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Using Classic and Contemporary Literature to Explore Themes in Law and Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  Merchant of Venice to untangle the problems of contract doctrine. 15 But judges, lawyers, legislators and jurors do not receive their jurisprudential knowledge merely from statutes, cases, and legal treatises. Sociological jurisprudence and legal realism taught us that the ideas of judges, jurors, and lawyers often have been shaped, at least to some extent, by their experience of literature as well as religious and philosophical material. For example, Kafka’s novel may not be a textbook for civil procedure but it is indicative of the dangers of arbitrary detention and interrogation by government officials. In an age where our government has suspended habeas corpus protections for foreign detainees and employed “unique” interrogation techniques, that message has contemporary relevance. 16 Class Structure and Content My law, politics, and literature course was offered during the summer 2007 semester in a concentrated four week format. Ideally, a course of this nature is offered during a regular fall or spring semester where the class meets once or twice a week over a fifteen week period. That kind of class structure provides more time for students to read and complete assignments between class meetings. In selecting readings for my course I had to be concerned with the structure of the class. Summer courses meet for four weeks, Monday through Friday, for two hours and ten minutes each day. Given the concentrated nature of a summer course, I had to be sensitive about the amount of reading that I expected students to complete on a daily basis and the time needed to write papers and prepare for exams. 15 Crane, Gregg D. “The Path of Law and Literature.” American Literary History, Vol. 9, No. 4, (1997), pp. 758-775. 16 Some scholars, like Judge Richard Posner, have criticized the entire law and literature project. See Posner, Richard. Law and Literature: Revised and Enlarged. Boston: Harvard University (1998). Page | 11

Authors: Fliter, John.
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Merchant of Venice to untangle the problems of contract doctrine.
But judges, lawyers,
legislators and jurors do not receive their jurisprudential knowledge merely from statutes, cases,
and legal treatises. Sociological jurisprudence and legal realism taught us that the ideas of
judges, jurors, and lawyers often have been shaped, at least to some extent, by their experience of
literature as well as religious and philosophical material. For example, Kafka’s novel may not be
a textbook for civil procedure but it is indicative of the dangers of arbitrary detention and
interrogation by government officials. In an age where our government has suspended habeas
corpus protections for foreign detainees and employed “unique” interrogation techniques, that
message has contemporary relevance.
Class Structure and Content
My law, politics, and literature course was offered during the summer 2007 semester in a
concentrated four week format. Ideally, a course of this nature is offered during a regular fall or
spring semester where the class meets once or twice a week over a fifteen week period. That
kind of class structure provides more time for students to read and complete assignments
between class meetings. In selecting readings for my course I had to be concerned with the
structure of the class. Summer courses meet for four weeks, Monday through Friday, for two
hours and ten minutes each day. Given the concentrated nature of a summer course, I had to be
sensitive about the amount of reading that I expected students to complete on a daily basis and
the time needed to write papers and prepare for exams.
15
Crane, Gregg D. “The Path of Law and Literature.” American Literary History, Vol. 9, No. 4, (1997), pp.
758-775.
16
Some scholars, like Judge Richard Posner, have criticized the entire law and literature project. See Posner,
Richard. Law and Literature: Revised and Enlarged. Boston: Harvard University (1998).
Page | 11


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