Law, Literature and the Power of Reading : Literalism and Photography in the Nineteenth Century book cover
1st Edition

Law, Literature and the Power of Reading
Literalism and Photography in the Nineteenth Century

ISBN 9780367760328
Published September 29, 2021 by Routledge
174 Pages

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Book Description

At the intersection of law, literature and history, this book interrogates how a dominant contemporary idea of law emerged out of specific ideas of reading in the nineteenth century. Reading shapes our identities. How we read shapes who we are. Reading also shapes our conceptions of what the law is, because the law is also a practice of reading. Focusing on the works of key Victorian writers closely associated with legal practice, this book addresses the way in which the identity of the reader of law has been modelled on the identity of the political elite. At the same time, it shows how other readers of law have been marginalised. The book thus shows how a construction of the law has emerged from the ordering of a power that discriminates between different readers and readings. More specifically, and in response to the emerging media of photography – and, with it, potentially subversive ideas of exposure and visibility – the book shows that there have been dominant, hidden and unrecognised guides to legal reading and to legal thought. And in making these visible, the book also aims to make them contestable. This secret history of law will appeal to legal historians, legal theorists, those working at the intersection of law and literature and others with interests in law and the visual.

Table of Contents


1. Representation of photography, literalist reading and 'the absence of higher truths' in art

2. Photography’s 'fatal resemblances': reading the invisibility of individuality and truth in the work of Wilkie Collins

3. Representation and reading against photographic details in the work of Henry James

4. Photograph albums in fiction: the illegitimate plots and counter-narratives of the photograph-book


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Suneel Mehmi is an independent, early career researcher.