November 17, 2004

Proposal to the CRC for a Legal Studies Concentration (#55)


A number of faculty members, both those with and without education in the law, have discerned a common interest in the intersection of law and humanistic studies such as philosophy, literature, oratory, and history. At the same time, we have become aware that students realize these areas of knowledge have connections, both academic and professional, and are interested in studying them. Thus, this proposal outlines a concentration that unites such areas as the philosophy of law, the rhetorical aspects of legal discourse, and the legal analysis of literary texts (and vice versa), topics which, if taught at all, are usually taught in separate departments at Furman.

The use of the term “concentration” is itself employing a bit of “legal fiction” in this proposal. We realize that a concentration is one way of grouping thematically related courses in a program of study, and that there are other ways. We are referring to the plan as a “concentration” merely to work within Furman’s current system, and are open to other programmatic modes that may suit this idea.


If a concentration connects related courses, what is the connection here? And what is the purpose of connecting them? First, we believe that “legal studies” is one way of engaging in humanistic study that encompasses a broad spectrum of human life and knowledge. Operating under the law is one of the few true commonalities that applies to any given person in a society. To a large extent, a legal system is responsible for expressing and implementing a society’s moral and political values. The law thus explicitly or implicitly raises moral, political, philosophical, and even theological questions about human values. Law defines and regulates relationships between and among people and institutions, addresses social, political, and economic issues, among others, and attempts to do so by creating a rational framework with a consistent underlying philosophy. Therefore, understanding legal systems requires understanding their history, development, function in particular cultures, and social roles. In addition, understanding the law requires understanding the role that oratory and rhetoric, inductive and deductive reasoning, and the interpretation of legal texts plays in the life of the law. Modes of reasoning and categorizing information are distinguished; analogies are drawn between sets of facts; past events are analyzed to legislate future events; and judgments of what is “right” and “wrong” are supported with different kinds of arguments. All of these cognitive processes, bodies of knowledge, and skills are part of what makes up an individual fully equipped to participate in civic life: to support and behave in accordance with laws that we understand to be just, to participate in the political process and legal system knowledgeably and responsibly, and to discern and promote the betterment of a community.

The law thus raises a number of interesting and profound questions that require a number of different courses and academic disciplines to adequately address. We would like to take advantage of the ways in which our different fields support and compliment one another to work toward creating such educated, active citizens.

As of yet, we have not addressed the rationale that might seem obvious for a Legal Studies concentration: that of the student intending to go to law school. This concentration is not meant to be a pre-professional track. Part of the purpose of the concentration is to insist on the presence of legal philosophy, analysis, speech, and history throughout human culture, not to train students ahead of time in the information or classroom models they will encounter in law school. While the program would be beneficial for the law school bound, as we have indicated, our purposes and scope encompass much more.


The concentration would consist of five courses, some of which are already in place at Furman (see below) and some of which could be developed. A capstone course of directed interdisciplinary research would be the fifth course, requiring students to integrate their studies and produce an article-length essay or study of some legal issue, not as a case to be decided, but as a matter that affects and is affected by the larger aspects of the human community.

The Strategic Plan indicates Furman’s desire “to cultivate habits of the mind and heart that have at their core intellectual energy and curiosity.” We think that developing habits of considering and critiquing the governing principles and practices of our society further both the ends of intellectual maturity and civic responsibility.

Relevant Courses

In Communication Studies:

  • Argument
  • Persuasive Speaking
  • Introduction to Rhetoric
  • Rhetorical Criticism
  • American Public Address
  • Political Communication
  • Communication Law

Courses to be developed could include

  • The Rhetoric of Law
  • Courtroom Oratory

In Economics:

  • Population, Economy and Society
  • Public Finance
  • Government and Business

In Business Administration:

  • Business Law

In English:

  • Shakespeare (adapted to “Law in Shakespeare”)

Courses to be developed could include

  • Law in Literature
  • Narrative and Literary Style in Legal Writing

In History:

  • Many of the History department offerings currently are applicable in their teaching of governmental systems and historical development.

In Philosophy:

  • Logic
  • Ethics
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Philosophy of Gender
  • Law, Justice and the State
  • Philosophy of Law

In Political Science:

  • Civil Rights and the U.S. Constitution
  • Interest Groups and Political Movements
  • Racial and Ethnic Politics
  • Women and Politics
  • Media and Politics
  • Comparative politics courses dealing with non-U.S. politics
  • Politics of Religious Movements
  • Political Parties
  • Classical Political Thought
  • Modern Political Thought
  • American Political Thought

Courses to be developed could include:

  • Human Rights Law
  • Law and Gender

In Sociology:

  • Law and Society
Posted by mfairbairn at November 17, 2004 03:57 PM
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