Spring 2018


Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-320

Formerly listed as: LJST-20


Austin D. Sarat (Section 01)


(Analytical Seminar) Murder is the most serious offense against the legal order and is subject to its most punitive responses.  It gives meaning to law by establishing the limits of law’s authority and its capacity to tame violence.  Murder is, in addition, a persistent theme in literature and popular culture where it is used to organize narratives of heroism and corruption, good and evil, fate and irrational misfortune.  This course considers murder in law, literature, and popular culture.

We will examine the legal definition of homicide and compare that crime with other killings which law condemns (assisted suicide) as well as those it tolerates (killing in self-defense) or itself carries out (police use of lethal force and capital punishment).  We will explore various types of murders (e.g. school shootings, terrorism, serial killing and genocide) and inquire into the motives of those who commit these acts.  In addition, we will consider representations of murder in literature and film.  Can such representations ever adequately capture murder, the murderer, and the fear that both arouse?  In addition to numerous court cases, course materials will include Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, Toni Morrison, Beloved, and Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem as well as such films as Menace 2 Society, Unforgiven, and Silence of the Lambs. Throughout, we will ask what we can learn about law and culture from the way both imagine, represent, and respond to murder.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Sarat.

If Overenrolled: professor will seek a mix of majors and class years


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022