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Fatal FictionsCrime and Investigation in Law and Literature$
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Alison L. LaCroix, Richard H. McAdams, and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190610784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190610784.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 29 November 2020

Before the Law

Before the Law

Imagining Crimes against Trees

(p.241) 13 Before the Law
Fatal Fictions

Mark Payne

Oxford University Press

Chapter 13 discusses crimes with nonhuman victims. Payne examines a number of fictional examples from antiquity that describe violence against trees in an era before the institution of law as such. In these passages trees are presented as independent beings that live through self-care alone. As such they provoke violence on the part of human beings who suspect that their own dependence on other humans is akin to the domestication of animals. Talionic punishment for harming a forest tree is thus grounded in the fantasy that the wildness of forest trees stands for the wildness of their human guardians. Payne discusses a passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Notebooks in which the notion of sacrilege is invoked in relation to harming orchard trees but which grounds this possibility in a different relationship between the lives of trees and human beings as companion species to one another.

Keywords:   nonhuman victims, talionic punishment, trees, violence, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Callimachus

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