Law and Art (M3117)

15 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

What turns a piece of street art from illegal graffiti to legitimate public art? What role does legal method have in our understanding of aesthetics and what are the similarities between legal and aesthetic interpretation?

How does art depict law, or law deal conceptually with music, how does law speak to architecture and the literal text? What role can art play in the rehabilitation of young offenders, and therefore how can art assist in the criminal justice system overall?

How do our understandings of aesthetics affect our politics and culture, and constitutional make-up? What role does aesthetics play in the daily practice of law, and what are the recent changes in media and intellectual property law that account for extant creative and artistic forms of ownership.

The questions above will be amongst some of the core issues that this module on Law and Aesthetics seeks to interrogate.

This module aims to lay the groundwork for both a theoretical and practical exploration of the role of law in aesthetics and the other way around.

First you will be familiarised with the theoretical and philosophical theories of aesthetics, linking to the political and the legal, legal method, semiotics and also aesthetic theory as a stand alone, such as art theory and theory of music.

The impact of aesthetics on law has been dealt with in considerable detail in the disciplines of law and literature, however this module seeks to interrogate the role of aesthesis further in not just textual form, but the more expressive and spatial movements of art, architecture and musical composition.

In addition, you will be familiarised with criminonlogical, sociological and subcultural theory relating aesthetics with youth culture, consumption and crime. The theoretical and practical elements of the module will come together with the study of art therapy and its application in rehabilitation, through your observation of and collaboration with local artists in Brighton. 

The module will use connections with art organisation 'Artscape' in the provision of workshops in prisons and young offender institutes, and the possibilities for you to attend and reflect on the role of art in law, and therapy in rehabilition more specifically, as part of your reflective log.

Topics covered will be as follows:

  • Aesthetic Theory, Politics and Law
  • Law, Semiotics and Interpretation
  • Aesthetics, Performance and the Body
  • Law, Literature, Text
  • Law and Music
  • Law and Art
  • Law and Architecture
  • Aesthetics, Subculture, Crime and Resistance
  • Law, Criminal Justice and Art Therapy
  • Aesthetic Practice I: Situationism and Futurism
  • Aesthetic Practice II: Artscape, Street Art and Graffiti
  • The Future of Law in Aesthetics and Aesthetics in Law

You will gain invaluable conceptual and pracitcal knowledge in the role of law in aesthetics and the other way around, assisted through your assessed essay on a chosen topic from the syllabus, as well as an assessed presentation during the module.

This module would compliment 'Law and the Creative Industries', Legal Theory, IP and Media Law.


55%: Lecture
45%: Seminar


100%: Practical (Portfolio)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 24 hours of contact time and 126 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2017/18. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: