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date: 17 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Trials have often been written about as narrative events: the standard claim being that at trial one narrative is pitted against another with the verdict proclaiming the winner. This is a connection which privileges a certain view of narrative that is defined by the coherence and closure produced by its plot and which is embodied, in literature, by realist fiction. While admitting the validity of this position, this chapter is intent upon extending it by examining the connection between trials and a different understanding and example of narrative fiction. Taking the Literary Impressionism of Joseph Conrad as a cue (and through an analysis of materials such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent (1987) and the 2014 podcast Serial) the chapter claims that narrative’s capacity to contain non-sequential secrets, to convey latent messages, and to produce meaning from its seemingly peripheral constituents have, to date, been underanalyzed in the context of a narrative understanding of trials. In conclusion, the chapter argues that the impossibility of divorcing narrative from its instantiation in language has far-reaching consequences for how we might understand the narrative battle between prosecution and defense.

Keywords: trials, narrative, coherence, impressionism, story, plot, language, Joseph Conrad

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