Human Rights and Wrongs: Literature, Film, Theory


Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 quarters

Taught by

literature, queer studies

Human rights law is encoded in the spare language of treaties, but human rights practice comes alive in the materiality of daily life. After a quick tour of human rights law, we will devote our energies in this program toward understanding how human rights accrue force and meaning insofar as they are embedded in cultural practice and specifically, in cultural practices of representation. Our inquiry will be guided by these questions: How do human rights frameworks prevent or redress human wrongs (including atrocities such as torture and genocide)? What leads some people to abuse human rights and other people to respect them? How are human rights struggles pursued using modes of visual and textual representation? What role do cultural forms such as film, literature and public memorials play in either fostering or hindering respect for human rights?

The program is designed for students who wish to advance their skills in literary criticism and visual analysis; both literature and film are at the center of the work. The first five weeks of fall quarter will be devoted to legal and philosophical definitions of human rights. We will study critiques of rights from the major ideological camps and students will establish their own assessment of the viability of rights approaches to atrocity and injustice. The second five weeks of fall quarter and six weeks of winter quarter will be devoted to studying works of fiction, films (both feature and documentary), photographs and public memorials that all, in their own ways, attempt to tell human rights stories or open fresh critiques of human rights work. The balance of the winter quarter work will be research projects that result in either a traditional research essay or a more practical implementation of the theory students have learned.

Field study will take us, in one day, to memorial parks in Tacoma and Bainbridge Island. A typical week's work will include a film screening, a short lecture followed by discussion and seminars. Students will write weekly one-page papers, two six-page essays in each quarter, an academic statement, a research prospectus fall quarter and a 15- to 20-page research paper (or its equivalent) winter quarter. Students joining fall quarter need not have prior knowledge of human rights, but substantive prior work in literary criticism and/or film criticism and theory will be helpful. Students who wish to join in winter quarter, please note the signature requirement.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

human rights, politics, philosophy, literature, film and media studies.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day and Evening


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$14 in fall for entrance fees.


Date Revision
September 10th, 2013 $14 fee in fall has been added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 28


Course Reference Number

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 10185

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

If you wish to attempt to join winter quarter contact the instructor in advance of registration and provide evidence that you have successfully completed a foundational course in human rights or in political science or political theory with an emphasis on rights.

Course Reference Number

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 20151

Go to to register for this program.

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