By Professor Elaine Ho
This academic year sees the launch of the double degree in BA (Literary Studies) & LLB. Many of our alumni who are now legal professionals had a first degree in English. In US and until recently in Australian universities, students who want to do law must have a first degree in the Humanities. Over the years, many of our local students have told us that they want to do both subjects but were forced, for institutional and personal reasons, to choose between them. Now, with the new double degree, some of them who really want to pursue their interests in both subjects can do so!
In launching this double degree, we also connect up with the Law and Literature movement that has established itself in overseas universities including Princeton, Yale, NYU, London, Cambridge, Warwick, and McGill. Many universities also have law and literature courses in their programmes. Scholars in the movement have developed a variety of interdisciplinary connections between law and literary studies, for example, analyzing famous texts from a legal perspective, and reading legal theories, cases, and documents to show how they are shaped by principles of narrative, character, plot. Both literary studies and law share a common focus in textual study and rhetoric. From this focus, the law and literature movement has crossed disciplinary boundaries in order to draw from the resources of different humanities disciplines and to bring them to bear on the study of larger ethical and sociocultural forces that inform literary and legal texts.
The BA (Literary Studies) will include courses from all four Schools in the Faculty of Arts. One unique feature of this double degree that is not currently available in the other double degrees with Law is our interdisciplinary courses: Law and Literature; Language, Meaning, and Law; Legal Discourse and the Mind; Law and Film. In these courses, students will actually learn what it means to be interdisciplinary: the perspectives, approaches, methodology that they can adopt and adapt in their own readings of texts. These courses have already been taught for several years before the launch of the double degree this September. They have attracted keen student interest, brought together a number of colleagues in both Arts and Law, and built a solid foundation for the double degree. At the research level, we have organized an international colloquium in June 2010, and an edited collection of essays, Reading the Legal Case: Towards a Dialogue Between Law and the Humanities, will soon be published by Routledge.
This September we welcomed the first cohort of students into the double-degree programme in Literary Studies and Law. We are very excited by this new joint endeavour, and welcome your responses and views that can help us develop this truly interdisciplinary programme.