TitleDiscourses of ordinary justice
NameMariano, Trinyan Paulsen (author), McGill, Meredith L (chair), Evans, Brad (internal member), Wall, Cheryl (internal member), Wong, Edlie (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectLiteratures in English,
Law and literature,
American literature--19th century,
American literature--20th century,
Social justice in literature,
Chestnutt, Charles. Marrow of Tradition,
Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937,
Wright, Richard, 1908-1960. Native son
DescriptionIn Discourses of Ordinary Justice, I read fiction by Charles Chesnutt, Edith Wharton, and Richard Wright as engaging with the most pressing legal issues of the early twentieth century: injury and compensation, the nature of privacy, and the legality of segregation. In my first chapter, I argue that The Marrow of Tradition by Charles Chesnutt represents a rare early twentieth-century attempt to think through the legal arguments surrounding tort-based reparations for slavery. In my second chapter, I argue that through her fiction’s preoccupation with the sale of personal letters, Edith Wharton created a counter-discourse to the common law right to privacy that emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century. While the legal right to privacy claims to keep the public from accessing a protected sphere of domesticity, Wharton’s fiction shows how privacy rights actually enable one to manage the circulation of one’s own public image, converting domesticity into valuable public currency and creating a lucrative market for blackmail. In my final chapter, I read Native Son alongside Legal Realism, a controversial jurisprudential movement of the 1930s, in order to recover Wright’s critique of de facto segregation and the rhetoric of neutrality surrounding the production of American law. I argue that, using the interpretive strategies of the Legal Realists, Wright exposes laws protecting real property as a sublimated system of racial segregation. Discourses of Ordinary Justice uses early twentieth-century American fiction to depict the shaping power of contexts and arguments weeded out of turn-of-the century legal discourse. These contexts and arguments, rendered invisible by formal legal discourse, subsist in literature that represents the multiple and conflicting legal arguments un-reconciled by formal decrees. Through analyzing fiction written by authors who theorize the limits of the law, I take literary texts seriously as documents of legal history that call attention to the mutability of law’s conceptual boundaries and enable us to re-embed law in society.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Trinyan Paulsen Mariano
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.