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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2005

E 376L • Law, Society, and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33479 TTh
8:00 AM-9:30 AM

Course Description

This course will explore the fictional representation of the legal system and its place in the social order in nineteenth-century Britain. During this period immense economic, social, and political changes profoundly transformed the legal identities of individuals and entities, their relations to one another and to property, and their rights and obligations vis-à-vis the state. For example, how were women and the mentally ill constituted as legal subjects? Why were certain crimes against property, as well as persons, punishable by death? Under what circumstances, if any, could ordinary people seek redress in the legal system for a personal injury or financial harm? Drawing on texts of novelists such as Scott, Edgeworth, Dickens, Disraeli, Gaskell, and Eliot, as well as on those of legal theorists and historians, we will trace the changing perceptions of the law and its role in "modern" British society. Many of these novelists sought justice in fiction where they couldn't find it in real life. Moreover, they attempted to realize in fiction what the legal process itself was designed to produce: a verifiable account of truth out of a welter of conflicting evidence. In this way, writing and interpreting the novel resembles the legal process itself.

Grading Policy

Three essay exams (20% each) 60%
One short final paper (5-10 pp.) 25%
Mandatory class attendance/participation 15%


Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent
Walter Scott, Redgauntlet
Charles Dickens, Bleak House
George Eliot, Adam Bede
Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil
Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton
Selections from texts on the history and development of English jurisprudence


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