May be taken as a history/social science or literature elective
Debate over the role of law in our society is not limited to courtrooms and newspapers; it is waged in literature, on stage, in movie theaters, on radio and television, and online. This course explores the nexus of law, society, and culture. Students study how cultural expression influences public perceptions of the law and justice. Students examine the meaning of justice, the relationship between law and morality, the difference between justice and revenge, and the proper aims of the criminal justice system while digging into legal controversies around race, gender, social class, and sexuality. Students learn principles of criminal law and criminal procedure that they use to dig into literary murder cases, hate crime law, mass incarceration, and Innocence Project cases. They work as historians and as cultural critics, analyzing a wide range of works such as Bryan Stevenson’s memoir Just Mercy, the play The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman, the novels The Stranger by Albert Camus and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the documentary Making a Murderer, and the podcast Serial. Students hone their research and writing skills through literary and cultural analyses, creative projects, position papers, closing statements, document investigations, essays, and op-eds. The class is highly interactive, with discussions, debates, oral and media projects, formal presentations, and Socratic seminars.