Novel Judgements: Legal Theory as Fiction, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Novel Judgements

Legal Theory as Fiction, 1st Edition

By William P. MacNeil


238 pages

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Novel Judgements is a book about nineteenth century Anglo-American law and literature. But by redefining law as legal theory, Novel judgements 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 judgement—a novel judgement—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.


Much the strength of Novel Judgements comes from its confident joining of the Victorian ‘juridical imaginary’ to the topoi of legal theory. - Shaun McVeigh for Law, Literature and the Humanities Association of Australasia

MacNeil's book largely succeeds in showing what we can learn about legal critiques by reading certain works of fiction with a jurisprudential eye. - Jane J. Lee, University of Washington, for Review 19

Table of Contents

1.Pro lex omenon: Towards a Novel Legal Theory of the Novel as Legal Theory 2. John Austin or Jane Austen? The Province of Jurisprudence Determined in Pride and Prejudice 3.Jousting with Bentham: Utility, Morality and Ethics in Ivanhoe’s Tournament of Law 4. The Monstrous Body of the Law: Wollstonecraft vs. Shelley 5. Hawthorne ’s Haunted House of Law: The Romance of American Legal Realism in The House of the Seven Gables 6. In Boz We Trust! Bleak House’s (Re)Imagination of Trusteeship.7: Two on a Guillotine? Courts and ‘Crits’ in A Tale of Two Cities 8. Beyond Governmentality: The Question of Justice in Great Expectations 9. A Jurisprudential Postscript:Century's Close and the End of of the (Meta)Narrative of Law

About the Author

William P. MacNeil is the Dean of the Griffith Law School, Queensland, Australia. Trained in both law and literature, MacNeil has published widely in the field of cultural legal studies.

About the Series

Discourses of Law

This successful and exciting series seeks to publish the most innovative scholarship at the intersection of law, philosophy and social theory. The books published in the series are distinctive by virtue of exploring the boundaries of legal thought. The work that this series seeks to promote is marked most strongly by the drive to open up new perspectives on the relation between law and other disciplines. The series has also been unique in its commitment to international and comparative perspectives upon an increasingly global legal order. Of particular interest in a contemporary context, the series has concentrated upon the introduction and translation of continental traditions of theory and law.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
LAW / General
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Legal History