Reading for the Law
British Literary History and Gender Advocacy
Christine L. Krueger
Taking her title from the British term for legal study, "to read for the law," Christine L. Krueger asks how "reading for the law" as literary history contributes to the progressive educational purposes of the Law and Literature movement. She argues that a multidisciplinary "historical narrative jurisprudence" strengthens narrative legal theorists' claims for the transformative powers of stories by replacing an ahistorical opposition between literature and law with a history of their interdependence, and their embeddedness in print culture. Focusing on gender and feminist advocacy in the long nineteenth century, Reading for the Law demonstrates the relevance of literary history to feminist jurisprudence and suggests how literary history might contribute to other forms of "outsider jurisprudence."
Krueger develops this argument across discussions of key jurisprudential concepts: precedent, agency, testimony, and motive. She draws from a wide range of literary, legal, and historical sources, from the early modern period through the Victorian age, as well as from contemporary literary, feminist, and legal theory. Topics considered include the legacy of witchcraft prosecutions, the evolution of the Reasonable Man standard of evidence in lunacy inquiries, the fate of female witnesses and pro se litigants, advocacy for female prisoners and infanticide defendants, and defense strategies for men accused of indecent assault and sodomy. The saliency of the nineteenth-century British literary culture stems in part from its place in a politico-legal tradition that produces the very conditions of narrative legal theorists’ aspirations for meaningful social transformation in modern, multicultural democracies.
Reading for the Law is a dynamic, learned, and powerful intervention into an important interdisciplinary field of inquiry, undertaken by a scholar with deep knowledge of the key discourses she critiques and a consistently engaged point of view, that comprehensively situates its particular arguments in dialogue with the field of law and literature as it has evolved over the last two decades. The range of materials it analyzes, the amount of original research Krueger has conducted, and the breadth of knowledge she demonstrates across literature, history, and law is quite stunning. I do not know of another book that covers so much ground without ever losing sight of its commitment to transforming the way we proceed as scholars so as to further a larger project of advocacy.
Christine L. Krueger is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Marquette University.