Using Non-Fiction Films as Visual Texts in the First-Year Criminal Law Course
20 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2004
More law professors are going to the movies these days, searching for appropriate visual texts to supplement the written appellate opinions excerpted in the casebooks that are at the pedagogical core of their doctrinal courses. There are many good, and some not so good, reasons for this practice. First, our law students are increasingly visually literate. They are visual and aural learners as well, and films often provide excellent illustrations of many of the doctrinal concepts, especially in criminal law. Thus, for example, teaching the nature of mens rea, and many related core issues in criminal law can be facilitated through the careful selection and use of visual hypotheticals or "clips" taken from brief excerpts of popular movies. Legally sophisticated concepts such as distinguishing between specific and general intent crimes, or understanding the various levels of culpability categorized by the terminology of the Model Penal Code - "purposely," "knowingly," "recklessly," "negligently" - can often be readily visualized and discussed using illustrations drawn from film clips displayed in the classroom.
Keywords: Criminal Law, First-Year, Non-Fiction Films, Aural Learner, Visual Hypotheticals
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