June 8, 2017

Stern on Samuel Richardson and the Law @ArsScripta

Simon Stern, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, has published Samuel Richardson and the Law in Samuel Richardson in Context 231-38 (Peter Sabor and Betty A. Schellenberg, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2017). Here is the abstract.
This chapter discusses the forensic mentality that pervades Samuel Richardson's novels, his correspondence, and his writings about fiction. Scholars have explored numerous doctrinal contexts in which Richardson's novels address legal issues including marriage, rape, inheritance, citizenship, copyright, and liability for accidents. This chapter extends that discussion by asking how his fiction, and his writings on fiction, engage with the logic of the case, understood both as an example that may set a precedent, and a specific instance that illustrates a general principle. Although Richardson held out both his characters and his novels as exemplifying general laws, when pressed about their exemplary status he repeatedly defended them by stressing their unique individuality, effectively undercutting his claims about their precedential significance. We see a similar pattern when he complained about the Dublin booksellers who reprinted his last novel, Sir Charles Grandison (1753), without authorization. Treating their conduct as an affront to "the Cause of Literature, in general," Richardson held out his own very unusual case (as someone who was both a successful novelist and a printer of his own novels) as exemplifying the harms of literary piracy.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link. 

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