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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The increasing visibility of trials in the press, at a time when changes in trial procedures and dispute over political reform occupied national attention, stimulated Romantic-era writers to give trials a prominent place in fictional works. The need for defence against law’s invidious fictions encouraged the incorporation of fictional strategies into trial writings, and into legal proceedings themselves. Scepticism about institutions, allied with a crisis in epistemological trust, encouraged writers like William Godwin to challenge inadequate representation of the accused, reliance on circumstantial evidence, and dominance of judges. Thomas Holcroft, William Hone, and Robert Watt used fictional techniques in their defence writings to recover control over representation of their intentions. Other writers such as Percy Shelley, Walter Scott, and Joanna Baillie, using a historical perspective in their fictions, attempted to avert revolutionary crisis by making trials the focus for training sympathetic discernment and thus promoting gradual reform.

Keywords: scepticism, intention, evidence, legal fiction, legal process, juridical subject, reform, treason trials, blasphemy trials, drama

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