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Reviews99 language and signification, on the manifest and latent mechanisms of representation." The final section on "Beyond the Figure of the Fatiier" is inspirited by Beth Kowaleski-Wallace ' s fine essay on "reading the father metaphorically," which takes up the problematic feminist tendency to attribute all aggression to the father as a symbol for patriarchy. She argues that it makes more sense to read the father synecdochicaUy rather than metaphorically, and she sees die task as analyzing "the interpretive practices whereby the father accrues meaning in feminist critical practices." Some essays in the collection have more modest goals than others and offer slighter rewards for the reader. But many are ambitious and methodically adroit, respectfully and energetically raising questions about the traditional and feminist discourse on the father. Taken as a whole, they also suggest by example as well as through argument, the ways feminist theory and practice can reclaim and invigorate literary studies. Beth Kalikoff University ofPuget Sound Raymond ChalUnor. A RadicalLawyer in Victorian England: W.P. Roberts and the Strugglefor Workers'Rights. London: LB. Tauris, 1990. $24.50 US (cloth). Raymond ChalUnor' s A Radical Lawyer in Victorian England is fine biography. His subject, W.P. Roberts, was closely involved in the workplace and democratic struggles of ordinary working people between 1837 and 1871—years which encompass the rise and faU of Chartism, the breaking of the Bond, battles against truck, the emergence of trade unionism, the Fenian troubles. The book is more than biography for it is also a study of each of these. More importantly, perhaps, ChalUnor draws attention to an issue which has been much overlooked in nineteenthcentury history: the social role and functions of law. The author's preface indicates that one motivation for writing the book was to "deal with the methods used by the state—many of them employed right down to the present day—to defeat, or tame, working class movements" (vii). The methods ofstate, of course, are only aberrationaUy violent. More routinely "it" acts through and in turn is constituted by law, lawyers, judges, magistrates, adjudication, court orders, "contractual" 100Victorian Review arrangements, or unexceptional prohibitions of "anti-social" behavior. While the use of soldiers, special constables, militia, police, and agents provocateurs in the suppression ofnineteenth-centuryworking-class politics cannot be denied, the more mundane, pervasive, and ambivalent workings of the legal system remain virtually unexplored territories. There are some obvious explanations for this. Historians are often intimidated by the procedures and languages of law and are immobilized when confronted with legal materials (Uttle realizing that nineteenthcentury law is often just as foreign to those who have experienced formal legal education): far easier to interpret the more familiar discourses of Hansard, Parliamentary Journals, broadsheets, and poUtical pamphlets. In addition to being unfamiliar, the primary records ofthe legal system are vast, largely unindexed, scattered, and unsystematicaUy maintained. Often no records have survived of matters which are of interest to the historian; revealing gems are found—if at all—buried in mountains of seemingly useless crumbling parchment. The search is extraordinarily timeconsuming , the more so because the social historian is concerned with "law in action" rather than with the written words of ParUament or the published judgements of Superior Courts. Mining the multiple social meanings of law calls for careful attention to the proceedings of a multitude of local level courts—precisely where records are most difficult to access. Work of this sort can only be conducted with an army of research assistants or at a pace likely to leave the scholar well behind in the race for academic appointment, tenure, or promotion. (ChalUnor worked on this book for some twenty years! [vii].) Moreover, the study of the legal system in operation has until very recent times been unfashionable. It necessarily involves a study of the "middling" classes who actually worked as attorneys or barristers and has neither the traditional aUure of kings, queens, and statesmen nor the trendier appeal of heroically reclaiming the lives ofworking-class heroines and heroes. While there has latterly been increasing recognition of the need to direct attention to the middling classes, their role continues to be generaUy under-acknowledged by both those who would study history of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 99-106
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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