This course has been designed as a discussion course with a series of mini-research assignments. The course focuses on the role and contributions of sociology and the social sciences to the conceptualization of law and legal policymaking. Course materials will draw upon research performed primarily within the context of the American civil and criminal justice system. We also will examine some prevalent notions about what law is or should be, legal behavior and practices, and justifications for resorting to law to solve social problems. Through the use of mini-research assignments, students will gain an appreciation for the complexity and far-reaching impact that the social sciences have upon social policymaking and legal policymaking as well as the difficulty of determining or measuring law and its impact. This course is highly recommended for students participating in the John W. Adams Summer Scholars Program in Socio-legal Studies.
Law is a social and cultural construct, both shaped and reflected in a vast array of narratives that inform audiences about what law is, what it does, and what it means. While both law and narrative each require interpretative analysis, narrative has the capacity to bring law “to life” for persons who may have no technical, specialized knowledge or first-hand experience with law. This course will explore the place and significance of representations law in society through multiple lenses including literary fiction and nonfiction, film and television, and various forms of popular media. Through textual analysis and the construction of narrative, each of the materials selected for this class will prompt students to consider how “law stories” guide persons to understand the shapes that law can take, how law operates, and ultimately what abstract concepts like “justice” entail. This class serves as the senior seminar in Legal Studies. For English, this course can satisfy the approaches requirement or be used as an elective. Permission of instructor is required.