Some have argued that marriage equality for same-sex couples is the civil rights issue of this generation. In fact, marriage has played an important role in the both the denial and the advancement of freedom since the founding of the United States. Through both legal and literary texts, this interdisciplinary seminar will examine important social, cultural, legal and historical aspects of today's debates about gay marriage. Our topics will include the relationship of current-day marriage debates to notions of citizenship and to the history of marriage itself as a civil institution; the representation of this relationship in literature, and the literary and performative strategies used by the law to codify the meaning of marriage; the theory of both marriage and the law as performances; and the strengths and weakness of the legal strategies--fundamental right, a right to equality, and a right to dignity--that are regularly used today to argue for the right to marry. Literary authors may include: Mary Wilkins Freeman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Carson McCullers, Charles Chesnutt, Henry James. Legal materials may include cases such as Loving v. Virginia, Griswold v. Connecticut, Skinner v. Oklahoma, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Varnum v. Brian, Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health, Lawrence v. Texas, and scholarship such as Laura Edwards, 'The Marriage Covenant is at the Foundation of All Our Rights': The Politics of Slave Marriages in North Carolina after Emancipation, Michael Warner, The Trouble with Normal, Discrimination Against Gays Is Sex Discrimination, in Marriage and Same-Sex Unions: A Debate, Nancy Polikoff, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage. This course will be open to both law students and to qualified undergraduates, by application to both instructors. Students must write 5 short (1-2 pages) critical responses to the weekly readings. Students must also write a 20-25 page seminar paper on a topic approved by the professors. Please note that laptops will not be allowed in this seminar.
This course will be co-taught by Katherine Franke from the Law School and Katherine Biers from English/Comp Lit. and will have students from both the law school and from the Arts and Sciences.