Writing, Scripture, Law

HNR 340 - Writing, Scripture, Law

MySlice Info:

Term: Fall 2017
Class #: 20623
Section: M002
Credits: 3

Watts, James

Counts toward:
HNR Hum, Interdisciplinary, Course Global

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

Bowne 306A

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.

The course will conclude by examining the religious and legal motives behind the collections of Roman law by Christian emperors that laid the basis for later Western national law. 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.