Fatal Fictions: Crime and Investigation in Law and Literature

ISBN : 9780190610784

Alison L. LaCroix; Richard H. McAdams; Martha C. Nussbaum
344 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jan 2017
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Writers of fiction have always confronted topics of crime and punishment. This age-old fascination with crime on the part of both authors and readers is not surprising, given that criminal justice touches on so many political and psychological themes essential to literature, and comes equipped with a trial process that contains its own dramatic structure. This volume explores this profound and enduring literary engagement with crime, investigation, and criminal justice. The collected essays explore three themes that connect the world of law with that of fiction. First, defining and punishing crime is one of the fundamental purposes of government, along with the protection of victims by the prevention of crime. And yet criminal punishment remains one of the most abused and terrifying forms of political power. Second, crime is intensely psychological and therefore an important subject by which a writer can develop and explore character. A third connection between criminal justice and fiction involves the inherently dramatic nature of the legal system itself, particularly the trial. Moreover, the ongoing public conversation about crime and punishment suggests that the time is ripe for collaboration between law and literature in this troubled domain. The essays in this collection span a wide array of genres, including tragic drama, science fiction, lyric poetry, autobiography, and mystery novels. The works discussed include works as old as fifth-century BCE Greek tragedy and as recent as contemporary novels, memoirs, and mystery novels. The cumulative result is arresting: there are "killer wives" and crimes against trees; a government bureaucrat who sends political adversaries to their death for treason before falling to the same fate himself; a convicted murderer who doesn't die when hanged; a psychopathogical collector whose quite sane kidnapping victim nevertheless also collects; Justice Thomas' reading and misreading of Bigger Thomas; a man who forgives his son's murderer and one who cannot forgive his wife's non-existent adultery; fictional detectives who draw on historical analysis to solve murders. These essays begin a conversation, and they illustrate the great depth and power of crime in literature.


Contributor List
Chapter 1. Scott Turow, On My Careers in Crime
Part I: Criminal Histories
Chapter 2. Daniel Telech, Mercy at the Areopagus: A Nietzschean account of Justice and Joy in the Eumenides
Chapter 3. Barry Wimpfheimer, Suborning Perjury: A Case Study of Narrative Precedent in Talmudic Law
Chapter 4. Alison LaCroix, A Man for All Treasons: Crimes By and Against the Tudor State in the Novels of Hilary Mantel
Chapter 5. Marina Leslie, Representing Anne Green: Historical and Literary Form, And the Scenes of the Crime in Oxford, 1651
Chapter 6. Richard Strier & Richard McAdams, Cold-Blooded and High Minded Murder: The Case of Othello
Chapter 7. Pamela Foa, What's Love Got To Do With It? Sexual Exploitation in Measure for Measure: A Prosecutor's View
Part II: Race and Crime
Chapter 8. Justin Driver, Justice Thomas and Bigger Thomas
Chapter 9. Martha Nussbaum, Reconciliation Without Anger: Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country
Part III: Responsibility and Violence
Chapter 10. Saul Levmore, Kidnap, Credibility, and The Collector.
Chapter 11. Jonathan Masur, Premeditation and Responsibility in The Stranger
Chapter 12. Saira Mohamed and Melissa Murray, Walking Away: Lessons from Omelas
Chapter 13. Mark Payne, Before the Law: Imagining Crimes against Trees
Part IV: Suspicion and Investigation
Chapter 14. Caleb Smith, Crime Scenes: Fictions of Security in the Antebellum American Borderlands
Chapter 15. Steven Wilf, The Legal Historian as Detective

About the author: 

Alison L. LaCroix is the Robert Newton Reid Professor of Law and an Associate Member of the Department of History at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Ideological Origins of American Federalism and the co-editor, with Martha C. Nussbaum, of Subversion and Sympathy: Gender, Law, and the British Novel (OUP 2012). Her teaching and research interests include legal history, constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, law and linguistics, and law and literature.; Richard H. McAdams is the Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Expressive Powers of Law (2015) and co-editor of Fairness in Law and Economics (2013).; Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Law School and the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book is Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (OUP 2016).

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