Criminal Conversations: Sentimentality and Nineteenth-Century Legal Stories of Adultery

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Januar 1999



Storytelling is an essential aspect of any legal case. But what kinds of stories win cases, and why? Criminal Conversations explores sentimentality as both a literary genre and a rhetorical strategy in the novels and courtrooms of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. By focusing on "criminal conversation"--the civil tort whereby a cuckold sues his wife's lover to for damages to his property rights from the adultery--Korobkin argues that literary discourse, used in the courtroom, affects the outcomes of legal cases. She shows how lawyers used sentimentality strategically to guide juries in reaching verdicts, and how appellate courts appropriated the rhetoric, plots, and characters of sentimental fiction to redefine husbands' and wives' marital obligations. Criminal Conversations begins by tracking the legal fictions that were part of the civil tort of adultery from its origins in the English Renaissance. Korobkin then examines in detail the final arguments at Henry Ward Beecher's sensational criminal conversation trial of 1874-1875. The final part of the book takes up a series of appellate decisions that decided whether women could bring criminal conversation cases against their husbands' female lovers. Drawing on court documents, as well as literary examples from E.D.E.N. Southworth, Mark Twain, T. S. Arthur, and others, Korobkin explores the intersections of gender, genre, law, and story, revealing the ways in which the courtroom became a site of empowerment for women around the turn of the century. A major contribution to our understanding of the legal power of literary stories and styles, Criminal Conversations will be of interest to students of law, literature, rhetoric, and women's studies.


Introduction and Historical FoundationPrologue: Telling Stories in the CourtroomCriminal Conversation and the Conversational Process of the LawThe Transformative Magic of Legal Fictions: The Suppression of Sex in Early English Civil Adultery CasesTheodore Tilton v. Henry Ward Beecher: Criminal Conversation, 1875Prologue: Crisis of Confidence in the CourtroomThe Maintenance of Mutual Confidence: Sentimental Strategies at the Beecher-Tilton TrialSilent Woman, Speaking Fiction: The "ministry of Catherine Gaunt" at the Beecher-Tilton TrialFemale-Plaintiff Criminal Conversation Cases: Rewriting the Law's Story of MarriagePrologue: Four CasesRethinking the Law's Story of Marriage: The Bonds of SentimentConsequences of Change: The Sexually Passive Husband and the Erotically Autonomous Wife


Laura Hanft Korobkin


"In the course of this interesting mix of methodologies and historical time periods, Korobkin makes fascinating suggestions about the impacts of women's sentimental (domestic) fiction on popular and legal rhetoric of the time." -- College English
EAN: 9780231105095
ISBN: 0231105096
Untertitel: 'Social Foundations of Aestheti'. Empfohlen ab 22 Jahre. Casebook. Sprache: Englisch.
Erscheinungsdatum: Januar 1999
Seitenanzahl: 272 Seiten
Format: kartoniert
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