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.