Seminar in Ethical Values: Mead Seminar on Imagining Law (Hybrid Class)

Section 2SP, Spring 21

Schedule Information

Enrollment: 9/10
Credits: 1
Day Date Time Room
  • R
  • R
  • R
  • R
  • R
  • R
  • 02/04/2021
  • 02/11/2021
  • 02/18/2021
  • 02/25/2021
  • 03/18/2021
  • 03/25/2021
  • 1930-2130
  • 1930-2130
  • 1930-2130
  • 1930-2130
  • 1930-2130
  • 1930-2130
  • SL298
  • SL298
  • SL298
  • SL298
  • SL298
  • SL298

Course Description

Law is a both an autonomous and public discipline. On the one hand, it requires many years of education, its rules often mystify the public, and its players—judges, lawyers, and law students—enjoy authority partly by virtue of knowledge thought inaccessible to the world at large. On the other, it affects nearly every aspect of behavior—public and private alike. Its rules determine not only how the government operates, where the state’s reach can and cannot extend, but also how individuals must treat each other and how intimate relationships, like families, are structured and insulated from outside governance. It reaches everyone and governs much of their lives. It enjoys an authority, however, that, as current events show, remains suspect. It is both necessary and often disliked and distrusted. The class will consider what cultural depictions of law tell us about it and its relationship to us, its subjects. The class will look at demotic and “high” culture and everything in between. Through cultural artifacts like “Legally Blonde” and “Bleak House” it will explore law’s power over us and our support of, ambivalence about, criticism of, and sometimes rejection of its authority. We will discuss questions like the following: To what extent does law work top-down, controlling behavior through its presumed authority? To what extent does it work down-up, responding to and reflecting popular belief as to what it is and legitimately should be? To what extent does it do both at the same time? How does culture “compete” with law? What kinds of social privilege or power does law give it insiders?

Course Requirements

Exam Info:
Midterm Type (if any): None
Description: None

Final Type (if any): None
Description: None

Written Work Product
Written Work Product:

Other Work
Students will be expected to read or view all assignments before class and come prepared for active class discussion. For the final class, students in teams of two will have to lead a 15- to 20-minute discussion of a cultural artifact on law that the other students can read or view before class. The discussion should aim to analyze what the artifact reveals about the way we imagine(d) law.

Other Course Details
Prerequisites: None Concurrencies: None
Mutually Exclusive With: None
Laptops Allowed: No
First Day Attendance Required: Yes
Course Resources: To be announced.
Course Notes: The class will meet five times, looking at different cultural artifacts—novels, essays, films—interrogating the relationship of law to those it “rules.” Is ambivalence the most that can be achieved? Should law be celebrated? Should we strive for a world where we can trust law’s authority or should we largely distrust it? The first four classes will discuss materials that the students will be expected to read or view beforehand. For the final class, students will be assigned to teams of two and expected to lead a 15- to 20-minute discussion about a cultural artifact on law chosen by them that the other students can read or view before class. The class will meet starting at 7:30 p.m. on five of the following six evenings (all Thursdays): February 4, February 11, February 18, February 25, March 18, and March 25. Please do not enroll if you have a commitment on any of these evenings after 7:10 p.m.

Graduation Requirements

*Satisfies Writing Requirement: No
**Credits For Prof. Skills Requirement: No
Satisfies Professional Ethics: No

*Yes means professor requires everyone in the course to submit a substantial research paper (which is the requirement standard in Academic Policies), so no paperwork required to be submitted to SRO. No means student must timely submit paperwork to SRO if intending to use a paper in this course to satisfy the Writing Requirement.

**Yes indicates course credits count towards UVA Law’s Prof. Skills graduation requirement, not necessarily a skills requirements for any particular state bar.

Schedule No.
Law No.
Modified Type
Cross Listed: No
Cross-Listed Course Mnemonic:
Public Syllabus Link: None
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Opens: Wednesday, March 17, 12:01 AM
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Closes: Friday, March 26, 11:59 PM