Advanced English 12: Literature and Law

Upper School

Grade 12


Open to Grade 12 with department approval

Credits: 1

How does literature show us justice and the law? How is justice achieved? In this course, students will read fiction, drama, poetry, and memoir that reveal through art the ways in which the law shapes the human experience. In addition to examining the way laws are written and upheld, students will discuss the ways in which authors (and other artists) depict the real effects of those words in practice. Students will have a chance to consider what we understand to be criminal behavior and its causes, policing, protesting, courtroom culture, defense, prosecution, sentencing, the prison system, and inequalities in each of these domains. Works of imagination will be of primary interest, but students will also conduct individualized research to discern the current reality of the many facets of law in actual practice.

Possible texts: Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky; My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Felon by Dwayne Reginald Betts; The Round House by L. Erdrich; An American Marriage by Tayari Jones; The Remarkable Susan by Tim Kelly; Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman; The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Dead Man, Walking by Sister Helen Prejean; Just Mercy by B. Stevenson; Legal Fictions by Jay Wishengrad, editor; excerpts from The Firm, The Trial, The Scarlet Letter, Bleak House, Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, Twelve Angry Men, the U.S. Constitution, le Code Penal de France, The Name of the Rose, and Just Mercy.