Introduction to the Rhetoric of Legal Discourse
160 | CCN: 77941
Instructor: Nancy Weston
Date / Time: MW 4-530P, 215 DWINELLE
How do we speak of, and to, law? …And how does law speak to us?
Inquiry into the rhetoric of legal discourse – the speech of law – asks both of these at once, for its central concern is the question of law’s articulability, the possibility of law’s relation to language.
Exploring this relation, we shall be drawn to consider a range of legal topics and sites of law’s articulation, including statutes, constitutions, and their interpretation and application in substantive legal fields, as well as accounts of how sense is derived from legal words, and theories of how legal provisions come to be constructed, interpreted, and heeded.
Throughout, we shall devote sustained attention to the underlying conceptions of law, and of language, upon which these legal theories, activities, and undertakings proceed, bringing them to take the course that they do: What is law, that it should speak (or be spoken) at all, and in what way? And what is language, that it should articulate law’s guidance – and how might it do so?
Attending thoughtfully to these questions, we shall become attuned to the distinctive understandings of the nature of law, of language, and of their relation that underlie and guide legal discourse.
As we come to wonder at the ground, sense, and implications of these decisive understandings, we shall find ourselves drawn to engage with significant questions in the philosophy of law and of language, as these are jointly illuminated in the inquiry into the rhetoric of legal discourse.
Prior coursework in philosophy is not required; an openness to its challenges is.
Please note: The course is intensive, and attendance is obligatory. Students are advised to plan their schedules accordingly. All students interested in taking this class — whether pre-enrolled, wait-listed, or neither — should attend the first class meeting, at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, August 26 in 215 Dwinelle Hall.
In planning their schedules, students should be aware that wide-ranging collective discussions, often lasting an hour or more, generally occur after the Wednesday class meetings. In past classes, students have found these informal but intense discussions to be of substantial help in coming to terms with difficult material encountered in the course. You may therefore wish to plan your schedule so as to be able to attend these sessions. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the course.