School of Law

LAW6016 Law and Literature: The Foundation of Law


One hallmark of Western modernity is perpetual crises about the legitimacy with which power is exerted over law. With William Shakespeare, a literary tradition emerges not to systematise, but to problematise the discourses used to assert the legitimacy with which control over law and government is exercised. Basic notions of 'right', 'duty', 'justice' and 'power' combine in discrete, but always encumbered ways, to generate a variety of legitimating discourses. Whilst legal scholars' interest in Shakespeare has often focused on conventional legal rules and procedures, Shakespeare also explores the conditions for the very possibility of a legal system. What is the 'rule of law'? What is required for law or justice to prevail? What undermines them? This course examines, through literature, the claims by which law is declared to be legitimately or illegitimately founded.




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