Defoe's Formal Laws

Bernadette Meyler

in Subversion and Sympathy

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199812042
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199315888 | DOI:
Defoe's Formal Laws

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Taking the example of Moll Flanders and Roxana in the novels of the same names, this chapter contends that their agency does not simply derive from character, considered outside of the novelistic frame. Instead, agency should be seen as an emanation of the fictional plots that Moll and Roxana inhabit. Only then can its source become visible. The novels themselves produce this agency through fictional reshaping of the authorized narratives of law. The legal jurisdictions through which law acquires the violent force that Robert Cover contrasted with literary language are held in abeyance by the novels. The effect of this suspension of legal sanction is not, however, the avoidance of law, but the deployment of legal forms without legal consequences. Moll and Roxana hence assume a liminal relation to law, largely avoiding its actual jurisdictions while simultaneously being shaped as characters by legal form. The chapter builds upon Nicola Lacey's fascinating book Women, Crime, and Character while also suggesting some methodological drawbacks to her approach.

Keywords: Moll Flanders; Roxana; agency; British novels; law; legal forms

Chapter.  8472 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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