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Human Rights, Legal Personhood, Literature


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


The issue of the humanity of rights is one of the central questions in Law and Humanities – and also the central topic of this course. Although the term 'human rights' seem to imply that these rights (and, more general: rules of law) are intrinsically humane and focused on the human being of flesh and blood, it is by no means self-evident.
On law schools and in legal philosophy, thinking about law and (human) rights has been largely based on a legal-positivistic approach. This means that law is regarded as an objective and knowable system. The emphasis is on acquiring knowledge of law and its application, but not on the personal responsibility of those who deal with law. In this scientific approach, the person – not only the litigant or citizen, but also the person of the judge – seems to be repressed.
In this course we depart from literary and philosophical texts in order to reflect on the issue of establishing a humane perspective in (the theory and practice of) law. Hereto, we will study and discuss authors as Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Camus, Buber and Bauman. These thinkers teach us that the world cannot simply be captured in concepts, laws, mechanisms and systems. This has interesting, but far-reaching consequences for law: after all, law consists of generally applicable rules and classifications. To what extent can there be room for the concrete, existing person in law and legal practice?
This not only leads to interesting and challenging visions of law: it also provides further insight(s) into the functioning of literature, and its importance for (theory and practice of) law. We will also focus on the relationship between law and art and the importance of the humanities in general and literature specifically. We will rethink fundamental notions in law and Law and Humanities such as crime and punishment; resentment; law and tragedy; retribution and forgiveness; restorative justice; law and empathy, and migration.

Course objectives

After completing this course students:

  • have gained insight in perspectives within continental philosophy (dialogical philosophy, existentialism) and are able to relate this insight on law;

  • are able to evaluate and reflect from literary and philosophical works on core concepts of law such as justice, retribution, forgiveness;

  • are able to apply their knowledge to core topics in Law and Humanities, and on current affairs;

  • developed their ability to reflect on their knowledge in writing.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


(1) Weekly assignment (non-graded)
Each week, students are asked to send in two points of critique concerning the materials they have studied. During the seminars we will use a selection of these critiques as starting points to discuss the readings.

(2) Examination (graded, 100%)
Take home examination. Write a plea or indictment.


Take home examination 100%


Take home examination (100%)

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

All literature is accessible online. We will watch the required film together on Campus.
Please note that this reading list is not definitive: literature will be added via Brightspace.



Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal