ENGLISH 313 - Topics in Literary Studies
Winter 2023, Section 002 - Law and Lit?Law and the American Novel
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 8 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 1/4/23 - 4/18/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


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 Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, and William Dean Howells’s A Modern Instance. We will then proceed to survey twentieth-century legal fictions, such as Richard Wright’s Native Son, William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer, and Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities.

This course will satisfy the following English major/minor requirement: American Literature

Course Requirements:

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


ENGLISH 313 - Topics in Literary Studies
Schedule Listing
002 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM
1/4/23 - 4/18/23
003 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
1/4/23 - 4/18/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for ENGLISH 313.002

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for ENGLISH 313 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)