- Course Number: ENGL 235
- Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 235
- Quarter: Winter 2021
How can we think of injury apart from harm to body or mind?
Of the person without the human? Of property as a set of relationships among persons?
Of rights as inseparable from duties? Of death as separable from biology?
Of nature as an institutional artifact?
Injury, personhood, property, rights, death, and nature are at least as central to law as they are to the humanities. Yet these keywords hold radically different meanings in the mutually constitutive domains of law and culture. How, this course asks, might a legal perspective complicate – and thus enrich – the fundamental critical assumptions that guide our humanities scholarship?
The first half of the course will introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of legal humanities by focusing on some of the key terms shared by scholars of law and culture. In addition to scholarship in law and humanities, our central archive will be the law and literature of the (long) nineteenth-century U.S. In the second half of the course, students will be invited to reenvision their own research from the vantage of legal theory and history.
- How might separating the person from the embodied human advance transgender rights? Or help to protect endangered species and threatened wildlands?
- How might distinguishing personhood from humanity clarify our understanding of mass incarceration as an afterlife of slavery?
- How might disability studies rethink law’s key terms – given that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “right” is “related to Latin rectus ‘ruled’, from an Indo-European root denoting movement in a straight line” and the Anglo-Norman origins of “redress” suggest a formal straightening of things or persons: either “to correct the shape of (a deformed, curved, dented object)” or “to reassume an upright posture”?