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Card-index course

The Legal Imagination in Renaissance England

Responsible Faculty: Faculty of Arts

Teacher(s): Kevin Curran
Lecturer(s): -

Validity: 2017 -> 2017

No timetable defined.


Autumn semester
2 hours per week
28 hours per semester

Teaching language(s): English
Public: Yes
Credits: 5.00


That law was a literary and political obsession in the English Renaissance is, perhaps, not terribly surprising. After all, legal concepts such as judgment, citizenship, personhood, punishment, and forgiveness lie at the very heart of how human collectives understand themselves socially and morally, and in the Renaissance period these modes of self-identification were being drastically reshaped by religious conflicts, colonial encounters, and new philosophical ideas about the nature of life. For writers like Thomas More, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and Thomas Hobbes, law emerges as much more than a collection of rules and regulations or a loose conglomerate of institutions. Instead, law for these writers represents a potent imaginative resource for confronting some of the most vexing questions of their day. With this in mind, our job in this course will be to pursue three goals. First, we will try to establish some of the unique literary characteristics of each writer's engagement with legal concepts. Second, we will explore the historical underpinnings of the emergence of a uniquely Renaissance legal imagination. Third, we consider how Renaissance literature helps us think through present-day debates about the nature of justice.

Texts We Will Read (All Available at "Books, Books, Books"):
Thomas More, Utopia (Penguin), selections
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book Five (Hackett) William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (Oxford)
William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale (Oxford)
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Norton), selections

Additional information


Canton de Vaud
Swiss University
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