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New Directions in Law and Literature$
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Elizabeth S. Anker and Bernadette Meyler

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190456368

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190456368.001.0001

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Who Wouldn’t Want to Be a Person?

Who Wouldn’t Want to Be a Person?

Histories of the Present in Law and Literature

(p.46) Chapter 2 Who Wouldn’t Want to Be a Person?
New Directions in Law and Literature

Caleb Smith

Oxford University Press

In an influential 2005 article, Julie Stone Peters analyzed the state of law and literature scholarship and offered her prognosis for the future of an “interdisciplinary illusion.” This chapter reviews trends in law and literature scholarship of the decade that followed. It observes the prominence of historical approaches that treat law and literature not as universals but as contingent fields and institutions whose relations change over time. It goes on to show how historicism has re-evaluated the key concept of personhood, seeking forms of agency and belonging that do not conform to liberal ideals of individual autonomy or contractual consent. A “postcritical” turn in interpretive scholarship and a rising interest in mixed, compromised forms of selfhood are considered in relation to the precarious conditions of legal and literary studies within the contemporary university.

Keywords:   character, contract, critique, historicism, humanities, novel, personhood, slavery

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