CCHU9084 Arts and Humanities
The Law in Everyday Life

[This is a certified Communication-intensive (CI) Course which meets all of the requirements endorsed by HKU’s Senate, including (i) the teaching assessment of written and visual communication ‘literacies’; and (ii) at least 40% of the course grade is assigned to communication-rich assessment tasks.]

Course Description

The law is all around us. We interact with it every day in ways we may not even realise. In this course, we will critically examine the variety of ways (both overt and hidden) that we encounter and engage with the law in everyday life. We will learn how legal principles, constraints and ideas influence the films we watch, the books we read, and the art and music we experience. We will analyse how law forms an essential dimension of our history, how it is written into our language and ideas, and how it shapes even the structures of the city in which we live. The course draws on ideas from many disciplines. It is divided into a series of short topics, each of which introduces a different aspect of the law in everyday life. Over the course of the semester, we will consider how the law can act as an agent and an instrument, a human construction and a social superstructure, and we will discover the profound impact of law on the everyday world in which we live.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Develop an understanding of historical and contemporary theories and ideas about the role of law in society, art and culture.
  2. Evaluate how different individuals and groups view the law, and how the law differently impacts individuals’ lives—including their own.
  3. Discuss and analyse how the law can produce and be influenced by:
    i. social change and social control (including issues of compliance and deterrence),
    ii. artistic and literary change and reproduction,
    iii. language and linguistic structures, and iv. equality or inequality.
  4. Develop confidence in deploying the elements of good analysis, creative production and reflection.
  5. Improve their own writing and presentation style and organization, achieving coherence and clarity of argument, and will build skills in oral, visual and written literacy.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study / Preparation for tutorials 60
Online course materials 4
Film viewing 2
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 10
Total: 130

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Essay 50
Video production 30
Tutorial participation 20

Required Reading and Viewing

  • Blomley, N. (2010). The right to pass freely: circulation, begging and the bounded self. Social & Legal Studies, 19(3), 331-350. [Selections only]
  • Calvert, C., Morehart, E., & Papdelias, S. (2014). Rap Music and the True Threats Quagmire: When Does One Man’s Lyric become Another’s Crime. Columbia Journal of Law & Arts, 38, 1-27.
  • Chan, M. K. (1997). The Legacy of the British Administration of Hong Kong: A View from Hong Kong. The China Quarterly, 151, 567-582.
  • Leung, J. (2018). Language Rights. In M. Rathert & J. Visconti (Eds.), Handbook of Communication in the Legal Sphere (pp. 54-82). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
  • Lunsford, A. (2016). The Everyday Writer (6th ed.) Bedford/St. Martin’s: New York. [Selections]
  • Prytherch, D. L. (2012). Legal geographies – codifying the right-of-way: statutory geographies of urban mobility and the street. Urban Geography, 33(2), 295-314.
  • Sherwin, R. K. (2011). Law’s screen life: criminal predators and what to do about them: popular imperatives from screen-based reality. In A. Sarat (Ed.), Imagining Legality: Where Law Meets Popular Culture (pp. 107–132).
  • Tiersma, P. M. (2012). A History of the Languages of the Law. In P. Tiersma & L. Solan (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law (pp. 13-26). Oxford: OUP.
  • Williams, P. J. (1995). Law and Everyday Life. In A. Sarat & T. R. Kearns (Eds.), Law In Everyday Life (pp. 171-190). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Primary Texts:

  • Charles Dickens. Bleak House. [Novel] [Extracts]
  • Heinrich Hoffman. Struwwelpeter. [Children’s book] [Selections]
  • Italo Calvino. Invisible Cities. [Novel] [Extracts]
  • Maurice Sendak. Where the Wild Things Are. [Children’s book] [Selections]
  • Mo Willems. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! [Children’s book] [Selections]
  • Shan, H. (Director). (1979). The Brothers [差人大佬搏命仔]. [Film]
  • Stan and Jan Berenstain. The Berenstain Bears and the Truth. [Children’s book] [Selections]

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor A.M. Adair
School of English / Department of Law, Faculty of Arts / Law
Tel: 3917 2761
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor A.M. Adair
School of English / Department of Law, Faculty of Arts / Law
Tel: 3917 2761