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>>Course Schedule<<

The calendar is an educated guess outlining the various activities we will undertake. Small or significant changes will be announced in class so that you can alter our tentative class plan as needed. If you are absent and if changes are made, you are still responsible for those changes. Print and bring all articles to class on day(s) they are to be discussed, and of course you should have read them prior to our discussion of them.

Class sessions
Topics & Deadlines

Week 1: Aug. 27

Introduction to class and each other.

Review class policies and what we will be doing.

Meet Thursday in the Honors Commons (library basement)

Syllabus, in its entirety

Week 2: Sept. 3

What is the law? What should law do? How should law do it?

Due midnight Monday, Sept. 3: response to WanderingRocks

  • Kahn introduction
  • Booth's essay on education, "What's Supposed to Be Going on Here?"
  • Sarat's introduction

Week 3: Sept. 10

What is the law? What should law do? How should law do it?

  • "The Rule of Law"
  • Deductive or Inductive?
  • Natural law?
  • A constitution. THE Constitution.
Due Tuesday, Sept. 11: Writing response no. 1 (prompts here; .pdf download)

Week 4: Sept. 17

Reason and Will | The individual and the law

Leif Carter scenario

Week 5: Sept. 24

Reason and Will continued

NO CLASS Thursday: BC in Tuscaloosa

Due Thursday, Sept. 27: Writing response no. 2 (see handout), turned into Laughlin 101 (main office)

Week 6: Oct. 1

Law as performance: The courtroom as cave wall

Special guest on Thursday: Brian Bojo, The Cave/courtroom wall and the rules of evidence

For funsies:

Due Thursday, Oct. 4: Writing response no. 3 (prompts here)

Week 7: Oct. 8

The rhetoric of law | Law as literature

Due Tuesday, Oct. 9: Comment to BC's blog post on "the rule of law"

Due Thursday, Oct. 11: Writing response no. 4 (prompts here)

  • Robert Ferguson's "The Judicial Opinion as a Literary Genre"
  • James Boyd White's "Law as Rhetoric" and "Meaning What You Say"

Week 8:Oct. 15

NO CLASS: BC at the University of Glasgow Fall break!! Woohoo!!

Week 9:Oct. 22

Law and Everyday Life

Due Tuesday, Oct. 23: Writing response no. 5 (prompts here)

  • Ewick and Silbey, The Common Place of Law
  • Kitty Calavita "Law in the Everyday, Everywhere" (ch. 3 of Invitation to Law & Society)

Week 10: October 29

Law and Contemporary Contexts:
Human trafficking, torture, terror and democracy

Special guest -- Paul "Roddy" Llewellyn, former detective with the Metropolitan Police (London)

Week 11: Nov. 5

Law and Contemporary Contexts:Race, Class and Culture, Billy Moore's visit to campus

Speaking Thursday, Nov. 8, 7pm, Science Auditorium: Rev. Billy Moore and Dean Jack Boger: Race & Capital Punishment

Due Tuesday, Nov. 6, 9am: Comment to BC's blog post on the Roddy Llewellyn discussion

Instructions for your capstone projects here (.pdf download)

  • Haywood Burns, "Race Discrimination: Law and Race in America", 89-95
  • David Oshinsky, chapter 6, "The Mirror Test," from Capital Punishment on Trial
  • Reading from The New Yorker magazine: The Caging of America

Week 12: Nov. 12

Gitmo, rendition and democracy | U.S. healthcare and the Constitution | "privacy rights"

Due Tuesday, Nov. 13: Writing response no. 6 (prompts here)

We (really you) will use Thursday's class to organize your capstone projects (a constitution and human trafficking). >>BC's quick list of capstone project resources online. (Both groups meeting in the library)

Week 13: Nov. 19

The Visual Rhetoric of Law (law as image)

Comics | Courtroom dramas | Architecture | Symbolism of law

NO CLASS Thursday: Thanksgiving!!

Week 14: Nov. 26

The Visual Rhetoric of Law (law as image)

Comics | Courtroom dramas | Film

This week meeting in Laughlin 113 (for projection)

Capstone project discussions
For your constitutional project:

  • 12 Angry Men
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • A Few Good Men
  • National Treasure


Week 15: Dec. 3

Wrapping up and finishing out

Capstone project presentations

pepp patty

keep your eyes on the prize!
keep attacking your ignorance!!


This course explores the questions, "What should law do?" and "How should law do it?" Put another way, the course asks what a citizen should look to law to reasonably accomplish, and how law should go about accomplishing these desired outcomes. In so doing, the course seeks to help students think about the nature of law and, in order to think through this critically, to step outside the realm of law.

As part of this pursuit, we will identify and question the assumptions and values implicit in U.S. jurisprudence in particular, realizing that U.S. law is one way to "do law," but not the only way, even in the Western tradition. In exploring what law can or should do, the course also asks students to hone their own understandings of liberty, and to think through notions of sovereignty, power, coercion, citizenship, community and national identity.


Course Introduction

Some of the fun of this course is in examining where we (the first-person plural here refers to U.S. citizens) came from and how we sought to constitute ourselves as a nation, an enterprise that, as John Adams put it, assumes a primacy of and for law. Adams famously said that the United States should be regarded and constituted as a government of laws, not people. More than two centuries later, law could perhaps be described as a sort of secular religion or civic faith. The motion picture "National Treasure" romanticized this sacral relationship in its depiction of the Declaration of Independence as like a biblical scroll, with mystical qualities and hidden, coded meanings.

American identity seems peculiarly dependent on the idea of law and on something we call "the rule of law." Indeed, Americans swear fealty to "the rule of law," though seemingly no two people hold the phrase to mean precisely the same thing. That "the rule of law" could mean so many different things speaks to the fact that the law is neither a matter of revealed truth nor a natural order. Rather, law is "a way of organizing a society under a set of beliefs that are constitutive of the identity of the community and of its individual members" (Paul Kahn, The Cultural Study of Law, 6). The law is a way of understanding that community as both a product of that community's history and as constitutive of a certain kind of existence.

This course, then, seeks to help examine and question the hermetically sealed U.S. legal profession to ask why the law is the particular way it is and not some other way. Legal study in and by law schools is treated as a subject for professionals and practitioners only. Students are taught how to use the law as an accomplished fact, as something to be manipulated. In sharp contrast, this course, as an enterprise in the humanities, will encourage students to think about law as something that isn't fixed, as something that is always changing in relationship to society and culture, and as a way a society sees itself.

The course will also examine, among other things, the relationship between "official law" and the lives of the people the law is supposed to regulate. Why do Americans pay taxes, but routinely speed and jaywalk? Does the law facilitate or slow the growth of, say, technological innovation or scientific development? Why do Americans simultaneously acknowledge inequities in the law and, by and large, obey it, even revere it? The course will ask students to think about how the law changes, including how social forces precipitate legal change, and how as a cultural system the law reflects and embodies the debates and divisions of the culture. That the law is utterly undone and at the same time an accomplished, complete fact is a riddle we will seek to understand.

Specific Learning Outcomes

  • A better understanding of what law is, how it is made, what society looks to law to accomplish, and how law achieves (or fails to achieve) those goals
  • Familiarity with U.S. law's founding documents
  • Critical and close reading skills
  • Ability to read and understand court cases and legal briefs
  • A better understanding of liberty, sovereignty, power, coercion, citizenship, national identity
  • An appreciation for law as literature, as performance, as competition and as culture

Writing requirements

You will be writing throughout the semester, realizing that writing IS thinking. It's difficult to write every day; it's even more difficult to write poorly every day. As your writing improves, so will your thinking, which will produce yet better writing. It is a virtuous cycle.

The course asks you to write in three basic forms or formats: two-page response papers, a deep analysis of roughly 10 pages, and short, discussive comments to the class blog, These various writing assignments will invite you to engage in the pursuit of course goals as outlined above. The response papers should not be considered an informal diary of cryptic, vague thoughts, randomly recalled as they are inspired by a muse. Rather, they should be a deliberate and systematic analysis of ideas written in complete sentences and well-developed paragraphs.

To give you a sense of the kinds of writing you will be doing, below are a few possibilities for writing emphases in your response papers. The list is not comprehensive, but it should help you begin thinking about what to write (and how to write):

    1. 1. Consider significant arguments that cause you to think, to recognize a new perspective on or a new analysis of some idea/issue. In this type of response, you would define what the key idea is and then explain or analyze how and why that idea is significant to other parts of the article or to larger issues under discussion in the class. In this type of paper, you will not re-tell, re-phrase or merely summarize what you have read. Instead, you will explain and analyze what ideas in the passages are provocative, new, troubling, brilliant and/or insightful. Identify and react to these "must be grasped" ideas, concepts and perspectives to retrieve from the article its essential ideas. Include why they are significant.
    2. Think about and comment on some of the implications of one or more specific ideas in the article: implications for other articles we have read and their key ideas; for your own understanding of the idea discussed in the article or for related ideas you have previously held; for values and beliefs related to our law; for your own understanding, values, beliefs, and behaviors as any one or more of those relate to some as part of the question, "What should law do?"
    3. Once we've read a few articles, I will ask you to write about how you see how two or more of the articles or texts interact or intersect. What is it you have noticed? Why is it intellectually engaging? What are some questions and issues that have arisen directly from readings or class discussion that you want to pursue further?

For all of the ideas and themes above, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE NIGHT BEFORE TO WRITE YOUR PAPERS. As Ernest Hemingway put it: “All first drafts are sh--.” And remember rule one of and for writing: “Sit your butt in the chair.”

Revisions of earlier ideas/analyses will also be required. You will get fair warning on when these will be due, and which papers you are to revise. These revisions (think ‘re-VISIONing,’ seeing anew) are critical, both for discussion and for your own journey.

You will get much more help with the writing projects as the semester unfolds.

What you will need (required):
  • The reserve readings, available through the library
  • An open mind

Some key URLs:

  • Stuff you need to know:

    Professor: Dr. Brian Carroll
    Office: Laughlin Hall 100
    Office phone: 368.6944 (anytime)
    Home page:
    Blog: Wandering Rocks

    Office hours: MWF 10-noon; T/R 10-noon| or by appointment | walk-ins welcome


    • Attendance: You are required to be in class. Recognizing that illness or personal problems may, rarely, cause one not to be able to come to class, an absence and/or lateness is allowed before your course grade is affected. Unless credible, extreme circumstances arise that cause more than the one absence or latness, any absence beyond the two will deduct a point from the professionalism-participation portion of the course grade. You are required to bring relevant readings, journal entries and other materials to class as outlined elsewhere on daily syllabus. Failure to have copies of assigned reading materials could also result in professionalism-participation deductions.

    You are required to bring relevant readings, journal entries, and other materials to class as outlined elsewhere on daily syllabus. Failure to have copies of assigned reading materials could also result in professionalism/participation deductions.

    • Distractions: Distractions, including digital devices: I am easily distracted; ringing cell phones, therefore, will be lobbed out of the classroom window or run over with a truck. Texters will be publicly humiliated. Late arrivals will be stared down unmercifully. In short, be professional and civil, pay attention and don't distract anyone, including the professor. If you are unsure as to what "civil" means, the professor is happy to elaborate.

    • Preparation: Complete the assignments and be ready to tackle the activities of the day. Be ready to discuss and debate ideas, approaches and opinions.

    • Deadlines: When an assignment is due, it is due. Turn in whatever has been done by deadline. If we have out-of-class assignments, they will be accepted for up to one week after deadline, but late assignments will be penalized. Remember, penalized work is not necessarily the same as 0 (zero) points. Complete out-of-class assignments and learn from them, even if they are turned in late. After an assignment is more than a week late, however, that work is not eligible for points. Please note: If a student misses a class when an assignment is due and that student has a legitimate excuse, the professor will accept the late assignment without penalty at his discretion. The professor defines what constitutes a legitimate excuse and reserves the right not to grant full credit for assignments turned in under these circumstances.

    Academic integrity: Because academic integrity is the foundation of college life at Berry, academic dishonesty will result in automatic failure on the assignment in question. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following: cheating, unauthorized collaboration, plagiarism, fabrication, submitting the same work in multiple courses, and aiding and abetting. For definitions of these terms, please consult the instructor. Additionally, violators will be reported in writing to the Provost. Students who are sanctioned for violating the academic integrity policy forfeit the right to withdraw from the class with a grade of “W.”

    How you will be graded:

    Leading discussion will make the students experts on at least those few readings on which they are facilitating discussion, and it will inspire participation every week, because they all will have to depend on each other for a vibrant session. This method of being mutually dependent on one another for good class sessions has proven quite effective in other courses. In addition, short reading quizzes will be administered each session (or almost every session), to encourage careful reading.

    Each student post to the class blog, using the medium to respond to readings, discussions, films, speakers, and, of course, each other. In striving to develop critical and analytical thinking skills and habits, students will summarize, evaluate, and engage with ideas they encounter in both the readings and in discussion. The blog format allows more introverted students to thoughtfully express themselves, it facilitates conversation outside the classroom and, therefore, decompresses the contact time, and it promotes better writing (and, therefore, better thinking).

    The course's capstone project will be to devise a system of law for a hypothetical new society, one that wishes to cull from the best thinking of the generations to create the greatest system of law on earth. This project will involve investigation and contemplation, and it will ask students to reason out a solution, basing that solution on philosophical, moral, and legal thought, precedent and practice.

    Response papers 40%
    Final paper 25%
    Discussion participation, including blog posts 15%
    Discussion leadership 10%
    Professionalism 10%

    A theory about human nature and grading: Most human beings turn out average work most of the time. Many can do superior work. Of that many, most could do excellent work. The factors involved are obvious: native intellect, gifts from the gods, interest, desire to succeed, desire to learn, discipline, and shear hard work. The first two are beyond our control. The others are within our control.

    To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

    59 and below

    Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

    Berry Viking code
    Academic dishonesty in any form is unacceptable because any breach in academic integrity, however small, strikes destructively at the college’s life and work. The code is not just policy, it is foundational to the academic environment we enjoy and in which scholarship thrives. It is in force in this classroom.

    For the complete Viking Code, please consult the student handbook. In short, each student is “expected to recognize constituted authority, to abide by the ordinary rules of good conduct, to be truthful, to respect the rights of others.” The College’s mission, in part, commits to a community of integrity and justice. During an era when ethics are sometimes suspect, there seems no higher goal toward which students ought to strive than that of personal honor.

    Students with special needs
    If you have special needs of any kind, including learning disabilities, please let me know. Come discuss it with me. I want to make sure on the front end that we prevent any problems associated with the course. Martha Van Cise, director of the Academic Support Center, suggests: “Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodation in this course are encouraged to contact the Academic Support Center in Krannert Room 301 as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.”

    Finally, I believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, so let’s have some fun!

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