William P. MacNeil
Novel judgements: legal theory as fiction
Routledge-Cavendish,New York, NY , 2011, 224 pp.
ISBN 10: 0415459143
ISBN 13: 978-0415459143
Novel Judgements is a book about nineteenth century Anglo-American law and literature. But by redefining law as legal theory, Novel Judgments departs from ‘socio-legal’ studies of law and literature, often dated in their focus on past lawyering and court processes. This texts ‘theoretical turn’ renders the period’s ‘law-and-literature’ relevant to today’s readers because the nineteenth century novel, when "read jurisprudentially", abounds in representations of law’s controlling concepts, many of which are still with us today. Rights, justice, law’s morality; each are encoded novelistically in stock devices such as the country house, friendship, love, courtship and marriage. In so rendering the public (law) as private (domesticity), these novels expose for legal and literary scholars alike the ways in which law comes to mediate all relationships—individual and collective, personal and political—during the nineteenth century, a period as much under the Rule of Law as the reign of Capital. So these novels pass judgment—a novel judgment—on the extent to which the nineteenth century’s idea of law is collusive with that era’s Capital, thereby opening up the possibility of a new legal theoretical position: that of a critique of the law and a law of critique.
Novel Judgments addresses the ways in which jurisprudential ideas and themes are embedded and explored within nineteenth century Anglo-American prose fiction. The nineteenth century is the crucible of the "juridical imaginary": that is, of the jurisprudential ideas and concepts which inform the law to this day. The novel not only participates actively in the construction of this juridical imaginary, devising memorable tropes and figures of law and its theory, it goes even further: providing a critique of that construction which points the reader towards a new juridical imaginary, one which may re-imagine, for example, the "command of the sovereign" (Pride and Prejudice), the ethics of law (Ivanhoe), or the "rights of (wo)man" (Frankenstein). As dramatisations of the principal issues and movements of nineteenth century legal theory, these novels may therefore be read jurisprudentially. For, as William MacNeil demonstrates, they make novel judgments about legal theory - judgments which not only finds it wanting, but which also carry with them a potential for transforming a juridical imaginary that is still with us.
- Courtly Love: The Novel’
. Allegory of Law
2. John Austin or Jane Austen? The Province of Jurisprudence Determined in Pride and Prejudice
3. Usury, the Jew and the Origins of Capital: Ivanhoe and the Desacralisation of the Law
4. The Monstrous Body of the Law: Wollstonecraft vs. Shelley
5. The Common Law's Sublime Object of Ideology: Equity and the Dispatch of the Feminine in Bleak House
6. A Tale of Two Trials: Revolutionary Enjoyment, Liberal Legalism and the Sacrifice of Critique in A Tale of Two Cities
7. Beyond Governmentality: Retributive, Distributive and Deconstructive Justice in Great Expectations
8. Jesuits and Jacobites: The Conundrums of Status and Contract in Henry Esmond
9. Hawthorne's Haunted House of Law: The Romance of American Realism in The House of the Seven Gables
10. "Lesser Breeds Without the Law ": Law’s Empire in Lord Jim
11. A Jurisprudential Postscript: Century’s Close and the End of the Juridical Meta-Narrative?
William P. MacNeil, School of Law, Griffith University