Law and Literature and Film - LAWS5810

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Hayley Gibson checkmark-circle


So much of law is about text and the manipulation of language: Becoming sensitive to the construction of narratives in judgements, learning to read argument in its many forms, recognising the ways in which words, and patterns of words, can be used to create effect, playing with ambiguities or seeking to express an idea with clarity, all these are fundamental skills for a lawyer. Law is also about performance, the roles which are assigned to us and the drama of the court room. And law, as text and performance, carries fundamental cultural messages about the society we live in and the values we aspire to. During this module, we will examine some of the many ways in which reading, viewing and listening to, 'the arts' helps us to think more concisely as well as more imaginatively about law. We welcome on to the module anyone who shares, with us, an enjoyment of reading, viewing and listening – this is a chance for students to be introduced to material they may not be familiar with as well as a chance to pursue an interest they may already have. Although the module is designed primarily for law students, it is also open to undergraduates from other degree programmes.

The module focuses on a small number of key texts through which to explore the themes and develop student skills. These vary from year to year.


Contact hours

Total study hours: 150
Contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 130


All single and joint honours law programmes. This module is also available to ERASMUS, and other short term students, visiting the law school.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
The module will be assessed by 100% coursework as follows:

Short Paper, 1000 words (10%)
Research Paper, 3000 words (90%)

Reassessment methods

The module will be reassessed by a reassessment instrument of a Research Essay for 100%.

Indicative reading

Preliminary Reading

• Camus, Albert, The Outsider (London: Penguin Books, 2012)
• Dickens, Charles, Bleak House (Wordsworth, 1993)
• Goodrich, Peter, Languages of Law (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990)
• Kafka, Franz, The Trial (London: Penguin Books, 2000)
• Orwell, George, Politics and the English Language (Oxford City Press, 2009)
• Palahniuk, Chuck, Fight Club (London: Vintage, 1996)

Preliminary Viewing

• The Trial (1963) Directed by Orson Wells [Film]. USA: Astor Pictures Corporation

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the significance of literature, and literary theory, for the study of law in the Western European
2. Extrapolate and critically evaluate key themes within this tradition from literacy texts and appreciate the humanities context within which
both literature and law have developed.
3. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the developments and changes in literary forms, the context within which literature is produced
and received, and the relationship, where relevant, to the expectations of law.
4. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the ways in which literary analysis deepens a reader's understanding of text and the ways in
which similar patterns of analysis can be brought to bear on legal texts.
5. Understand the significance of key ideas developed in literary theory and relate them to an examination of our understanding of law.
6. Identify and critically evaluate contemporary themes and issues evidenced in both the context and form of literary texts, and relate these
to legal practices as well as critiques of law.
7. Understand and appreciate, in a nuanced way, literary and rhetorical techniques evidenced in the practices of law, in particular such
issues as the use of narrative and metaphor in legal judgments and the construction and trajectories of argumentation evidenced in legal
texts and acts of performance.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Write cogently and creatively about legal themes in selected texts, including film and television.
2. Demonstrate a broad range of analytical skills including the close reading of text, methods for analysing and deconstructing text, and the
extrapolation of key arguments and consideration of the form in which they have been presented.
3. Situate texts within the context in which they were produced and are received.
4. Formulate research questions and independently identify contemporary issues that can be examined through the use of literature and
literary theory.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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