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Topic for the 2018 Junior-Senior Honors Seminar (English 398) Announced

English majors who have taken at least two upper-division English courses are invited to apply for the Fall 2018 Junior-Senior Honors Seminar (English 398). The topic for Fall 2018’s seminar is “Law and Literature.” The seminar will be taught by Dr. Lisi Schoenbach. Here is a brief description of the course:


Law and Literature are two subjects that have long had, in Richard Posner’s words, “a misunderstood relation,” and this course will begin to address some of their key connections and misunderstandings. Though we will read a few of the literary works most noted for their reflections on the law and legal questions (including Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Kafka’s The Trial, and Melville’s Billy Budd), we will also look in more unexpected places to examine the philosophical, theoretical, political, and aesthetic intersections of law and literature. We will consider debates within legal theory. We will read seminal legal opinions such as Brown v. Board of Education, using the tools of literary analysis. And we will read literary texts less commonly considered in this context, including recent novels from J.M. Coetzee and China Miéville. This course will serve both as an introduction to law and humanities scholarship and a chance to reflect on how literary texts construct different understandings of the law through their various approaches to concepts such as duty, norms, contracts, justice, and fairness.


English 398 fulfills the “Special Topics/Capstone” requirement for English majors. Although priority will be given to Honors students, all majors who have taken two or more 300- or 400-level English courses are welcome to apply. Students who take English 398 are not required to continue on with English 498.


Students pursuing Honors in English must: (1) complete a total of 12 credit hours of English honors courses, of which 6 should be English 398 and English 498; (2) earn an A or B in English 398 and 498; (3) have a 3.25 overall GPA or better; (4) have a 3.5 or better GPA in the major.


Applications for English 398 should be submitted to 311 McClung Tower or e-mailed to Pamela Whaley ( by Friday, 4/20, and can be found online at


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