Program in Law & Humanities

Law school teaches students to "think like lawyers," but what exactly does that mean?  Presumably, it at least means learning to make and respond to arguments within the constraints of the law. But which materials count as legitimate sources of law, what values the law embodies and what methods are appropriate to the task of discerning its meaning are always questions open to debate. In other words, the law is an essentially interpretive intellectual and social practice.

The Program in Law and Humanities is dedicated to deepening and broadening our understanding of this practice. It does so largely by exploring connections between law and such "humanistic" disciplines as philosophy, literature and history (to name only the oldest and best-known). Like law, these disciplines wrestle with difficult questions of interpretation, evidence and value in their respective domains. This is one reason why lawyers, judges and legal scholars have looked to them for guidance for centuries. Cross-disciplinary teaching and research in these fields both facilitates better understanding of the law and also points to ways in which the study of law may contribute to the humanities.

Contact: Deborah Hellman

Legal Theory Workshops, 2013-14

Noon, Faculty Lounge

Oct. 21  Jen Peterson, UVA Media Studies

Nov. 18  Ilya Somin, George Mason University

FEB. 24  Claire Finkelstein, University of Pennsylvania

March 3  Liam Murphy, New York University

April 21  Steve Smith, McGill University

Notes and Announcements

ASLCH Annual Conference Information

The next Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities Annual Conference will be hosted by the University of Virginia on March 10-11, 2014.

Call for Submissions: Julien Mezey Dissertation Award

The Association seeks the submission of outstanding work from a wide variety of perspectives, including but not limited to law and cultural studies, legal hermeneutics and rhetoric, law and literature, law and psychoanalysis, law and visual studies, legal history, legal theory and jurisprudence. Scholars completing humanities-oriented dissertations in SJD and related programs, as well as those earning PhDs, are encouraged to submit their work. Applicants eligible for the 2014 award must have defended their dissertations successfully between Sept. 1, 2012 and Aug. 31, 2013.


The program is committed to offering courses each year that reflect an interdisciplinary law and humanities perspective. Students can also find relevant courses in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Students who are interested in pursuing a formal dual-degree program may apply for the J.D.-M.A. programs in English, philosophy or history.

The following is a list of courses offered during the current and two previous academic years. Numbers in parentheses indicate which academic year(s) the courses were offered, i.e., 2010-11 is coded (11), 2011-12 is coded (12) and 2012-13 is coded (13).


Advanced Topics in the First Amendment (11,13)
African-American Lawyers from the Civil War to the Present (13)
American Legal History (11,12)
American Legal Realism (13)
American Social and Legal History (12)
An American Half-Century (12,13)
Analysis of the Military Criminal Legal System (JAG) (11)
Applied Methodologies in Law and Literature (SC) (12)
Bioethics and the Law (12,13)
Citizenship and Group Identity (12,13)
Comparative Constitutional Law (11,12,13)
Constitutionalism: History and Jurisprudence (11,12,13)
Constitutional History I: American Revolution to 1865 (12,13)
Constitutional History II: The 20th Century (12)
Constitutional Theory (12,13)
Contemporary Debates in Criminal Law (11, 13)
Contemporary Political Theory (12,13)
Crime and Punishment in American History (13)
Criminal Law and Regulation of Vice (11)
Duty to Obey (11)
European Legal Systems (11,12)
Gender and Legal Theory (11,12)
Historic Preservation Law (13)
Judicial Role in American History (11,12)
Jurisprudence (11,12,13)
Law and Literature (10,11)
Law and the Humanities (11)
Law, Literature and the Family (11)
Lawyers and the Civil Rights Movement (11)
Legal History Colloquium (11)
Legal History: Transnational and Imperial Contexts to 1850 (11)
Legal Theory (13)
Legal Theory in Europe and the United States (13)
Lochner Era (11)
Media and the Courts(12)
Medical Malpractice And Health Care Quality (11, 12)
Mental Health Law (11, 13)
Moral Dimensions of Policymaking in the United States (11,13)
Privacy and Surveillance (12)
Profiling (13)
Psychiatry And Criminal Law (11, 12)
Punishment in Law and Culture (11)
Race and Law (11,12,13)
Race and the Constitution in American History (11)
Regulating Public Space in Historical and Theoretical Perspective (12)
Religion, Democracy, and Law (11,12)
Religious Liberty (11)
Rescue, Charity, and Justice (13)
Rights (11)
Rhetoric (11,12,13)
Sexuality and Law (13)
Supreme Court from Warren to Roberts (11,12)
Supreme Court Justices and the Art of Judging (11,12)
Trials of the Century: Literary and Legal Representations of Great Criminal Trials (11)
Virginia and the Constitution (11,12)
What Lawyers Can Learn from the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King: Looking Back; Looking Forward (11)