Cross-Examinations of Law and Literature

In Cross Examinations of Law and Literature Brook Thomas uses legal thought and legal practice as a lens through which to read some of the important fictions of antebellum America. The lens reflects both ways, and we learn as much about the literature in the context of contemporary legal concerns as we do about the legal ideologies that the fiction subverts or reveals. Successive chapters deal with Cooper’s Pioneers and Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables (property law and the image of the judiciary), Melville’s ‘Benito Cereno’ and Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (slavery), Melville’s White Jacket, Pierre and ‘Bartleby’ (worker exploitation or wage slavery), The Confidence-Man (contracts), and finally, ‘Billy Budd’, which examines a number of issues illustrative of the triumph of legal formalism after the Civil War.


Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; An opening statement; Part I. Individuals, Judges, Property: 1. The Pioneers; or the sources of American legal history: a critical tale; 2. The House of the Seven Gables: Hawthorne\'s legal story; 3. The House of the Seven Gables: Hawthorne\'s romance of art; Part II. Wage and Chattel Slavery: 4. \'Benito Cereno\': Melville\'s narrative of repression; 5. A sentimental journey: escape from bondage in Uncle Tom\'s Cabin; 6. Exploitation at home and at sea; 7. \'Bartleby, the scrivener\': fellow servants and free agents on Wall Street; 8. Contracts and confidence men; Part III. Billy Budd and Re-Righting Legal History: 9. Measured forms; 10. Ragged edges; A closing statement; notes; Index.


‘A welcome addition to a fascinating area of study …’ Choice

‘By placing the familiar canonical works of Cooper, Hawthorne, Stowe and Melville in a carefully defined relation with contemporary legal ideology, he has illuminated both the literature and the law and has helped recover a part of our cultural history.’ Donald A. Ringe, American Literature