Unusual Law School Classes
I recently posted about a law school course about wine, only to discover that it’s not all that unusual. That got me thinking fondly of my days in law school, where there were many unusual courses – probably due to the fact I went to Yale. I located my old course bulletins, and here are 10 of my favorite unusual courses from those bulletins.
I also thought I’d invite readers who went to law school, are now in law school, or who are teaching in law school, to post in the comments their favorite unusual law school classes. And I thought I’d make a quiz out of this too.
· Favorite Unusual Courses: Please post in the comments some of the unusual courses from where you teach or where you went to school. Please be sure to indicate the law school where the course is taught. Any links to online course listings, if available, would be helpful to verify that the courses are indeed real. In the alternative, feel free to email the courses and descriptions to me.
· Quiz: A bit of puzzleblogging (inspired by the Volokh Conspiracy): Can you guess who taught these courses? Below the courses, I provide a list of instructors to select from. Extra credit: I took two of the ten courses below — guess which ones. Winner’s Prize: A whole lot of nothing.
Courses from the Yale Law School Bulletin
1. ART, LOVE, AND POWER: A PHILOSOPHY OF AMERICAN LAW
If morality is defined as recognition of the limits imposed upon one, then good law is an effective moral force. This seminar will explicate such a view and apply it to U.S. society.
2. BEARING WITNESS
In many law school courses, the primary focus is on law itself. In others, one or more of the law’s dramatis personae take center stage—the judge, the jury, the lawyer, the legislature, and occasionally even the litigant. This seminar will focus on an oft overlooked player – the witness – and on the very idea of witnessing.
3. THE LAW AND ECONOMICS OF ART AND MORTALITY
This seminar will examine, with the aid of economic analysis, two problems of international importance involving divided property rights. The first is the scope of the rights held by the original artist, and those held by the government or public, in works of art. The second is the institution of the trust. . . .
Many theoreticians today insist that political and legal phenomena be analyzed from the perspective of power. The political order, they say, cannot be adequately comprehended within the classical norms of reason and virtue. This seminar will trace the origin and development of the modern analytic of power, beginning with readings from Machiavelli and Hobbs. A considerable portion of the class will be spent on Neitzsche. . . .
5. TRAGIC CHOICES
A consideration of those choices which a society cannot avoid making, whether explicitly or implicitly, but which, however made, undermine fundamental values of that society. Three paradigmatic situations (allocation of artificial kidneys, service in a limited war, and population control) will be discussed. . . .
6. IS CONSTITUTIONAL LAW LAW?
This course assumes (1) that law postulates coherence, communicability, and reasonable impersonality; and (2) that reasonable impersonality is a higher standard than the possibility that, given sufficient facts, one can predict at least five votes. Given these assumptions, the challenge will be to produce an analysis (in the form of a paper) that meets such a standard in connection with any constitutional topic sufficiently broad that decisions are both (1) reasonably numerous and (2) not wholly technical.
7. LAW AND GRACE
In the West, we view the rule of law from two qui different perspectives. From one, law expresses the social contract: it rationalizes desire and thus brings stability, peace, and order to the chaos of nature. From the other, law expresses only the conditions of existence after the Fall. Under this tradition, law is not the answer to the problem of the state of nature but is itself a problem, which must be solved by grace. This seminar will explore the second tradition. Readings will include the works of Plato, St. Paul, and Shakespeare.
8. LAW, SECRETS, AND LYING
An examination of the legal treatment in the control of one party and desired by or valuable to another. Examples will be drawn from constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, intellectual property, legal ethics, procedure, securities regulation, and other fields. The politics of concealment, especially the various justifications offered for lying (by the president, by witnesses) to the Congress and American public will also be discussed. . . .
9. LAW AND THE HUMAN SUBJECT
When it comes to understanding the human subject—e.g., how we process information, handle internal conflict, function under conditions of stress, and comprehend the ineffable—our legal system operates at a level of sophistication that pales in comparison to politics, marketing, and even the comic strip Sylvia. This seminar will explore these themes, with particular attention to the prospects and consequences of doing better. Readings will be drawn largely from the cognitive and behavioral sciences.
10. PUBLIC LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD
Where in the modern world are opportunities and occasions for public action to be found? Or is this world, with its bureaucracies and consumerism and privatizing of experience, hostile to public life in all its forms? Has public life in fact disappeared from the world, and if so, what has replaced it? The Revolution of 1989 in Eastern Europe seems to contradict these skeptical musings, and special attention will be paid to that world historical experience. Readings from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arent, Foucault, Weber, Habermas, and others.
List of Instructors
Please note that one professor below might be the correct answer to more than one course. And I’ve thrown in a few professors who do not teach any of the above courses.
(a) Jan Deutsch and J.L. Pottenger, Jr.
(b) Guido Calabresi
(c) Paul Kahn
(d) Akhil Amar
(e) Henry Hansmann
(f) Harlon Dalton
(g) Jules Coleman
(h) Jan Deutsch
(i) Bruce Ackerman
(j) Stephen Carter
(k) Paul Kahn and Anthony Kronman
(l) Owen Fiss and Anthony Kronman
(m) Reva Siegel
By the way, this post isn’t meant to mock these courses. It often isn’t the subject of a course that matters most, but the way that it is taught that has most lasting influence and impact on one’s thinking and legal abilities. This post is not meant to open a debate on whether certain courses are practical enough; nor is it to serve as a forum of disrespectful comments. Please only post answers to the quiz or your favorite unusual courses (from any law school). Thanks.