Literature and Law: American Narratives of Justice and Injustice
DICHTER, THOMAS A
Is the law a reliable tool for the pursuit of justice, or an obstacle that tends to create injustices of its own? The law has faced longstanding criticism for serving the interests of the powerful at the expense of everyone else. Yet, throughout US history, individuals working for a more just country have also looked to the law as a means for achieving lasting change. This class will examine a range of American authors’ engagements with the law and its relationship to justice. We will read literary narratives written about (and sometimes against) the law, addressing such issues as slavery, crime, incarceration, segregation, civil rights, immigration, sex, and marriage. At the same time, we will study legal texts from these historical moments to see what kind of stories the law has told about itself. Throughout this interdisciplinary and wide-ranging course, we will focus on how both literature and the law have provided a space for literary authors, intellectuals, and activists to debate the meaning of justice.