Research Hall 201
Section Information for Fall 2017
Over the course of history individuals or groups of individuals have been charged with and brought to trial for a wide variety of criminal (or civil) offenses: heresy, witchcraft, demonic possession, lycanthropy, assault and battery, murder, manslaughter, rape, sodomy, treason, assassination, infanticide, defamation, bigamy, seditious libel, bribery, sabotage, rebellion/insurrection, conspiracy, robbery, smuggling, forgery, genocide, corruption, arson, kidnapping, espionage, subversion, immorality, obscenity—the list is virtually inexhaustible. These alleged offenses have been adjudicated under different legal traditions, notions of justice, and systems of jurisprudence, with varying standards and burdens of proof, and before one type of tribunal or another. The drama in the courtroom frequently crystallizes certain social, cultural, and/or political issues of the period. The study of trials, including the legal reasoning and storytelling they often entail and the way in which they were constructed and debated in public discussion at the time, can offer a window into the community in which they took place and shed light on all sorts of otherwise hidden facets of a society's fundamental beliefs, customs, and cultural values as well as prevailing social relations and economic conditions. Students in this seminar will be expected to select one criminal trial, or a group of related criminal trials, from any period of European or American history prior to 1960, to examine in some depth and write a 25-30 page research paper, with footnotes, on the main political, social, and/or cultural themes—and key legal issues—raised by the trial(s) chosen for investigation. The papers should be based largely on primary sources and involve a close analysis and interpretation of the available documentary evidence, but they should also show a familiarity with, and make a contribution to, current scholarship found in the pertinent secondary literature. The first few weeks of the seminar will be devoted to group discussion of common readings on the study of trials and to the selection of research topics. Most of the rest of the course will be spent on research and writing, including (toward the end of the semester) classroom presentations and peer critiques of penultimate drafts.
Enrollment is limited to students with a major in Cultural Studies, Education (Community College) or History.
Enrollment is limited to Graduate or Non-Degree level students.
Students in a Non-Degree Undergraduate degree may not enroll.