Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Law and Drama



This course has been cancelled for this academic year.

Beyond the obvious traits of suspense and entertainment that make a good courtroom drama, theater and law have a lot more in common. Just as drama not only entertains, but also examines social mechanisms and conventions, law is concerned not only with dispensing justice, but also with shaping and maintaining a viable social community. In this class, our special focus will be on the instances of exchange between these two ancient civil institutions: What aspects of legal procedure does theater dramatize, and at what points can and does a court resemble a theater? First, we will read and discuss plays in which court proceedings are at the center of the action, from Aeschylus' Oresteia, to trials in Elizabethan tragedy, to the socially engaged plays of Bertolt Brecht, to the new genre that emerged in the second half of the 20th century: the documentary court drama that deals mostly with massive human rights violations. Second, we will look at the most momentous courtroom performances from the recent past, from the Nuremberg Trials to O.J. Simpson. The International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague provides a unique site for our final engagement with issues related to justice and performance. 


Meet the Instructor(s)

Branislav Jakovljevic

"My comparative interest in film and theater goes back to my undergraduate years at Belgrade School of Theater, Film, Radio, and Television, where I graduated from the Dramaturgy Department. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by the relationship between these two media, one ancient and the other very recent, how they transformed and challenged one another, how they borrowed from one another, and how they represented one another. A century and a quarter after the invention of the film, we are again going through a revolution of screen technologies. I am interested in how theater is using these new technologies (from digital projection to interplay between live and recorded performance, etc.), and also in how film is using theater as a rich source of dramatic themes and representational techniques."