Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop an understanding of law and literature, starting with a critical understanding of the law and literature approach, and building to sophisticated critical engagement with literary texts. Students will develop a broader perspective on the law, as well as a deeper understanding of law in general.


  • The first seminar of the course covers the techniques of law and literature. We will consider law in literature and law as literature, but also go beyond this traditional dichotomy to appreciate the value of an engagement between law and literature in general. Key works include:
  • Richard Weisberg, Poethics: And Other Strategies of Law and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992);
  • Keiran Dolan, A Critical Introduction to Law and Literature (Cambridge University Press 2007);
  • Ian Ward, ‘Legal Education and the Democratic Imagination,’ Law and Humanities 3 (2009): 87-112;
  • Robin West, ‘Literature, Culture and Law, – At Duke University’ in Teaching Law and Literature (Catherine Frank & Matthew Anderson eds);
  • Melanie Williams, Empty Justice (Cavendish 2002).
  • Students on the module will then read 4 texts, both classic and modern, from novels to plays and poems. The texts are chosen with the intention of allowing students to consider fundamental legal questions in a new way. The following texts/topics are illustrative, and may vary depending on the teaching personnel:
  • Law and Order in Dystopic fiction:
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin;
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
  • Violence, Order and Law:
  • Super-Cannes by J.G. Ballard.
  • Law and Gender:
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood.
  • Law of Man vs Law of God:
  • Antigone by Sophocles.
  • Justice, personal or public?:
  • Oresteia by Aeschylus.
  • Poems about Property:
  • Who Steals the Goose from off the Common by Anon;
  • The Case Won by William Cowper;
  • Mending Wall by Robert Frost.
  • Law and the Complexity of Life:
  • To The Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff;
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka;
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus;
  • Bruno’s Dream by Iris Murdoch.
  • Justice in Children’s stories:
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak;
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson;
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Willhelm Grimm.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have:
  • a thorough knowledge of approaches to law and literature;
  • a demonstrably in-depth knowledge of the methods of law and literature;
  • an appreciation of how law operates in different contexts, some historical, some fantastical, some utopian or dystopian;
  • familiarity with the contemporary issues in the study of law and literature.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • interpret and evaluate critically works of literature to understand the law better;
  • accurately identify which legal/literary issues require research, to retrieve the primary and secondary sources relevant to those issues, and to evaluate critically and work from those materials to arrive at a clear and defensible opinion on the issues;
  • identify the ways in which literature can help develop our understanding of the law;
  • the ability to communicate legal arguments, findings, and solutions appropriately to the needs of a variety of audiences.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • analyse critically a wide variety of complex issues, drawing on a variety of materials;
  • take responsibility for their own learning and to work independently to meet deadlines;
  • select key relevant issues for research and formulate them with clarity;
  • recognise potential alternative conclusions for particular situations, and provide supporting reasons for them;
  • describe accurately and coherently the arguments and analysis of other commentators;
  • write in a clear and structured way and to put forward ideas in a scholarly manner;
  • explore creatively complex issues in writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module is a 10 credit module. The workload can be expected to be half that of a standard 20 credit module. The course begins with one lecture and a seminar introducing the methods of law and literature. There will then be 5 discussion-based seminars. Most seminars will consider a separate work of literature.
  • The assessment consists of two parts - book reviews and an essay. The book review blog will require you to write a 500 word review of 4 books we study. This is a form of continuous assessment: two 500-word blog entries will be purely formative, to ensure that you learn what is expected in a blog post; the second two 500-word blog entries will be summatively assessed, allowing you to gain marks as we go along, while still receiving regular feedback. You can choose which to submit as formative and which as summative, and also one work not to be assessed upon. The choice of formative and summative is made at the point of submission. There is plenty of time between the formative feedback and the summative submission to reflect upon and improve in response to feedback received. The second summative assessment will be a summative essay of 2,500 words at the end of the course, requiring you to engage critically with the legal themes developed over the course.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
lecture 1 Normally first week of term 1 hour 1
Seminars 6 Normally first two weeks of term, then fortnightly 2 hours 12
Preparation and reading 87

Summative Assessment

Component: Book Review Blog Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
book review blog 2 x 500 words 100% Y
Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 2,500 words 100% Y

Formative Assessment:

Two of the four submitted blog entries will be formatively assessed, with an opportunity for the feedback to be incorporated in to the summatives.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University