Law, Letters, and Society

Program Chairman: Dennis J. Hutchinson, LBQ 411, 702-9575
Secretary: Delores Jackson, C 330, 702-7148,

Program of Study

The program in Law, Letters, and Society is concerned with law in civilian and customary legal systems, both historically and contemporaneously. The program is designed to develop the student's analytical skills to enable informed and critical examination of law broadly construed. The organizing premise of the program is that law is a tool of social organization and control, not simply an expression of will or aspiration, and that it is best understood by careful study of both rhetorical artifacts and empirical consequences of its application. Program requirements are constructed to support the organizing premise, and, because of the nature of the requirements, transfer students ordinarily are not eligible to register as concentrators.

The program requires course work in three areas, although there is a reasonably broad latitude both expected and permitted in satisfaction of the distributional requirement. There is a substantial writing requirement; candidates for special honors are expected to produce further written work under the close supervision of a faculty member whose area of scholarly concern is related to the broad objectives of the program.

Program Requirements

Course work is required in three areas. After successfully completing the Introductory Course, students must take two courses in Letters and two courses in Society. In addition, students must complete six other courses that, while not necessarily offered or listed formally under either rubric, are substantively supportive of the topics, areas, skills, or concerns of the two areas. Courses satisfying the additional requirement are identified on an annual basis, and final approval of additional required course work is made on the basis of consultations between the student and the program chairman.

The Introductory Course. The introductory course must precede all other course work in the concentration, because it establishes the intellectual moorings of the program. The importance of the introductory course lies not in its content (indeed, its precise focus and scope tends to be different every year) but on its approach to the nature of law. In 2000-01, for example, the introductory course is Legal Reasoning, a study, based primarily on cases, of the classic conventions of legal argument in the Anglo-American legal system. In other years, the introductory course might be Roman Law or Greek Law, Medieval Law, or a text-based course on ancient legal philosophy, or a comparison of modern legal categories and policies with those of former societies and cultures. The objective is not so much to establish a historical foundation for modern studies as to demonstrate that legal systems are culturally rooted; that urgent, most present concerns may obscure important characteristics of legal ideas and behavior; and that many recurrent themes in Western legal thought are shaped or driven by both common and uncommon features. Unlike many legal studies programs that attempt to orient study of the law in primarily contemporary debates, usually in the field of American constitutional law, the program seeks to organize its exploration of law as a system rather than as a forum or an instrument.

Other Course Work. After completing the introductory course, students must take two courses each in the Letters and Society divisions of the program, plus six other courses complementary to the required work, as outlined previously (the other six courses may be ones cross listed in the program or may be from other disciplines). Letters and Society are not meant as fixed or self-defining fields, but instead as organizational categories emphasizing two fundamental modes of examining law in a systemic fashion. Courses under the rubric of Letters (whether based in the program or in English, philosophy, or political theory) tend to be based on the study of literary and historical artifacts, such as cases, tracts, conventional literature, or other texts, and emphasize the ways in which law formally constitutes itself. Questions of interpretative and normative theory, rhetorical strategy, and the like are central to such courses. Society serves to organize studies from a variety of different disciplines (including history, political science, economics, and sociology) that try to measure, with different techniques and at different times, the effect of law on society. The combined objective is to treat law as an intellectual activity and as a phenomenon, and to emphasize that both occur in contexts that help to shape them, whether ancient or modern.

Research. In addition to satisfying the course requirements, each concentrator who enters the Program beginning in Autumn 1999 must produce evidence of sustained research in the form of a substantial research paper during either the junior or senior year and approved by a member of the faculty, although not necessarily a member of the program faculty. Papers may be written in conjunction with Law, Letters, and Society courses, under the auspices of reading and research courses, or in a Research Seminar. (The paper is an independent requirement, however, and need not be accomplished in conjunction with enrollment in a specific course.) The scope, method, and objective of the paper, as well as its length, are subject to negotiation between the student and the instructor.

Summary of Requirements

Concentration 1 Introductory Course

2 Letters courses

2 Society courses

6 other complementary courses


Honors. In Law, Letters, and Society, the primary requirement for honors is a distinguished senior paper. After completion of the first half of the writing requirement in the junior year in conjunction with regular course work, the student chooses an instructor to decide mutually whether the student does research and submits a paper for honors. Papers submitted pursuant to such agreements are examined by a second reader, who must agree with the primary instructor that special honors are merited. No formal grade requirement supplements these conditions.

Reading and Research Courses. For students with a legitimate interest in pursuing study that cannot be met by means of regular courses, there is an option of devising a reading and research course to be supervised by a member of the faculty and graded, like other NCDV 29800 courses, on a Pass/Fail basis. Such courses may not be used to satisfy the requirements of either the two-course Letters or two-course Society requirements, but up to two such courses may be used to satisfy part of the other six required courses, with the written permission of the program chairman obtained in advance of initiation of the work.

Grading. Two of the six supplementary courses required in the program may, with the consent of the instructor, be taken on a Pass/No Credit basis.

Advising. Students who wish to concentrate in Law, Letters, and Society must register for LLSO 24200 in autumn quarter of their second year. This requirement is not negotiable. Upon deciding to concentrate in Law, Letters, and Society, students should arrange to consult with the program chairman on their course of study in the program. Students should continue to consult with their College advisers on general degree requirements.


John W. Boyer, Martin A Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor, Department of History and the College; Chairman, Council on Advanced Studies in the Humanities & Social Sciences; Dean of the College

JOHN Comaroff, Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Sociology, Committee on African & African-American Studies, and the College; Chairman, Department of Anthropology

Charles M. Gray, Professor Emeritus, Department of History and the College; Lecturer, the Law School

Dennis J. Hutchinson, William Rainey Harper Professor in the College; Associate Professor, Social Sciences Collegiate Division and New Collegiate Division; Senior Lecturer, the Law School; Master, New Collegiate Division; Associate Dean of the College

Ralph Lerner, Benjamin Franklin Professor in the College; Professor, Social Science Collegiate Division; Cochairman, Committee on Social Thought

William Novak, Assistant Professor, Department of History and the College

Wendy Olmsted, Associate Professor in the College, Division of the Humanities and the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World

Gerald N. Rosenberg, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and the College; Director, Center for the Study of American Politics; Lecturer, the Law School

RICHARD Saller, Professor, Departments of Classical Languages & Literatures and History, and the College; Chairman, Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World

DAVID SMIGELSKIS, Associate Professor, New Collegiate Division and the Division of the Humanities


For a description of the numbering guidelines for the following courses, consult the section on reading the catalog on page 15.

I. The Introductory Course

24200. Legal Reasoning. PQ: Open only to second-year students who are beginning the LLSO concentration. This course is an introduction to legal reasoning in a customary legal system. The first part examines the analytical conventions that lawyers and judges purport to use. The second part examines fundamental tenets of constitutional interpretation. Both judicial decisions and commentary are used, although the case method is emphasized. D. Hutchinson. Autumn.

II. Letters

22400. Rhetorical Theories of Legal and Political Reasoning (=GSHU 22300/32300, HUMA 21400, LLSO 22400, SOSC 22400). This course uses Plato's Gorgias to raise the question of whether practical thinking is possible and considers responses to this question by such writers as Aristotle, Cicero, and Machiavelli. We study the methods and concepts that each writer uses to defend the cogency of legal, deliberative, or more generally political prudence against explicit or implicit charges that practical thinking is merely a knack or form of cleverness. W. Olmsted. Autumn.

24300. American Law and the Rhetoric of Race (=LAWS 59800, LLSO 24300, PLSC 22300). This course examines the ways American law has treated legal issues involving race. Two episodes are studied in detail: the criminal law of slavery during the antebellum period and the constitutional attack on state-imposed segregation in the twentieth century. The case method is used, although close attention is paid to litigation strategy and judicial opinion. D. Hutchinson. Spring.

27500. Hegel's Philosophy of Right (=FNDL 23000, HUMA 24700, IMET 36900, LLSO 27500). The course first focuses on "translating" (becoming more familiar with) what is to many the peculiar language of Hegel, a language which has set and still sets the most important boundaries and questions for many thinkers, not merely about politics but also about economics, sociology, and jurisprudence. More importantly, a further focus is with particular arguments but also especially with the general strategies of Hegel's argument understood broadly, which is pursued as deeply as time and student interest permit. Moreover, once some comfort with the language and general argument is attained, a somewhat critical stance is adopted, if for no other reason than to guard against the possible bewitchment by what is probably for many a somewhat new language of thought. D. Smigelskis. Spring.

27700. Aristotle's Ethics (=FNDL 27700, HUMA 27800, IMET 37700, LLSO 27700). Special attention is given to the problems Aristotle thought important to consider, the sequence in which they are generated, and why such kind of problems may continue to be worthy of attention. A further focus is the manner in which the Ethics is a principled deliberative inquiry meant to eventuate in more sophisticated choices by the readers. D. Smigelskis. Winter.

28500. Plato's Laws (=FNDL 23400, LLSO 28500, PLSC 23800/48300, SCTH 30300). PQ: Consent of instructor. Enrollment limited. An introductory reading of Plato's Laws with attention to such themes as the following: war and peace; courage and moderation; rule of law; music, poetry, drinking, and education; sex, marriage, and gender; property and class structure; crime and punishment; religion and theology; and philosophy. N. Tarcov. Winter.

29200. Political Philosophy: Parmenides (=FNDL 29200, LLSO 29200, PLSC 31200). This course is a close reading of Plato's Parmenides. J. Cropsey. Winter.

29500. Democracy and Its Critics in Nineteenth Century Political Thought (=LLSO 29500, PLSC 24100). This course surveys developments in nineteenth-century European and American political thought, focusing on the theory and practice of democracy, and exploring its connections to such other themes as liberalism, race, empire, socialism, nationalism, the state, gender, class, and mass. The course involves close readings of important works of philosophy and political theory, as well as reconstruction of these works' historical context, including some examination of concrete political struggles over democracy. P. Markell. Winter.

III. Society

21700. Constitution of Community (=FNDL 23700, HUMA 23700, IMET 31100, LLSO 21700). Attention is once again being given to how a "we," a community, establishes itself. This interest often assumes that discussion and deliberation plays a, perhaps the, major role, and often coincides with the notion that the organization of the community should be through government by discussion. This course is concerned with one major example of the constitution of a community, the United States. Texts of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, the "debates" in Philadelphia in 1787 (especially Madison's Notes), the ratification conventions (especially the Federalist), and the actions in the newly formed Congress, especially the House, are discussed. Otherwise put, the course is thus not a repetition of the typical "historical," "legal," or "philosophical" emphases with which these events and texts have been treated. D. Smigelskis. Winter.

21800. Liberating Narratives (=HUMA 23900, IMET 31800, LLSO 21800). Some reflective autobiographies written in mid-career are featured. The primary texts are Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, and James Watson's The Double Helix. Each exemplifies how some people have used various resources and strategies to increase their ability to act without simultaneously diminishing the similar abilities of others in situations which require overcoming systemically oppressive obstacles. This is in part accomplished through examples of how a flourishing in certain types of activities has been achieved and the kinds of satisfactions involved. Other texts are chosen as the interests of the class emerge in discussion. D. Smigelskis. Spring.

22000. Psychology and the Law. This course critically examines the convergences and conflicts between the disciplines of psychology and the law. We examine psychological research concerning a variety of topics of law that become the substance of dispute in legal decisions, including eyewitness testimony, reconstructed memory, predictions of dangerousness, competency, and the insanity defense. We also consider psychological research on the operation of the legal system such as jury selection, and decisional biases in judgment, as well as how legal decisions can be affected by other societal institutions such as the media. M. Jenuwine. Winter.

23100. Environmental Law (=ENST 23100, LLSO 23100, PBPL 23100). PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing or consent of instructor. This lecture/discussion course examines the development of laws and legal institutions that address environmental problems and advance environmental policies. Topics include the common law background to traditional environmental regulation; the explosive growth and impact of federal environmental laws in the second half of the twentieth century; regulations and the urban environment; and the evolution of local and national legal structures in response to environmental challenges. H. L. Henderson. Autumn.

23600. The Environment in U.S. History (=ENST 23600, HIST 19000, LLSO 23600). Contemporary environmental issues are deeply rooted in a complex history, often ignored or misunderstood. This course examines human engagement with the natural world in what is now the United States: how the expansion of the market economy impacted the natural world; how various peoples struggled to control resources; how landscapes changed from ecosystems to infrastructures; how natural resources fostered industry and agriculture; and how conceptions of the natural world evolved. We consider the politics, economics, and social and cultural development of the United States in an environmental framework. C. Cahill, J. Opie. Spring.

23800. European Law, Medieval-Early Modern (=HIST 22100/32100, LLSO 23800). This course is an examination of the formation of European law from the Early Middle ages to modernity. Readings include primary as well as secondary sources. Rather than looking at specific legal arrangements, we examine such questions as the role of law in society, the processes through which law is created and applied, and the subsequent political and social systems that it supports. We compare continental European law with the English law, and explain their (different or similar) development over time. We finish by looking at constitutionalism and codification, and at attempts to modernize the law, as well as to re-define its place in society. T. Herzog. Spring.

25700-25800. American Legal History I, II (=HIST 28300-28400/38300-38400, LLSO 25700-25800). This two-quarter sequence explores the role of law in history, and of history in law, through a survey of American legal developments from the colonial era to the present. The sequence treats the law not as an autonomous process or science, but as a social phenomenon inextricably intertwined with other historical forces. Through lectures and discussions, this course examines the impact of law on significant events and institutions in American history while tracing historical changes within the law itself. Attention is paid to developments in private law, public law, jurisprudence, the judiciary, and the interrelationships of law, society, economy, and polity. W. Novak. Autumn, Winter.

26600. Original Intent: Historical Roots of Modern Controversy (=HIST 27500, LLSO 26600). America's founding era (1776-91) and the early republic saw the adoption of many state and federal constitutional provisions and principles that today occasion historical debate, legal controversy, and political acrimony. This course presents an introduction to some of the principal historical debates. Topics include church/state relations, limits on subversive or offensive speech, police investigative procedures, legislative modification of private property rights, citizens' rights to own firearms, the power of courts to overturn statues and the precedential force of English law. We do not focus on modern constitutional law itself, although we read excerpts from Supreme Court opinions that address historical evidence. J. Hart. Winter.

28900. Environmental Policy (=ENST 24700, LLSO 28900, PBPL 22500). This course considers alternative approaches to the quantitative, market-based analysis of environmental policy. The course focuses on two policy settings in particular: the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the protection of biodiversity under the Endangered Species Act. L. Raymond. Winter.

29300. Environmental Moral Philosophy (=ENST 28000, LLSO 29300). PQ: Third or fourth-year standing and consent of instructor; a background in social theory or moral philosophy is recommended. How should one live with respect to the environment? In this course, we consider (1) the idea that (some of) non-human nature calls for one's respect, and (2) the idea that being respectful of non-human nature involves understanding one's very humanity as open to nature. We take up moral topics such as animal rights and land ethics, and political topics such as property and the limitations of cost-benefit analysis. We end with a consideration of sustainability: How are living humanly and living sustainably related? Sources come from philosophy, political economy, literature, and film. J. Bendik-Keymer. Spring.

IV. Research

29400. Research Seminar. PQ: Consent of instructor. Class limited to fifteen students. This research seminar examines problems in modern American constitutional history. Topics are selected by students with approval of the instructor. Prior topics include inherent Presidential power, due process in prisons, sexual preference and equal protection, impeachment, and Congressional control of foreign affairs. M. Jenuwine. Autumn.

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