Faculty Profiles

Joshua Dienstag

Joshua Foa Dienstag

Professor of Law and Political Science
B.A. Harvard, 1986
M.A. Princeton, 1989
Ph.D. Princeton, 1993
UCLA Faculty Since 2010

LAW 561A/B - Perspectives on Law and Lawyering

What can film tell us about law and its limits? Law is primarily a profession of spoken and written words. And yet law and lawyers have always been subjects that have fascinated filmmakers and their audiences. Is there some part of the law that is only visible rather than legible? Many films about law also have to do with those people or things that are in some sense outside the law, that is, not fully subject to its protections and provisions. Is there something about the boundary between the legal realm and what lies beyond it that is particularly visual or dramatic? Are there some elements of justice that must be pictured, rather than written down? In this seminar, we will examine these questions from multiple perspectives, with each session focusing on a film and short ancillary readings.

What is outside the law may be a person, but it may at the same time also be a part of human life which is not justiciable or capable of being legally recognized. The first two films place law in relation to the violence that it helps to regulate but on which it also tends to rely. What is the relation between the two and is that relation something that can itself be captured in legal language? What can we learn from filmic depictions of law's ambivalent relationship to force and violence? The next two films examine issues of judgment and decision that are "internal" to the law and yet are not, themselves, always visible within legal procedures. What is judgment exactly and what part of the law does it form? By what principles do we decide which human beings are subject to which laws? The final film brings these themes together and asks how the category of the human itself forms a boundary between where justice does and does not apply.