Law and Literature

Subject LAWS40097 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2011:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 hours.
Total Time Commitment: 144 hours.
Prerequisites: None.
Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: None.
Non Allowed Subjects: None.
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills, and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to providing support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Mr Gary Cazalet


Melbourne Law School Student Centre
Tel: +61 3 8344 4475
Subject Overview: In this subject we will examine law and lawyers through the lens of literature: plays, poems, films and novels. We will consider how literature enhances our understanding of the role of law in society, by examining law’s contributions and failings. Throughout recorded history, writers and the law have grappled with issues of morality, justice, crime and individual responsibility. Through the eye of the writer, we will consider how literature can provide new perspectives on law. We will examine the way in which law deliberately excludes the consideration of stories and views that literature considers critical to a full understanding of events and actions. Our study will include texts from Ancient Greece to the 21st century. We will consider a variety of critical approaches to the study of literature and law and discuss how they provide different insights into each other.

On completion of this subject, students should:

  • Be able to critically analyse and compare the perspectives of literature and the perspectives of law to issues such as morality, individual responsibility, crime and justice;
  • Have an understanding and knowledge of critical approaches to the study and interpretation of legal themes in literature and films;
  • Have broadened their understanding through reading, discussion, reflection and writing of the ways in which law does and does not adequately deal with social, political, economic and cultural issues;
  • Be intellectually stimulated and alive to the opportunities that literature offers as a means of gaining further insight into the role of law.
  • Hurdle requirement – attendance at 75% of classes;
  • A 15 minute oral presentation, equivalent to 1,000 words, to be delivered in class on a text chosen by the lecturer and submitted in writing by the last day of the semester. The paper will be marked out of 30%. The presentation will not be marked but is a hurdle requirement;
  • Research essay (3,000 words) on texts and themes chosen by the student and approved in advance by the lecturer due in the examination period – 70%.
Prescribed Texts: Printed materials will be available from the Melbourne Law School.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following generic skills:

  • The capacity for close reading and analysis of a range of sources, including literature, films and legal texts;
  • The capacity to engage in critical thinking and to bring to bear a range of conceptual analyses upon a given subject matter;
  • The capacity for independent thought and reflection;
  • The capacity to articulate knowledge and understanding of complex ideas in oral, written and visual form;
  • The ability to engage in interdisciplinary work;
  • The capacity to conduct research, including the ability to locate and evaluate relevant primary and secondary sources;
  • The further enhancement of academic writing that engages with various modes of expression including descriptive, analytical, critical and imaginative forms;
  • The ability to confront unfamiliar or challenging issues and to consider appropriate ethical responses.
Notes: This subject has a quota of 30. Please contact the Law Student Centre for enrolment information.

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