English 190

Research Seminar: Literature on Trial: Romanticism, Law, Justice


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2021 Langan, Celeste
W 2-5 283 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

Carl Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Description

This seminar will introduce students to “law and literature” studies, focusing on the way literature imagines the relation between law and justice. We’ll begin with literature of the Romantic period, and concentrate on intersections of language and the law. Many Romantic dramas, novels, and poems are structured around some sort of trial scene and/or confession. What does it mean to speak “before the law”?  Can silence testify? Can it accuse? How might we understand the “word crimes” of perjury, sedition, and blasphemy in relation to literature?  Reading selections from William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice,  Kant’s Critique of Judgment, and Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just, we’ll also ask such questions as: What is the relation of aesthetic judgment to justice and the law?  Does the experience of beauty correct or corrupt legal judgment? What is "poetic" justice? Can punishment repair injury? The seminar will conclude by considering a larger historical arc, tracing the figure of injustice from Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas (1810) to Kafka’s The Trial (1925) to Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K (1983); we'll also view Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Required texts:  J.M. Coetzee, Life and Times of Michael K; W. Godwin, Caleb Williams; W. Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice; Kafka, F., The Trial; Kleist, H. v., Selected Writings;  Shelley, M.W.G., Frankenstein; Shelley, P.B., Major Works; Wordsworth & Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads.  All other readings will be available on bCourses.

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