Randy Berlin : Courses and Seminars
Law and Literature
In the profession of Law, words and stories are critical. It is no coincidence that much of our greatest literature has issues of law as its main theme. Both law and literature use the literary imagination to construct a persuasive and engaging dramatic narrative. The similarities found in legal and literary uses of narrative and the frequency of legal themes in fiction provide the skilled reader many opportunities to better understand both law and literature through a study of their intersection. In this seminar, we will use the connections between law and literature to examine the development of law and the role of narrative in the practice of law. Through readings and discussion of great literature, we will critically analyze legal themes from their pre-law beginnings as wild justice through the development of law as an institution. We will apply the critical reading skills that are so essential in the interpretation of constitutions, statutes, rules, judicial opinions and documents to the understanding of literary texts, for which they are equally essential. To provide us with imaginative illustrations of legal issues, we will read selections ranging from Beowulf, Plato, Sophocles, Shakespeare and Milton, to works by Kafka, Tolstoy and Melville.