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Reading for the Law

British Literary History and Gender Advocacy

Christine L. Krueger

Publication Year: 2010

Christine Krueger argues that the application of literary criticism to feminist jurisprudence is not just an interesting--though suspect--idea, as is often assumed, but is instead legally and historically grounded in a variety of cultural sources from the "long 19th century." Her specific examples of gender advocacy show quite vividly how literary history provides a valuable basis for narrative legal theory.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

A long-term project like this one benefits from, and is sustained by, many mentors, colleagues, students, and friends. While I was still working on women preachers, Margaret Anne Doody and Jeffrey Spear turned my mind to crime. Catherine McClenahan, Claudia Johnson, Andrew Elfenbein, and Susan Sage Heinzelman read my early work on women ...

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Introduction: Theory, Advocacy, and History

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pp. 1-22

I take the title for this book from the British term for legal study, “to read for the law.” The principal question I address is how “reading for the law” as literary history can contribute to the progressive educational purposes for which the Law and Literature movement was founded. I intend a sympathetic critique of Law and Literature from the perspective of ...

Part One: Precedent

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Chapter One: Historiographies of Witchcraft for Feminist Advocacy: Historical Justice in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Lois the Witch

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pp. 25-52

Precedent and trauma are historiographic concepts describing continuity or persistence of a phenomenon over time. Both theorize how even the distant past may remain—for better or worse—a living force. Neither, however, accounts for change, attaching instead to acts of obsessive repetition. The prosecution of witches may seem a topic remote from any aspect of gender advocacy on which Victorianist literary critics and ...

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Chapter Two: Witchcraft Precedents as Literary History: From The Discoverie of Witchcraft to Sir Matthew Hale

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pp. 53-75

Witchcraft was perhaps the first crime legal historians understood as having been created discursively. The Victorian legal historians Sir Frederick Pollock and Frederic William Maitland remarked that “sorcery is a crime created by the measures which are taken for its suppression.” 1 The crime of witchcraft was defined as much by its modes of publication...

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Chapter Three: The Historical Turn in Witchcraft Literature: From Enlightenment Historiography to Historical Realism

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pp. 76-98

Francis Hutchinson’s An Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft (1718) was the first skeptical treatment of the witch trials styled a “history.” It aligned the skeptical tradition with advocacy on behalf of women and demonstrates the interconnections between historical interpretation and legal reform that remain a significant strain in witchcraft studies...

Part Two: Agency

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Chapter Four: Theories and Histories of Agency: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Narrative of the Reasonable Woman

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pp. 101-125

Reasonable persons did not exist in nineteenth-century Britain. The Reasonable Man surely did. The Reasonable Person is a legal fiction of late-twentieth-century American jurisprudence, a standard of proof created in response to the perceived inadequacy of the Reasonable Man as a norm by which to judge evidence in sexual harassment suits, or where self-defense is pleaded by a woman accused of murdering her abusive husband,...

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Chapter Five: Agency, Equity, Publicity: Compos Mentis in Charles Reade’s Hard Cash and Lunacy Commission Reports

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pp. 126-154

The history of agency in the law is embedded in a complex matrix of issues, including culpability, contract, and property ownership. Rationality as a qualification for legal judgment is itself a product of Enlightenment liberalism: the Reasonable Man emerges to replace the aristocratic man as the repository of decision-making power. Robert Unikel remarks ...

Part Three: Testimony

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Chapter Six: Gendered Credibility: Testimony in Fiction and Indecent Assault

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pp. 157-185

Lewis Carroll’s dystopic legal fantasy, unlike the experiences of women denied legal agency discussed in part 2, resolves into a happy ending. Alice refuses to sit quietly by at the nightmarish Knave of Heart’s trial and her words magically release her from the bad dream of legal entanglement...

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Chapter Seven: Women’s Legal Literacy and Pro Se Representation: From Griffith Gaunt to Georgina Weldon

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pp. 186-199

"The man who defends himself has a fool for a client” is an old saw, heard whenever some poor sod, or raving lunatic, rejects legal counsel and chooses to exercise his right to represent himself. Unconcerned with the justice of his case, the phrase declares the pro se litigant guilty not merely of imprudence, but of unseemly display through a vulgar breach of ...

Part Four: The Motives of Advocacy

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Chapter Eight: Concealing Women’s Mens Rea: Advocacy for Female Prisoners and Infanticidal Mothers

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pp. 203-236

A primary aim of narrative legal theory, as has been evident throughout this study, is the use of narrative—with or against legal discourse—to bring unrecognized groups into representation and thereby to win them legal recognition. In this final section, I wish to call into question the central premise of narrative legal theory, viz., that the goal of gender advocacy should always be to bring disenfranchised groups into ...

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Chapter Nine: The Secret Agency of Juries: Forging Resistance against Sodomy Prosecution

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pp. 237-253

Narrative jurisprudence aims at infl uencing legal decision making, yet legal decision making itself is stubbornly opaque. Whereas judges’ written decisions cite precedents and principles, the more complex motivations of those decisions are not made evident in documents. What is more, in the cornerstone of Anglo-American legal procedure, the trial by jury, decision making is even more obscure,...


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pp. 255-271


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pp. 273-290


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pp. 291-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780813928975
E-ISBN-10: 0813928974
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813928937
Print-ISBN-10: 0813928931

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 755618966
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Reading for the Law

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English literature -- History and criticism.
  • Legal stories, English -- History and criticism.
  • Law and literature -- Great Britain -- History.
  • Law in literature.
  • Female offenders in literature.
  • Women -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Great Britain -- History.
  • Sex discrimination against women -- Law and legislation -- Great Britain -- History.
  • Feminist jurisprudence -- Great Britain.
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