ENGLISH 460 - Studies in the Novel
Fall 2013, Section 001 - Law and the American Novel
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
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Legal themes and figures abound in American novels, and it’s not hard to understand the appeal that law holds for American novelists and their readers. Novels are propelled by various personal and societal conflicts, and the law is all about conflict. Novels prominently feature change, sometimes on a large scale but more often on the level of the main characters’ personal fortunes. And change is central to the law, which attempts to balance the need for the innovation required by new facts and novel controversies with the need for predictability and continuity that comes from following precedent and adhering to “bright line” rules. In addition, conflict and change form the warp and woof of the history furnishing the source material for most American fiction.

This class will survey and analyze the major themes and figures of the American law novel. We will take up novels involving commercial law, family law, constitutional law, as well as criminal law. In addition to considering issues of legal procedure, detection, and punishment, we will discuss more general jurisprudential questions of order, authority, conflict, change, and justice.

There will be a lot of reading in this class. We will begin with nineteenth-century representations of law, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” and Billy Budd, and William Dean Howells’s A Modern Instance. We will then proceed to survey twentieth-century legal fictions, such as Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle, Richard Wright’s Native Son, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer, E.L. Doctorow’s, Book of Daniel, Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, and William Gaddis’s A Frolic of One’s Own. Book costs will probably be somewhere between $150 and $175.

Course Requirements:

This is a reading intensive class. Students should expect to read 200-250 (pretty entertaining) pages per week.

There will be weekly reading quizzes, final exam, as well as two 5-page papers.

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ENGLISH 460 - Studies in the Novel
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM

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