Law, Language and Classification (Prof. C.M. Hutton)
Classification is a basic feature of human thinking and reasoning; it pervades our informal understanding of the world, as well as more explicit cultural and intellectual systems. This course examines law as a set of operations and procedures for classifying the world, for allocating things, events, and people to legal categories. This may involve mundane categories such as vehicle or vegetable, as well as fundamental categories of identity such as woman or Sikh. One key focus is the complex role of language in this process, in particular law’s use of the categories of ordinary language as a default classification system. When faced with a difficult issue of classification, law has a number of strategies open to it. For example, judges frequently consult dictionaries when unsure of the scope of an ordinary word. Alternatively, they rely on their own linguistic intuitions, on juries, on expert opinion, or on definitions established in related cases. The course will consist in the close reading of key legal decisions in the form of reported cases. Students will be required to present one case analysis to the class, and complete a final research essay on a particular theme or domain of case law.
This colloquium will feature critical, creative, and interdisciplinary work in the relatively new field of “Life Writing.” The act of identifying and “telling lives,” that is, shedding light on the histories and lives otherwise invisible, touches internationally upon interdisciplinary fields and sub-fields: for instance, life writing, creative writing, literature, anthropology, psychology, history, film-making, photography, documentary, and more.
Cultural negotiations, interpretations, and indeterminacies make the sites of biography, memoir, and life writing, more widely, continually seductive and unstable. We ask, what are the prevailing assumptions of “possible lives” that a local culture asks us to tell? What are the discourses and limitations, at any given moment, for telling the history, story, poem, or artwork of a “life”? As Jerome Bruner queries, when do we “become the narratives by which we ‘tell about’ our lives”?
Secret Codes, Hidden Messages (Dr. Adrian Pablé)
In this colloquium we will look at secret languages and other semiotic resources as used by both human and non-human communities (e.g. angels) in both writing, speech (and thought transfer). We will consider the general characteristics of secret codes and ponder the question what makes them 'codes' in the first place (and how they can be 'decoded'). Students will conduct their own studies of the languages used by certain professions, societies or cults with particular reference to how they function as means of cryptic and clandestine communication. Examples of such secret codes are the 'lingua ignota' devised by Hildegard of Bingen, the Masonic cyphers, the (Navajo) code talkers, but also supernatural/divine communication.
Last updated: 25 July 2016