NIP: Subversion and Sympathy: Gender, Law & the British Novel. Martha C. Nussbaum & Alison L. LaCroix eds

My colleague Hengemeh Saberi (more on her later) suggested this 2013 OUP offering:  Subversion and Sympathy: Gender, Law and the British Novel.  Martha C. Nussbaum and Alison L. LaCroix eds.  Posner on Austen? And Nicola Lacey!

This interdisciplinary volume of contributed essays focuses on issues of gender in the British novel of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly Hardy and Trollope. Approaching the topic from a variety of backgrounds, the contributors reinvigorate the law-and-literature movement by displaying a range of ways in which literature and law can illuminate one another and in which the conversation between them can illuminate deeper human issues with which both disciplines are concerned. Their chapters shed light on a range of gender-related issues, from inheritance to money-lending to illegitimacy, but also make an important methodological contribution by displaying (and discussing) a range of methodological perspectives that exemplify the breadth and range of this discipline, which links history, gender studies, philosophy, literary studies, and law.

Table of Contents


Preface , Diane P. Wood

Introduction , Alison L. LaCroix and Martha C. Nussbaum

Part One | Marriage and Sex
1. The Moral and Legal Consequences of Wife Selling in The Mayor of Casterbridge , Julie C. Suk
2. Jude the Obscure: The Irrelevance of Marriage Law , Amanda Claybaugh
3. The History of Obscenity, the British Novel, and the First Amendment , Geoffrey R. Stone
4. Jane Austen: Comedy and Social Structure , Richard A. Posner

Part Two | Law, Social Norms, and Women’s Agency

5. Pious Perjury in Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian , Julia Simon-Kerr

6. Rape, Seduction, Purity, and Shame in Tess of the d’Urbervilles , Marcia Baron

7. The Stain of Illegitimacy: Gender, Law, and Trollopian Subversion , Martha C. Nussbaum

8. Could He Forgive Her? Gender, Agency, and Women’s Criminality in the Novels of Anthony Trollope , Nicola Lacey

Part Three | Property, Commerce, Travel

9. Law, Commerce, and Gender in Trollope’s Framley Parsonage , Douglas G. Baird

10. Primogeniture, Legal Change, and Trollope , Saul Levmore

11. Defoe’s Formal Laws , Bernadette Meyler

Part Four | Readers and Interpretation

12. The Lawyer’s Library in the Early American Republic , Alison L. LaCroix

13. Proposals and Performative Utterance in the Nineteenth-Century Novel: The Professional Man’s Plight , Robert A. Ferguson

14. A Comeuppance Theory of Narrative and the Emotions , Blakey Verme


Nussbaum and LaCroix spoke to the Uchicago faculty magazine about the collection, here.

You can learn a lot about developments in the law relating to women, both civil and criminal,” Nussbaum said. “But I think more deeply you can understand the human predicaments that made people turn to law for recognition and assistance.”

These novels were written at a time when authors were thinking about legal regimes involving women, said LaCroix, from property ownership to the practice of wife-selling.

“It’s a good period to look at when we knew law was changing, and literature was responsive to that,” she said. And she echoed Nussbaum’s sentiment that literature makes the reader, including lawyers, more human. “It’s a source of evidence for lawyers about how people feel and act in relation to the law.”

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