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Race, Law and Literature


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Eddie Bruce-Jones
  • Assessment: a 4000-word essay (100%)

Module description

This course examines the interdisciplinary entanglement of law and literature through their mutual and inter-textual production of race. Using as a starting point the heritage of conversations on law and literature and their analytical perspectives law as literature and law in literature, the course offers a critical look into the genres of fiction, essays, poetry, memoir and epistolary works in an effort to reveal how these genres engage with, respond to, stand in for and provide creative alternatives to law. At the same time, the course relies on a range of theoretical and political interventions put forward by writers who, in an attempt to confront and combat the violence of racism, colonialism and other structural forms of domination, have recognised the urgency with which we must recognise and exploit the ability of these various genres to create a collective conversation larger than the sum of its parts. In this course, you will read a range of theoretical, literary and legal texts, including excerpts from texts by authors such as Toni Morrison, Sadiya Hartman, Nikesh Shukla, Arundhati Roy, James Baldwin, Karla Holloway, Junot Diaz and June Jordan.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Introduction to Law and Literature
  • Understanding Race in Law and Literature
  • Fiction as Historical Intervention I: The Novel
  • Fiction as Historical Intervention II: The Short Story
  • The Essay as Legal-Literary Form
  • Memoir, Biography and Epistolary Work
  • Poetry
  • Memory and Time
  • Critical Race Theory and Literature
  • Queer Theory Interventions on Race and Creativity

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will able to:

  • understand the genesis of discussions at the intersection of law and literature
  • understand the ideas of law in literature and law as literature
  • understand ways in which legal and literary writings co-produce our thinking around race, racism and other forms of systemic oppression
  • critically discuss the relationships between law and various literary genres
  • critically discuss race and difference
  • critically analyse, evaluate and compare a range of theoretical approaches
  • actively synthesise the relationship between legal and literary approaches
  • identify strengths, weaknesses, values and limitations of writing styles, argument structures and aesthetic forms
  • appreciate the importance of social and cultural contexts for understanding legal policy and practice, and for the production of literature around race and law.