Law and Literature and Film - LW581

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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6 15 (7.5) DR S Ring




Not available to non-law students.



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 to be introduced to material you may not be familiar with as well as a chance to pursue an interest you 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.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

20 contact hours (combined 2-hour lecture seminar)

Method of assessment

100% coursework.

Indicative reading

Peter Goodrich Languages of Law (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990)
Gilles Delueze Negotiations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995)
Charles Dickens Bleak House
Franz Kafka The Trial
Patricia Highsmith City of the Owl
Shakespeare Titus Andronichus, Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure
Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice
Oscar Wilde Ballad of Reading Gaol
Chester Himes A Rage in Harlem
JG Ballard High Rise
Jean Anouilh Antigone
Preliminary Viewing - Titus, 1999, Dir Julie Taymor
Preliminary Viewing - The Trial, 1963, Dir Orson Wells
Preliminary Viewing - Jagged Edge,1985, Dir Richard Marquand

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

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 tradition.
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.

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