CANG 9176 OBJECTION, YOUR HONOR! TRIALS AND THEIR AFTERLIFE IN THE US
Targeted Skills: research and investigation in English (reading, listening), rhetoric of explanation, questioning and persuasion (speaking), briefing notes and summaries (writing).
Whether it be the almost sacred reverence bestowed on the Constitution, the life-changing impact of Supreme Court decisions, civil law suits worth millions or the sentences imposed on daytime TV by Judge Judy, law and the judiciary is ever-present in US culture. After a brief overview of the judicial system, we will be focusing on several high-profile trials that captured the imagination and moral heartbeat of the US, and sometimes incited indignation or a sense of triumph the whole world over. Cases such as the Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial that prosecuted an Alabama high-school teacher for teaching evolution; the trial of the Rosenbergs for treason in the midst of the Cold War, accused of helping the Soviets access the secrets of Atomic energy; the notorious murder trial of the hugely famous US footballer, O.J. Simpson, on the charges of killing his wife and a male friend, that dominated TV news for over a year in the 1990s. We will explore the trials themselves through a rich array of both primary and secondary sources: transcripts of court proceedings, press reports at the time and/or TV news reports, extracts from novels or written works, such as Truman Capote’s true-crime book In Cold Blood, songs, films or other artworks. We will also consider them both in their historical context and in relation to current debates.
In addition to the wide range of source material we will be looking at, courtroom procedures – cross-examination, arguments for the defense and prosecution, the judge’s summing up, the deliberation of the jury – all offer great possibilities for speaking and writing English. In class, we will be setting up our own special Appeals Court to re-consider the evidence presented to the jury and the decisions they came to. Students will be tasked with researching a particular case and practicing their oratory skills during short reconstitutions and subsequent debates.
- Class project: small groups will research and reconstitute a famous trial
- Individual exam (written and/or oral) based on the whole module
- Investment in the course – doing all pre-class work as well as participating actively in class discussions and exercises – will also count towards the final grade.
Exact weighting to be defined.