Law and Literature reading list

Class started yesterday, the reading list is here (pdf):

The New English Bible, Oxford Study Edition, Billy Budd and Other Tales, by Hermann Melville. The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories, by Franz Kafka, In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Henry Abbott, Borges and the Eternal Orangutans, by Fernando Verrissimo, Glaspell’s Trifles, available on-line, Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Novels and Stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, volume 1, I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, Moby Dick, by Hermann Melville, excerpts, chapters 89 and 90, available on-line. Year’s Best SF 9, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, Edgar Allen Poe, The Gold-Bug, available on-line, Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, Running the Books, by Avi Steinberg, Sakhalin Island, Anton Chekhov. tr. Brian Reeve, Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman, The Pledge, Friedrich Durrenmatt. tr. Joel Agee, Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett, Red April, by Santiago Roncagliolo, The Crime of Sheila McGough, Janet Malcolm, Leslie Katz, “John Keats’s Attitudes to Lawyers,”

Some additions to this list will be made as we proceed, mostly a few short articles.  We also will view a small number of movies on legal themes. You will be responsible for obtaining these or for viewing them in the theater.


Kafka, Borges, Chesterton and Poe. You're irresistible, Cowen!

Which stories from SF9?

Octavia Butler

Isn't Russian/Soviet literature underrepresented?

What's the rationale behind the unusual and somewhat complicated grading algorithm?

>>Your grade formula is the minimum of (quiz grades, and 0.5 paper grade + 0.5 class participation grade). In other words, if your quiz grades are lower than that specified weighted average, your quiz grade is your grade. Otherwise I average your paper and participation grades. <<

BTW, "The Man Who Was Thursday" is also available online. The Moby-Dick extract was interesting reading.

For online reading of the Moby Dick chapters, I recommend:

And I recommend you skip that to read Bartleby the Scrivener. When the Prof asks why you didn't read Moby Dick, you'll have a ready answer.

I second that.
"Bartleby the Scrivener" is a great novella and I use its most famous sentence on many occasions.

Hogg, Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

Unmissably good and justified by "Justified" too.

I just read that book and didn't really get it. Can you explain what you liked about it? I feel like it went way over my head...

There is a lovely image of Chapter 89 of Moby dick here

"What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor Ireland, but a Fast-Fish?"
What to Europe is poor Ireland now?

"What’s the rationale behind the unusual and somewhat complicated grading algorithm?"

It makes it unambiguously worth the students' while, grade-wise, to do the reading each and every week.

the culture that is America (and UK I suppose): weekly quizzes at university level.

Not in my last 30 years UK experience: closed-book exams, no multiple choice questions, set by a committee of people who didn't teach the course. And the candidates anonymised. By God they terrified American exchange students until they'd been coached in how to cope.

True, but to explain that culture more this class is being offered at a moderatly good law school in the middle of a terrible hiring climate for new attorneys. In that type of school and environment student GPA will have enormous impact on future lifetime earnings for the students. Students respond powerfully to those incentives and maximize GPA subject to the constraints in the rest of their life (including their willpower). Without weekly quizes even a dedicated student would find the incentives all but irresistable to only read 1/2 or 1/3 of the books, write good papers on those, and then spend the time they saved on other classes to raise thier grades in other classes. Even if you love the subject and learning for its own sake you would shirk during the semester and then return to the books you skipped. The class discussion and effect of the course would be worse for this.

Glad to see Red Harvest! A neglected masterpiece (and the source for Kurosawa's Yojimbo).

Here's Professor Stone's seminar of the same name:

This seminar deals with texts that have played a role in the Law and Literature dialogue. Students should anticipate some changes in the readings which have included short novels (Kafka, The Trial; Melville, Billy Budd; Coetzee, Disgrace, etc.), short stories (by Chekhov, Tolstoy, etc.), plays (The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet by Shakespeare), one long, dense and difficult novel (vol. 1 only of The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil), and commentary on Law and Literature (Posner, etc.). Students must read the novella Billy Budd by Herman Melville and submit a brief review before the first class. Requirements include regular class attendance and active participation in discussion. Students must write four short papers to be shared with other members of the seminar. Enrollment in this seminar is by permission of the instructor.

That reading list seems more reasonable than Tyler's, which seemed to me to be way over the top.

Well it's a two credit course, I assumed that Tyler's is four credits, though I didn't see that anywhere.

Actually that's probably a bad assumption now that I think back to undergrad. Most likely it's three credits.

So, so happy to see The Man Who Was Thursday on the reading list. One of my all-time favorite books. Not only is the storytelling incredibly inventive and trippy (just saying--I'd love to see Christopher Nolan direct an adaptation), but the relationship between cops and robbers is thoroughly examined and tested as to reveal unconscious feelings about the roles of justice and the state in society.

"'You! " he cried. 'You never hated because you never lived. I know what you are all of you, from first to last -- you are the people in power! You are the police -- the great fat, smiling men in blue and buttons! You are the Law, and you have never been broken. But is there a free soul alive that does not long to break you, only because you have never been broken? We in revolt talk all kind of nonsense doubtless about this crime or that crime of the Government. It is all folly! The only crime of the Government is that it governs. The unpardonable sin of the supreme power is that it is supreme. I do not curse you for being cruel. I do not curse you (though I might) for being kind. I curse you for being safe! You sit in your chairs of stone, and have never come down from them. You are the seven angels of heaven, and you have had no troubles. Oh, I could forgive you everything, you that rule all mankind, if I could feel for once that you had suffered for one hour a real agony such as I -- '"

I would posit that this also applies to the unequal relationship between the wealthy and the poor. (Syme's response to that quote above furthers that analogy, but I don't want to take up so much space quoting the book.)

A lot of those, like their predecessor Oresteia, render "Law" as "meting justice". The practice of law by advocates, the legislation of law by politics of some form, and the administration of mundane rules (distant, distant cousins of "Justice") are not represented in the books you list that I have read.

Its not literature, but a nice background on different theories of law-making are summarized in Arthur Leff's short article. That provides a nice framework for discussion.

Dammit. 9 parts my fault for not closing the italics, 1 part janky website fault for not having a preview function.

The Man for All Seasons. Jeremy Waldron used to show this in his Rule of Law class.

How about Njal's Saga and Bonfire of the Vanities?

The Vanity Fair trial in Pilgrim's Progress would be good, too.

I was surprised to see that the Bible used is not King James,for a literature course.

Good call on Njal's Saga, I had forgotten its existence, but it is amazingly law-centric.

Oedipus Rex, on establishing legal responsibility for crimes that have no eyewitness and are not intended.

"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller.

Are they expected to read all these books in their entirety?

Semi-colons would have made that easier to read.

Fernando Verissimo is a very bad example of brazilian literature.

Egads! What a horrible way to format a list that has items with internal commas. Have you not heard to the return button?

Blame Wordpress. Try typing a list in the comments.

This is me trying:

Step One: Hit enter
Step Two: Right your list hitting enter after each addition

I don't really get your point

Bleak House

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own.
First line: "“Justice? - you get justice in the next world, in this world, you have the law.”


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