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The Private Sector’s Pivotal Role in Combating Human Trafficking

17 Feb 2012 04:20pm Jonathan Todres 

Law School for Poets

17 Feb 2012 04:19pm Melissa Murray 

Teaching Property Law and What It Means to Be Human

17 Feb 2012 04:09pm Rose Cuison Villazor 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section  on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

Why do I include films, art and novels in the study of property law? The reason for this, as I argue in this Essay, is quite simple. I contend that deploying these materials in the classroom deepens my students' understanding of property law. The study of property law, as scholars have noted, is essentially what it means "to be human." Indeed, one of the established conceptual views of property is that it is a system of law that "concern relations among people regarding control of valued resources." Through the use of movies, books, and paintings, I am able to delve more deeply into people's lives and relationships and the various factors that influenced their competing claims to property. Specifically, through these cultural media, I emphasize the role that different factors-social, cultural, historical, economic and legal-play in shaping people's interactions with each other regarding things that each contends to be her own. In other words, films, novels, and art, among others, highlight the human stories behind the cases and provide context to the conflicting sense of entitlement to property in the cases that students are learning. This deeper understanding about the legal issues and the forces that led to the property conflict help to prompt more robust discussions about property law.

Teaching Humanities Softly: Bringing a Critical Approach to the First-Year Contracts Class Through Trial and Error

17 Feb 2012 04:04pm Ariela J. Gross 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

I think it is fair to say that Contracting Law was the first (and it may be the only) critical race feminist Contracts casebook. It is also the only Contracts casebook that I know of that attempts to engage the humanities. It is filled with poems and excerpts of novels, in addition to law review articles from a variety of viewpoints. It didn't even look like other casebooks. It was bigger and heavier and the typeface was large enough to read easily. My students hated it.

They hated that it was different. They hated that there were things in it that were "not law." They hated that it appeared to have a perspective. And they hated every time our class appeared to depart from "black letter" law. The literary excerpts elicited not empathy but derision. When assigned O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," and John Elemans' "The Gift Economy," they did not probe deeper into the bargain-gift distinction. Assigned a chapter from The Grapes of Wrath, they did not make the connection between farmers in the Great Depression and the plaintiffs in a promissory estoppel case, Standish v. Curry. Reading bell hooks' "Homeplace: A Site of Resistance," and Denise Chavez's "The Wedding" did not make them think more carefully about the emotional distress arising from contract breach and the exclusion of emotional distress damages. Student evaluations said things like, "I didn't pay $35,000 a year to read poetry." Clearly, I was doing something wrong. My ambition to integrate a humanities approach to introductory legal studies had obviously fallen flat.

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