Abstract

Beginning with the aporia of Godwin's title Political Justice, this paper explores the relation between judgment and justice in Godwin's novels, principally Caleb Williams. I argue that Godwin should be read alongside Continental thinkers from Kant to Lyotard and Derrida, and that his work is a radical critique of judgment that calls into question all forms of governmentality, from sociopolitical institutions to the very instituting of judgment itself in the form of the (political) critique often attributed to him. Through the tropes of trial and confession, Godwin's novels put the process of judgment itself on trial, so as to bring out what Lyotard calls "the differend" that eludes the narratives used by either party in a political or ethical litigation. As evidenced by the two endings of Caleb Williams, they thus force us to question any conclusion or deciding of the plot, any resolution of their dilemmas that is put into political or moral phrases. "Political justice," rather than being a positive program, thus becomes an ongoing process of deconstruction, or of what Godwin himself calls "unlimited" analysis.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0201
Print ISSN
0193-5380
Pages
pp. 341-362
Launched on MUSE
2010-12-04
Open Access
No
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