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Harm's Way

Tragic Responsibility and the Novel Form

Sandra Macpherson

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A field-defining study of the novel as a tragic form.

Sandra Macpherson's groundbreaking study of the rise of the novel connects its form to developments in liability law across the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. In particular, Macpherson argues for a connection to legal principles of strict liability that hold persons accountable for harms inflicted upon others in the absence of intention, consent, direct action, or foreknowledge. In convincing polemical readings of Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding, she shows that these laws share with the novel the view that the state of a person's mind…

A field-defining study of the novel as a tragic form.

Sandra Macpherson's groundbreaking study of the rise of the novel connects its form to developments in liability law across the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. In particular, Macpherson argues for a connection to legal principles of strict liability that hold persons accountable for harms inflicted upon others in the absence of intention, consent, direct action, or foreknowledge. In convincing polemical readings of Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding, she shows that these laws share with the novel the view that the state of a person's mind is irrelevant to the question of her responsibility for her actions. Macpherson urges readers to rethink the ancient consensus that the novel differs from tragedy in its elevation of character over plot. She concludes that the realist novel is ultimately a tragic form, committed to holding persons accountable for accidents of fate.

Macpherson's original insights continue to have a broad and lasting impact on the study of the novel.

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Harm's Way

Sandra Macpherson

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Reviews

Reviews

Original, intelligent, fluent readings... Highly recommended.

A wholly original approach to the relation between law and literature, [Harm's Way] will change the way we think about and teach some of these canonical works of fiction.

Macpherson bears down intensely on several hard-won and difficult abstractions, including cause, intention, and meaning. To the degree to which we are accustomed to thinking through our most important literary-theoretical categories via a history of the novel, Harm's Way is a must read.

Macpherson presents a feminist argument of profound integrity and conviction. Harm's Way compels us to appreciate form not as an aesthetic or structural category but as a guarantor of justice, a way of attributing responsibility that, by divesting liability of mitigating intention, preserves the 'purely material' facticity of women's harm.

This is a most thoughtful and thought-provoking book. It puts most other attempts to rewrite Rise of the Novel to shame.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
256
ISBN
9781421429014
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Injuring Love
1. Matrimonial Murder
2. The Encroachments of Others
3. Fighting Men
4. The Rape of the Cock
Conclusion: Bad Form
Notes
Index

Author Bio