Spring 2022

Legal Ghosts

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-223

Moodle site: Course


Lindsay Stern (Section 01)


What is it like to be legally dead? How does this peculiar condition inform the way the law defines personhood? This course examines the role of civil death, or “civiliter mortuus” in making and unmaking juridical identity. We will read key works by Hannah Arendt, Franz Kafka, Toni Morrison, and Shakespeare in addition to secondary texts by Michelle Alexander, Colin Dayan, Percival Everett, John Mbiti, and Orlando Patterson. Along the way, we will attend to the ancient and medieval cultural techniques that survive in modern legal practices. How do these ghostly residues condition law’s perennial attempt to determine who counts as a subject? Guiding our investigation will be the question of how—primarily but not exhaustively through the figures of the slave and the contemporary prisoner—the living haunt the law, and vice versa.

Limited to 20 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Instructor Stern.

Class will meet twice a week for 80 minutes.

If Overenrolled: Priority given to LJST majors


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022