This course is an introduction to linguistic and rhetorical study of the law. Rather than taking literature as our object of study, we will take the documents created and used in the legal world. Our focus will be on written texts, and on learning to analyze some of those texts. We’ll begin by becoming familiar with appellate decisions, a prototypical legal text, and one that travels beyond the legal world into other settings. We’ll also learn something about precedent and why it’s important in law and legal interpretation. Then we’ll learn something about how to use legal resources. These tools will be necessary for all of your assignments in this course.
We’ll examine both civil and criminal law. We will study how language figures into both criminal prosecutions and civil trial. We will then spend some time learning how lawyers learn the language of the law in law school. No prior legal knowledge is expected.