This course examines the full chronological range of Western legal history (from Mesopotamia through the present day) through the lens of phenomenology, focusing on the interrelation of law and physical experience. This page contains a full course description.
This course is designed to introduce students to the field of legal history. Focusing in particular on the interaction of law and communications media (e.g. speech, writing, print, radio/TV and the Internet) in a wide variety of ancient, medieval and modern legal settings, it will encourage students to think about the history of law, legal practice and styles of legal thought in a rhetorical and physical context. We will consider how law’s form (e.g. prose, poetry, proverb), physical presentation (in sound, image and text) and physical environment (e.g. structure, location, arrangement) have shaped - and in turn have been shaped by - legal norms and doctrines. We will explore the fundamental (if ever-changing) relationship between law and memory. Materials for the course will be drawn from numerous disciplines: law, history, religion, rhetoric, communications theory, semiotics, anthropology, sociology, archaeology and philosophy. The assigned readings will include excerpts from the works of such scholars as Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, Michael Clanchy and Ethan Katsh. Evaluation will be by final exam.