The Lawyer's Library in the Early American Republic

Alison L. LaCroix

in Subversion and Sympathy

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199812042
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199315888 | DOI:
The Lawyer's Library in the Early American Republic

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This chapter explores the role that fiction played in the early republican project of building American nationhood. Many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American statesmen and jurists—including such prominent thinkers as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and Joseph Story—were avid readers of fiction. The vast majority of the novels they read were written by English authors; moreover, many of those authors were women. For founding-era thinkers such as Adams and Jefferson, novel reading provided a way for Americans to participate in transatlantic culture and to hone a republican moral sensibility. For the early-nineteenth-century jurists Marshall and Story, fiction offered an opportunity to engage with emotions such as sympathy and to participate in a public sphere that brought men and women together, as both authors and readers, in a conversation that connected politics, law, and literary culture. These producers of legal theory were also consumers of fiction, gentlemen of letters who immersed themselves in female novelists' work not as a means of escape but because those novels offered insights into what they regarded as crucial political questions of individual sentiment and national character.

Keywords: fiction; nation-building; American statesmen; jurists; John Adams; Thomas Jefferson; John Marshall; Joseph Story

Chapter.  10422 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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