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date: 22 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The Victorian novel is strongly marked by an intense engagement with other forms of public discourse—parliamentary and Chartist oratory, homiletic exhortation, and the rhetoric of legal advocacy, expressed in both oral and written form. Such an engagement can be combative or imitative, alternately interrogating the more instrumental uses of language and appropriating them to bolster fiction’s own claims to social and political authority and to offer an arguably more effective representation of the ‘real’. Since its inception in the late 1970s, the transatlantic ‘Law and Literature’ school of scholarship has illuminated a number of ways in which a responsiveness to legal process has impacted upon the formal features of the realist novel (and in which both professions have reacted to wider currents of epistemological and theological change). This essay seeks to advance enquiry by emphasizing the ethical and political implications of the novel’s commitment to the representation of trial scenes, locating in the work of the jury and the trope of (wrongful) accusation an organizational schema which enabled Victorian authors to address the incommensurable claims of the ‘one’ and ‘the many’ at a time of great social upheaval.

Keywords: Advocacy, Equity, Ethics, Juries, Justice, Law, Trial, Crime, Epistemology, Evidence

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