Interdisciplinary courses taught by us


A collection of courses are offered at HKU to students who are interested in interdisciplinary study of Law and Humanities.

Introductory Interdisciplinary Core Course

LALS2001. Introduction to law and literary studies

Advanced Interdisciplinary Electives

LALS3001. Law and literature
LALS3002. Law, meaning, and interpretation
LALS3003. Language and the law
LALS3004. Law and film
LALS3005. Legal fictions: United States citizenship and the right to write in America
LALS3006. Advanced legal theory
LALS3007. Law, culture, critique

Advanced Interdisciplinary Core Course

LALS5001. Research project in law and literary studies

Introductory Interdisciplinary Core Course

LALS2001. Introduction to law and literary studies (6 credits) (cross-listed as LLAW3188)

This course introduces students to the different ways in which literary and legal texts can interact. Topics include literature as a humanizing supplement to the law, the history of ‘discipline’ as a concept, legal versus literary interpretation, linguistic dimensions of court judgments, confessions, and psychological processes implicit in legal reasoning. The course is deliberately designed as a team-taught course so that students enrolled in the double degree will be exposed to the approaches of different faculty members involved in the programme from an early stage in their academic careers.

Assessment: 100% coursework

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Electives

LALS3001. Law and literature (6 credits) (cross-listed as ENGL2118 and LLAW3128)

Law and literature are cognate disciplines: legal themes and characters recur in fiction, and rhetoric and storytelling arguably form an integral part of legal argumentation. This course will explore the relationship between law and literature via an examination of the ways they respond to common issues and problems. We will look at how the law has been represented in a literary context, and will investigate the possibility of interpreting legal material as literary product. Readings will be drawn from fiction, drama, court cases, and critical theory.

Assessment: 100% coursework

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LALS3002. Law, meaning, and interpretation (6 credits) (cross-listed as ENGL2126 and LLAW3161)

In this course law is used as a means of focusing discussion on a range of issues in the study of language, meaning and interpretation. No prior knowledge of law is assumed. The course shows how the interpretative issues that arise in law reflect fundamental questions in the way societies, institutions and individuals assign meaning to words, phrases and texts. Theories of language and meaning derived from linguistics and literary theory are applied to problems in legal interpretation, and models of language, meaning and interpretation developed by legal practitioners and legal theorists analyzed. Of particular interest are cases where social controversy, linguistic interpretation and law intersect, such as ‘hate speech’ issues on American university campuses, arguments over the commercialization of language in trademark law, the control of language on the internet. These cases illustrate the role of law in the politics of language, and the pervasiveness of language politics at all levels of social interaction. Students are introduced to practical and intellectual problems of legal interpretation, and develop their analytical and rhetorical skills through applying general principles and interpretative strategies to difficult or contentious cases.

Assessment: 100% coursework

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LALS3003. Language and the law (6 credits) (cross-listed as ENGL2127 and LLAW3190)

Language, the course shows, plays an essential role both in creating law (e.g. in how specific laws are drafted) and in governing its implementation (e.g. in how language is used – and also contested – in court). In examining how language plays these highly important social roles, the course addresses a wide range of topics, including the different registers and genres which give us our idea of what legal language is; the varieties of language, and communicative strategies, used in the courtroom by speakers fulfilling different roles (judge, barrister, defendant, witness, etc.); how language is deployed and understood in technical ways in legal drafting and interpretation; the use of language data as a specialised kind of evidence submitted in court cases; challenges presented to our notions of law and regulation by new forms of online communication; and linguistic and legal issues that arise in bilingual and multilingual jurisdictions (i.e. in systems that formulate and apply their law in two or more different languages).

Assessment: 100% coursework

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LALS3004. Law and film (6 credits) (cross-listed as LLAW3141)

This elective course introduces students to the cultural study of the law by considering the multiple responses of cinematic texts to legal events. How are lawyers and legal institutions represented on the screen, and what does that tell us about the law? Is there a jurisprudential subtext to film? How do films attempt to capture traumatic events and human rights violations? Readings in jurisprudential theory and film theory will inform our discussion.

Assessment: 100% coursework

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LALS3005. Legal fictions: United States citizenship and the right to write in America (6 credits) (cross-listed as AMER2046 and LLAW3226)

In 1776, the idea of self-evidence grounded the philosophical assertion that “all men are created equal.” And yet, political, economic and social equality in the democratic republic of the United States has often proven less of a guarantee and more of a promise. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the “Declaration of Independence,” the recognition of a person as fully human in the United States has depended on assumptions regarding race, class and gender. The course examines the changing definition of United States citizenship by putting legal texts (the U.S. Constitution, federal and state laws, Executive Orders, Supreme Court decisions) in dialogue with literary writings and film. In this course we will read stories by people whom federal and or state law barred from full citizenship. Through autobiographies, fiction, poetry and speeches, we will examine the cultural legacy of legal terms such as “domestic dependent nation,” “illegal alien” and “unlawful enemy combatant.” The course themes may include: property and democracy, slavery, westward expansion and Indian Removal, immigration (with particular focus on China and Asia), the right of women to vote, and the wartime powers of the Executive Office. Our goal will be to pay careful attention to the language and genres of the American legislative and judicial system, and conversely to contextualize literature in relation to the legal history through which the U.S. Constitution has been reinterpreted and amended to broaden its terms of equality. We will read writers who used words to protest against and revise the historical circumstances in which they had to fight for legal standing. We will also consider how different kinds of writing — legal, scientific, autobiographical and fictional — employ different rhetorical strategies to reach audiences, affect readers and influence the world.

Assessment: 100% coursework

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LALS3006. Advanced legal theory (6 credits) (cross-listed as LLAW3205)

This course will provide a sustained and in-depth analysis of a central overarching theme in legal theory. The theme may vary from year to year. The inaugural theme is Law and the common good. The theme will be explored through a range of material and disciplinary approaches. These will include conventional scholarly texts in law, politics and philosophy, but will also draw on nonstandard resources including art, poetry, film, and literature. The purpose of the thematic approach is to provide a coherence to the study of several perennial problems in legal theory. By working in a sustained way through a range of questions and perspectives associated with the overarching theme, students will gain a deeper knowledge of legal theoretical issues. The theme Law and the common good has been chosen to allow students to engage with certain key claims that are made on behalf of contemporary law and legal institutions, namely that they strive to or do in fact embody a common good or set of goods. Whether and how that embodiment operates, according to what conditions and under what limitations are questions to be explored through a series of engagements with texts, contexts, representations and contestations. Topics to be covered under the theme may include: historical lineages of law and the common good: Aristotle and Aquinas; measuring the common good: rights v utility; how can law reflect the 9 common good; pluralism, democracy and the common good; contesting commonality: whose commons, which goods; identity and voice: protest and political trials; overcoming social division: memory and the politics of reconciliation; authority, obligation and allegiance; the new commons and the global public good. This list is not exhaustive. [Note: Students are advised to study “LLAW3001 Introduction to legal theory” (a compulsory course in the LLB curriculum) before studying “LALS3006 Advanced legal theory”.]

Assessment: 100% coursework

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LALS3007. Law, culture, critique (6 credits) (cross-listed as LLAW3225)

Since the 1960s a vibrant, radical and controversial strand in legal studies has sought to explore the, often obscured, political and ideological commitments of the legal system. This critical tradition within the law has taken many forms and draws insights from psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, post-colonial studies and literary criticism. In the main, the focus of this work has been to expose the political values that underlie the supposedly “neutral” operations of law. In recent years, cultural and aesthetic practices – novels, poetry, music, art, film and images – have become a privileged resource for many critical lawyers. This is for two reasons. Firstly, it is argued that cultural and artistic media are all capable of revealing the all-too-often suppressed desires, symptoms and victims of legal structures and decisions. It is argued that, by approaching how the law deals with injustice, violence or punishment (for example) through novels, art or film, a subtler and richer account of these key legal problematics might be developed. Secondly, it is argued that cultural products and practices are in themselves potential sites of radical transformation. Scholars argue that an artwork – whether an image, novel, poem or sculpture – is capable of putting the viewer/reader’s very sense of who they are and how they live and relate to others into question. In this sense art opens a space for legal and political possibilities beyond our current arrangement. This turn to cultural and aesthetic material within legal studies has produced exciting interdisciplinary projects in “law and literature,” “law and film,” “law and art,” and “law and music.” Such interdisciplinary approaches to the law seek to understand extant legal institutions, concepts and practices in a broad context, accounting for the cultural life of legality. This course introduces students to some of the most important claims of this interdisciplinary legal scholarship and assesses these concerns in the context of legal critique. To what extent do novels, poetry, art and music contribute to our understanding of legal practices, concerns or concepts? How might cultural products and practices expose the political commitments that underlie the legal system? Might a turn to the aesthetic and the cultural constitute a quietism in the face of injustice and oppression? And to what extent is the “culture industry” – the supposed site of potential emancipation – itself the product of corrupting or corrupted forces and interests? This course assesses these questions in an effort to understand the critical potential of cultural artefacts, materials and practices for legal studies. In assessing a range of topics, we will put academic opinion and debate into conversation with some cultural artefact, whether a novel or short story; a film; art work; or a mode of creative praxis, like improvisation. This course intends to broaden the scholarly horizons of law students and provide participants with valuable cross-disciplinary reading, rhetorical and evaluative skills.

Assessment: 100% coursework

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Core Course

LALS5001. Research project in law and literary studies (6 credits) (cross-listed as LLAW3189)

The final-year research project enables students to pursue their individual interests in any aspect of the intersection between literary and legal discourses under the supervision of a faculty member. The project will culminate in an extended essay of approximately 5,000 words. Students are expected to 10 meet with their supervisors regularly and to present their work-in-progress to their supervisors in the course of the semester.

Assessment: 100% research paper
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For more details, please check the website for students of the programme:
Bachelor of Arts (Literary Studies) and Bachelor of Laws (BA&LLB).