In this class we will investigate the history of human rights from the perspective of literature. We will explore how rights are represented and narrated in novels such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and how founding declarations—famously, the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)—rely on fictional structures. While attending to some of the more politically contentious issues involved with human rights, such as the claim that universal rights lack political and legal enforcement, we will also consider the following questions: how does fiction help articulate and represent claims to human rights? Why might a political philosopher or legal scholar turn to a work of fiction from the eighteenth century or present day in order to make an argument about human rights? Alongside theoretical and historical writings about human rights we will read authors such as Hannah Arendt, Edmund Burke, Behrouz Boochani, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Hobbes, Mohsin Hamid, Thomas Paine, Mary Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft.