and socially sanctioned force), and Historical and Cross-Cultural Perspectives (these courses explore the ways in which law and societies change over time, as well as the interdependence of law and culture).

Prior to graduation, LJST majors are required to take LJST 103 (Legal Institutions), LJST 110 (Intro to Legal Theory) and LJST 143 (Law’s History). Students in the class of 2021 who have not already done so, need not take LJST 103 (Legal Institutions) as part of the major requirements. LJST majors also must take two seminars during their junior year, one of which will be an Analytic Seminar and one of which will be a Research Seminar. Analytic Seminars emphasize close analysis of text, practice, or image, and frequent writing; Research Seminars require students to complete substantial, independent projects.  Study abroad or other contingencies may require alterations of the timing of these requirements in individual cases.

Placement Information

The Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought department takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study, contextualization and theorizing of law. LJST is not a pre-law program: students wishing to apply to law school should review this information.

For New Students, the department recommends taking LJST 101, Legal Questions: An Introduction to Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought.

 LJST 101 Course Description:

This course explores the ways in which law combines moral argument, interpretive practice and force in the regulation of social life. Through the close and sustained study of an exemplary case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, students will be introduced to law as a subject of liberal inquiry. While focused on the history and development of legal orders in the United States, the course also will enable students to appreciate law in its broader cross-cultural, historical, and global dimensions.

*If you are interested in a 200 level course, you should email the professor and ask if the course would be appropriate for new students.


Departmental Honors Program

The Department awards Honors to seniors who have achieved distinction in their course work, whose independent projects are judged to be of honors quality, and who have a college-wide grade average of A- or above.  Students with a college-wide grade point below an A- may petition to write an Honors Thesis. Students should begin to identify a suitable project during the second semester of their junior year and must submit a proposal by the end of that semester for Departmental evaluation. The proposal consists of a description of an area of inquiry or topic to be covered, a list of courses that provide necessary background for the work to be undertaken, and a bibliography. A first draft of the honor thesis will be submitted before the start of the second semester. The final draft will be submitted in late March or early April and read and evaluated by a committee of readers.

Post-Graduate Study

LJST is not a pre-law program designed to serve the needs of those contemplating careers in law. While medical schools have prescribed requirements for admission, there is no parallel in the world of legal education. Law schools generally advise students to obtain a broad liberal arts education; they are as receptive to students who major in physics, mathematics, history or philosophy as they would be to students who major in LJST. 

LJST majors will be qualified for a wide variety of careers. Some might do graduate work in legal studies, others might pursue graduate studies in political science, history, philosophy, sociology, or comparative literature. For those not inclined toward careers in teaching and scholarship, LJST would prepare students for work in the private or public sector or for careers in social service.

Related Courses

Students may receive credit toward a major in LJST for up to two “related” courses from outside the Department (see list below) or for approved study abroad courses. In no case may those courses be used to satisfy the Analytic or Research Seminar requirements.

COLQ-234: America's Death Penalty
HIST-488: Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

HIST-450: Sex & Law in Colonial America
PHIL-310:  Ethics
POSC-136: Regulating Citizenship
POSC-243: Ancient Political Thought
POSC-245: Modern Political Thought
POSC-360: Punishment, Politics, and Culture
RELI-267: Reading the Rabbis
SOCI-315: Foundations of Sociological Theory