Fall 2020 • Seminar
Seeing Criminal (In)Justice: Examining the Interplay of Visual Media, Storytelling and Criminal Law
Exam Type: No Exam
As America reckons with the profound injustices of mass incarceration, this course looks at the narratives that drive our perceptions of criminal law. Together, we will explore different approaches to understanding how visual storytelling, particularly in the form of documentary film, can shift the way we understand criminal legal narratives. Police body cameras, videotaped confessions, mitigation and victim impact videos, primetime television, citizen journalism, and documentary films often produce narratives that compete with each other, and with our own entrenched beliefs. These forms of visual media command a unique ability to evoke empathy and to make persuasive claims about truth. But such capability can also distort and mislead. It can present its truths as “objective,” obscuring critical questions about identity, perspective, and power. Grounded in this understanding, we will embark on a project of “media literacy,” exploring questions around audience, authorship, truth, and (in)justice.
Additional time reserved for viewing films.
- Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer (1990)