For The Record

Law school comes with a heavy reading load — and the books aren’t generally what you’d curl up with on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Unless you’re in Tamar Schwartz’s Law and Literature course.

Her reading list ranges from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Noon Wine by Katherine Anne Porter to Franz Kafka’s The Trial and the Art Spiegelman graphic novel series Maus.

The class isn’t reading strictly for pleasure, though. Schwartz hopes these stories about the law — often involving people in minority groups who aren’t equally represented in the legal system — push students to consider the issues they’ll have to face in their legal professions.

“Fictional stories provide opportunities for us to explore ambiguity and ambivalence in our legal system,” she said. “The characters’ plights allow students to experience some of the harm and loss and the unfairness of the legal system and to ask ourselves, ‘If we were the lawyers in these roles, what would we do?’”

One assignment takes that question a step further, asking students to pick a character from one of the class texts and develop a client counseling plan. In another, Schwartz gets them to think about the role of narrative in an opening statement.

“It gives them insight into how to craft a story,” she said. “How do you grab someone’s attention, get your point across, and be effective?”