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The Art of Alibi

English Law Courts and the Novel

Jonathan H. Grossman

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In The Art of Alibi, Jonathan Grossman reconstructs the relation of the novel to nineteenth-century law courts. During the Romantic era, courthouses and trial scenes frequently found their way into the plots of English novels. As Grossman states, "by the Victorian period, these scenes represented a powerful intersection of narrative form with a complementary and competing structure for storytelling." He argues that the courts, newly fashioned as a site in which to orchestrate voices and reconstruct stories, arose as a cultural presence influencing the shape of the English novel.

Weaving…

In The Art of Alibi, Jonathan Grossman reconstructs the relation of the novel to nineteenth-century law courts. During the Romantic era, courthouses and trial scenes frequently found their way into the plots of English novels. As Grossman states, "by the Victorian period, these scenes represented a powerful intersection of narrative form with a complementary and competing structure for storytelling." He argues that the courts, newly fashioned as a site in which to orchestrate voices and reconstruct stories, arose as a cultural presence influencing the shape of the English novel.

Weaving examinations of novels such as William Godwin's Caleb Williams, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Charles Dickens's The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, along with a reading of the new Royal Courts of Justice, Grossman charts the exciting changes occurring within the novel, especially crime fiction, that preceded and led to the invention of the detective mystery in the 1840s.

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The Art of Alibi

Jonathan H. Grossman

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Reviews

Reviews

Among those texts that attend both to historical environment and formal or generic pressures, Jonathan H. Grossman's The Art of Alibi stands out.

[An] absorbing study of the cultural influence of the law courts on the Victorian novel... Grossman's refusal to simply draw an analogy between trials and novels distinguishes his argument from others working in the crossover territory between legal studies and literary criticism.

Grossman's innovative study is a provocative reconsideration of the early nineteenth-century novel and should stimulate further exploration of the generative intersection of law and literature.

Jonathan Grossman offers an important exploration of the relationships of physical, political, and narrative forms of the law in the early Victorian period. His powerful readings form an essential tool for understanding the way writers like Dickens and Gaskell used juridical forms to make important innovations in literary form. His use of visual material as well as court records to illuminate these readings is marvelous.

The crossover territory between legal studies and literary criticism is a subject of central interest to scholarship. Grossman's study deals with this subject in a fresh and vigorous manner that presents a young critic who will make his mark.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
216
ISBN
9780801867552
Illustration Description
10 halftones
Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. From Scaffold to Law Court, from Criminal Broadsheet and Biography to Newspaper Novel
Chapter 2. Caleb Williams and the Novel's Forensic Form
C

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. From Scaffold to Law Court, from Criminal Broadsheet and Biography to Newspaper Novel
Chapter 2. Caleb Williams and the Novel's Forensic Form
Chapter 3. Mary Shelley's Legal Frankenstein
Chapter 4. Victorian Courthouse Structures
Chapter 5. Mary Barton's Telltale Evidence
Chapter 6. The Newgate Novel and Advent of Detective Fiction
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Jonathan H. Grossman

Jonathan H. Grossman is an associate professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles.