This book studies major works of literature from classical
antiquity to the present that reflect crises in the evolution of
Western law: the move from a prelegal to a legal society in "The
Eumenides," the Christianization of Germanic law in "Njal's Saga,"
the disenchantment with medieval customary law in "Reynard the
Fox," the reception of Roman law in a variety of Renaissance texts,
the conflict between law and equity in "Antigone" and "The Merchant
of Venice," the eighteenth-century codification controversy in the
works of Kleist, the modern debate between "pure" and "free" law in
Kafka's "The Trial" and other fin-de-siecle works, and the effects
of totalitarianism, the theory of universal guilt, and anarchism in
the twentieth century.
Using principles from the anthropological theory of legal
evolution, the book locates the works in their legal contexts and
traces through them the gradual dissociation over the centuries of
law and morality. It thereby associates and illuminates these
masterpieces from an original point of view and contributes a new
dimension to the study of literature and law.
In contrast to prevailing adherents of Law-and-Literature, this
book professes Literature-and-Law, in which the emphasis is
historical rather than theoretical, substantive rather than
rhetorical, and literary rather than legal. Instead of adducing the
literary work to illustrate debates about modern law, this book
consults the history of law as an essential aid to the
understanding of the literary text and its conflicts."
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