Judges, lawyers, policy makers and others who work in and with the law have a tough job. They must often wade into the most controversial topics on sex and reproductive rights, medical decision making, substance use, firearm rights and regulations, and cutting edge technologies. One might think that these legal expeditions into “hot” topics are entirely rational, governed by established rules and principles. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Emotion is always there as reason’s cognitive companion. The interdisciplinary field of law and emotion challenges the traditional assumption that law can and should be about “reason” alone, which positions emotion and reason as different and adversarial means of engaging with the world. Law is cast as a referee that sidelines emotion. But this is unrealistic; law is a human process and product, and reflects how we experience and make sense of the world. Rather than excluding emotion, therefore, legal actors must routinely make decisions about which emotions belong in which legal contexts, and about how to channel and educate others’ emotions.
This intensive seminar is a focused introduction to and survey of the ways in which emotion can, does, and should affect specific areas of the law. It poses a number of important questions across several contexts. Each day of class will address an individual topic through “case studies” in diverse areas, including the death penalty, firearms law, abortion and reproductive rights, legislative advocacy, law and medicine, judicial decision making, and others. These issues will prompt us to reflect on more thematic questions. What would law look like if it recognized the valuable role that emotion plays in human thought processes? How can law better incorporate a sophisticated understanding of emotion? What role do or should emotions such as fear, disgust, remorse, love, mercy, compassion, and resentment play in the decision-making of judges, lawyers, juries and legislators? Course materials will be diverse, and will include law reviews, book chapters, podcasts, songs, documentaries, and other media. These case studies will help the class to actively engage with contemporary problems, taking a much deeper dive into each topic. Although many of the legal issues to be discussed are controversial, they will be addressed from a neutral perspective, with respect for diversity of opinion. Class discussions will be complemented by guest lectures from individuals whose lives have been affected by these issues, so that we can acquire a more immediate understanding of how law affects our lives in both “rational” and “emotional” ways.
This course is eligible for honors credit through Hutton Honors College.
GenEd Information: See the GenEd Website for information about courses approved for the IU Bloomington General Education requirements.
Catalog Information: GNDR-G 205 THEMES IN GENDER STUDIES