Course - Law


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This course will provide an introduction to the history of American legal theory in the 20th century.  The 20th century proved an extraordinary time for American law.  The Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and other epochal events spurred major changes to how lawyers, judges, and scholars understood the role of law in politics and society.  This course will study the major schools of American legal theory and how legal theory evolved in response to upheaval in American government and society.  Students will learn about the rise and fall of the major 20th century theoretical approaches to the law, including legal formalism, legal realism, legal process, critical legal studies, and how each approach’s fate fit into broader currents in American history. 


For each class, students will read a set of excerpts from articles of the era under study.  Many of these articles proved extremely influential in shaping how judges, lawyers, and scholars understood the role of law in the political and social life of the 20th century. 

Course Format

Primarily lecture.  Every fourth class or so there will be a discussion.  Two 50-minute classes per week.

Written Assignments

Students will have the option of writing a 25-35 page paper in lieu of the exam.

Type of Exam

Most likely a 24-hour take-home essay exam.

Basis for grading

Exam or paper

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