General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW3226/LALS3005
Course name: Legal Fictions: United States Citizenship and the Right to Write in America
Programme offered under: LLB Programme
Semester: First
Designated research course: No
Specialization: Not applicable
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Course offered to non-law students: No
Credit point value: 6 credits
Cap on student numbers: 5

1.2 Course description

In 1776, the idea of self-evidence grounded the philosophical assertion that “all men are created equal.” And yet, political, economic and social equality in the democratic republic of the United States has often proven less of a guarantee and more of a promise. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the “Declaration of Independence,” the recognition of a person as fully human in the United States has depended on assumptions regarding race, class and gender. The course examines the changing definition of United States citizenship by putting legal texts (the U.S. Constitution, federal and state laws, Executive Orders, Supreme Court decisions) in dialogue with literary writings and film. In this course we will read stories by people whom federal and or state law barred from full citizenship. Through autobiographies, fiction, poetry and speeches, we will examine the cultural legacy of legal terms such as “domestic dependent nation,” “illegal alien” and “unlawful enemy combatant.” The course themes may include: property and democracy, slavery, westward expansion and Indian Removal, immigration (with particular focus on China and Asia), the right of women to vote, and the wartime powers of the Executive Office. Our goal will be to pay careful attention to the language and genres of the American legislative and judicial system, and conversely to contextualize literature in relation to the legal history through which the U.S. Constitution has been reinterpreted and amended to broaden its terms of equality. We will read writers who used words to protest against and revise the historical circumstances in which they had to fight for legal standing. We will also consider how different kinds of writing — legal, scientific, autobiographical and fictional — employ different rhetorical strategies to reach audiences, affect readers and influence the world.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Kendall Johnson kjohnson@hku.hk By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Recognize, interpret and explain key legal documents of the United States, beginning with the founding documents in the eighteenth century and extending to contemporary Supreme Court decisions.

CLO 2 Compare and contrast various strategies of rhetorical address to audiences in relation to legal rulings, legislation, and executive orders, as well as to literary writing that includes slave narratives, autobiographies, and novels.

CLO 3 Understand the literary and legal history of the United States in ways that enhance their abilities to interpret current legal issues, both in the United States and globally.

CLO 4 Identify, define and explain key theoretical concepts in United States law.

CLO 5 Evaluate the applicability and suitability of the rights secured through the logic of American citizenship to other governments and cultures throughout the world.

2.2 LLB Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link: https://course.law.hku.hk/llb-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Presentation TBC 15% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Posting to Moodle group discussion TBC 25% 1 ,2 ,3 ,4, 5
Mid-term essay TBC 30% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Final essay TBC 30% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
*Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

To be advised by course convenor(s).

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Seminar: 3 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 ± 5 hours (ie. 150 ± 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

To be advised by course convenor(s).

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: TBA
Recommended reading list: TBA

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/