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Representing Justice: Stories of Law and Literature

 
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Representing Justice: Stories of Law and Literature
TTC

(24 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture)
Taught by Susan Sage Heinzelman
The University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D., University of Western Ontario

Great literature can be the means of understanding as well as creating our worldby teaching and reinforcing society's laws, articulating its values, and enforcing the social contracts that unite us as a culture. What if literature itself generated our ideas and feelings about justice, marriage and family, property, authority, race, or gender? What if it enflamed our determination to pursue justiceor, conversely, undermined our ability to detect injustice?
What if law in all its variationsfrom religious commandments to oral tradition to codified statuteembraced its own narrative assumptions to the point of absorbing purely literary conventions as a means of more forcefully arguing its points in the legal arena?
And what if this dynamic relationship between written and unwritten laws and literature is constantly evolving? How do law and literature influence or reflect one other? And what lessons might we draw from their symbiotic relationship?
Representing Justice: Stories of Law and Literature is a provocative exploration of just such questionsan examination of the rhetorical and philosophical connections that link these two disciplines.

Mine the Riches of a New Scholarly Field


Professor Susan Sage Heinzelman, who has been honored many times for her teaching skills, is also president of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, and she brings to these lectures many years of thought and research into the roles of law and literature in society and culture and their relationship to one another.
She is especially concerned to break down the stereotypical definitions of these two disciplines: that literature is fictive and subjective, that is, persuasive on a primarily emotional level understood as the realm of the feminine, and that law is factual and objective, and thus primarily persuasive in the intellectual realm traditionally ascribed to the masculine.
Professor Heinzelman refers to the representation of culture, whether legal or literary, through language, image, symbol systems, and action. It is the intertwining of the stereotypical definitions that she untangles in these lectures, showing how each has contributed to creating our cultural beliefs and expectations "in similar waysby offering us ways of imagining ourselvesboth at our best and at our worst."
Professor Heinzelman's examination encompasses more than 3,000 years. It begins with the Old Testamentin which literature was lawand takes us through ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, England's experience of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and the 19th and 20th centuries. Focusing on works of literature that hold law, implicit or explicit, as a central themeas well as on the overall relationship between law and literature in societyshe shows how that relationship gradually transformed from the astoundingly intricate cross-connections between law and literature still present during the time of Shakespeare, to a point in the mid-18th century when the two disciplines separated more clearly into the distinct realms we recognize today.

Fresh Insights into Great Works and Their Eras


As Professor Heinzelman guides you through these great works, she shows how each reflects its times, and she offers fresh insights that can illuminate even those with which you may already be familiar. For example:
In The Scarlet Letter , you'll see how a woman sentenced to a lifetime of community shame sets aside societal dictates to create a new standard of virtue for women.
In the 1917 short story, A Jury of Her Peers, you'll see how a reporter covering a sensational turn-of-the-century murder trial would one day reconfigure the events of the case into a play and a short story that would dramatize the implications of all-male juries sitting in judgment on female defendants.
And in Lolita, you'll see how a single literary work can challenge not only a society's written jurisprudence, but its unwritten moral codes, as well.
As presented by Professor Heinzelman, these and the other works explored in this course each present their own challenges, forcing you to re-evaluate the ways you read fiction, watch films and plays, or take in legal arguments. Indeed, you may never do any of these things the same way again


About Your Professor

Susan Sage Heinzelman, Ph.D., is associate professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, where she has taught in both the English Department and the School of Law since receiving her doctorate from the University of Western Ontario in 1977. She specializes in 18th -century British literature; literary theory; and women, gender, and literature. The winner of many university teaching awardsmost recently the President's Associates Teaching Award in 2003Professor Heinzelman is also coeditor (with Zipporah Batshaw Wiseman) of Representing Women: Law, Literature, and Feminism (1994) and is the author of many articles on the representation of women in law and literature.


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