This course forms part of a new interdisciplinary and cross-College initiative. It introduces students to major research now undertaken that reflects the view that law is neither divorced from nor above the cultural forces and representations all around us.

Whether as a lawyer, an activist, a politician, a writer, a diplomat, or a citizen, we face a global world whose enormous challenges will require of us the ability to understand the relationship between legal discourse and other discourses such as art, human rights and literature which responses to these challenges. Human rights offers a legal and moral framework that attempts to address experiences of injustice, suffering, and traumatic loss. To address these effectively we need to draw on a range of vocabularies and discourses, and be able to mediate between them—to compare, contrast and evaluate their meanings and impacts.

In Literature Law and Human Rights, we study the representation, advocacy and critique of human rights in different genres, including their treatment in law and literature, including film and the visual arts.  Each of these forms of storytelling are devised to solicit strong reactions in an audience. Whether in Palestine, Africa, or Alice Springs, law, literature and human rights are different languages for expressing injustice and for demanding redress.  Each are powerful in their own way.

A lawyer, an activist, a novelist, and a film-maker are all storytellers with specific means at their disposal, and specific goals in mind. But just what kinds of storytelling are they? How do they differ from one another, and how do they influence one another?  In what ways does literature (in the broadest sense) help organize our understanding of human rights, and mobilize legal responses? And on the other hand, in what ways does law constitute a literature of human rights, and with what consequences?

Learning Outcomes

By the conclusion of this course, students who have successfully completed all of the requirements will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Define and critically analyse keywords and concepts shared across the disciplines of law, literature and human rights, including testimony, witness, reconciliation, memory, justice, and recognition
  2. Compare, contrast and reflect on contemporary scholarship on and critical approaches to human rights and humanitarian intervention
  3. Recognise, distinguish and appraise research and methods in the fields of law and literature, memory studies, and theory, with specific reference to major case studies chosen to illustrate, particularize, and interrogate core concepts and historical episodes
  4. Analyse the discourses and genres that intersect in constructing the relationship between law, literature, and human rights.
  5. Evaluate and compare a complex variety of textual sources—laws, legal decisions, and commissions of inquiry, as well as novels, films, and artworks—and to critically analyse and reflect on their strategies, blind spots, problems, and effects
  6. Independently problem-solve by evaluating, planning, and executing advanced interdisciplinary scholarship and research.

 

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