Writing, Scripture, Law

HNR 340 - Writing, Scripture, Law

MySlice Info:

Term: Fall 2019
Class #: 13208
Section: M002
Credits: 3

Watts, James

Counts toward:
HNR Hum, Interdisciplinary

Course Time(s):
MW 03:45pm-05:05pm


Course Description:

Written texts direct our behavior every day. Whether the U.S. Constitution or the syllabus for this class, we regularly grant normative authority to writing on paper. This course explores how and why writing gained such normative power. We will focus on the ancient history of writing and of normative texts, starting with the invention of writing in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. We will examine the growing authority of ritual texts, then turn to religious scriptures, especially the Torah of Judaism and the Bible of Christianity and their influence on written law, before expanding our range to include normative economic texts, such as files and currency. Throughout the course, we will engage the social power of writing in economics, law and religion, and we will also pay close attention to the social impact of the material forms and visual displays of written texts. The course includes a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collections of ancient texts and artifacts in New York City.